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By on December 22, 2020 in Featured, News, Newsletter

OVLC field crew has been hard at work controlling weeds. One area in particular that has changed dramatically in the last year is what the OVLC calls the South Church Field at the Ojai Meadows Preserve. In 2015, it was a field filled with the beautiful, but terribly invasive mustard. As the years went on, OVLC started to establish mini plant-community “nodes”—each composed of a variety of chaparral and wetland species surrounded by mulch to keep away weeds. Each node had to be managed for weeds regularly since invasive species, like mustard, can easily choke out newly planted stock. Depending on the species, mustard can also be very tall and dense, shading out smaller native plants that need sunlight (see photo 1). 

Photo 1: May 2016, OVLC staff managed mustard by weed-whacking 

A couple years later, as the plantings began to mature, disjunct patches of mustard were popping up instead of the usual solid field. One species to thank for this change is coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis). This plant is a pioneer species, meaning it has the ability to re-colonize a disturbed or damaged ecosystem after other native species have disappeared. Once it is mature and established it makes it hard for non-native species to establish in the same area (see photo 2). 

Photo 2: January 2017, South Church Field was primarily composed of invasive mustard 

Now, the South Church Field is filled with a large amount of coyote brush, and less and less mustard returns each year (see photo 3). With the establishment of coyote brush, the OVLC field crew is now focusing efforts on helping other immature plants gain establishment with irrigation and weed control efforts. A native plant that is starting to self-recruit is purple needle grass (Nassella pulchra). The southern black walnuts (Juglans californica) that were planted years back by OVLC staff are starting to mature and become taller than the cages they were planted in to protect them from gophers and deer. Most importantly, the coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), which are dominant species in the desired ecosystem, are starting to reach above the coyote brush. 

Photo 3: November 2020, native plantings now dominate the field and the planted oak trees are maturing 

This project has taught the field crew that restoration is a slow process that requires a lot of hard work, but it can be very rewarding to watch first-hand the transformation of a degraded ecosystem back to its original state. OVLC staff are excited to see what further transformations are in store for this field in the coming years and share them with the community of Ojai. 

Note: This is an active restoration site. Please view it from designated trails only. 

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