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Hot Mustard, Hot Radishes & Hot Wildfires 4-28-19

Just when you think that things couldn’t get any stranger, The Habitat Restoration Team spent the day in a brute force attack on nonnative Mustard (Brassica nigra) and Radishes (Raphanus sativus). These alien species play a big role in the wildfire hazzards of California. They also play a large role in HRT’s efforts to reestablish our native habitats. As HRT removes nonnatives from the landscapes and replaces them aliens with native plants, we have to disturb the soil. Radishes and mustards thrive on disturbed soils. In fact, they depend so much on bare earth access for their seeds to germinate that radish and mustard seeds evolved to lie dormant for extended periods of time waiting for bare earth. These two traits create an ongoing problem for HRT. This is also a concern for weed control along roads and right-of-ways. To compound the problem, the dry dead foliage of these plants make for a very flammable starter fuel for wildfires.
HRT blitzed a stand of mustard and radish this weekend in order to lower the fire danger in one of our large restoration plots on The Preserve. Seven gas powered weedwackers, a polesaw and several shovels wrecked havoc on the invasives that surrounded the staging area at the Southern edge of one of our fields. The entire zone has to be protected as much as possible from accidental ignitions and made secure for the equipment and personnel that may be called to this interior section of The Preserve for our work and our safety.
That was the easy part. The difficulty for today’s weed management came from the presence of large amounts of Italian thistle (a nonnative invasive that can finish its seed development even after the plant has been chopped down). The team had to avoid the thistles while chopping down the mustard and radishes. The weedwackers were then followed by someone with a shovel who very carefully cut each thistle at its base and then remove all of the blossoms and buds by hand so that they can be disposed of separately. If we could have gotten into this field before the buds “set”, we could have just wacked the thistles down with the rest of the invasives. Lots of rain (hurray) and flooding (boo) made the field inaccessible in time for management. It is never simple.

Paul Y. and Jim prep today’s equipment

Paul Y new recruit and Paul L old veteran await instructions

Alex Cabrera, The Boss, discusses the fire hazards of “ruderal” radishes.
Jim clears the weedy underbrush from around the trees. Tall weeds create a ladder for any nearby fires to climb into the trees when a fire moves through the forest.
Jane weed-wacks a particularly large mustard plant.
Weeds wacked lay on the ground as compost.
Greg re-hydrates
Paul removes the thistle blossoms from the stems.
Thistle blossoms bagged and ready for disposal.
The finished product makes for a safe “Staging Area”.
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