When the day cools off, I walk over to the intermittent creek near my house to gather some bark to make Pauline Murillo’s sycamore tea (see yesterday’s post). Ginger, my German Shepard, comes along.

I had not thought about how difficult it might be to gather sycamore bark. First, in my neighborhood, sycamores don’t grow by the roadside but on creek banks, often steep. Second, sycamore’s companion understory plant is poison oak. And in July, I always happen to be wearing shorts, not the de rigueur outfit for traipsing through lush poison oak thickets.

I have a deep respect for this plant. If you’ve ever wanted to rip your skin off, that’s a sure sign that the rash and blistering on your legs or arms is poison oak. It’s the end of July, and the poison oak leaves are already turning a brilliant deep red color.

I walk further down the road. Guarding another sycamore is a stand of the highly invasive Arundo donax, the bamboo-like plant that has taken over many of the waterways in North County San Diego. It stands about 12 feet high surrounding the sycamore trunk. The creek below is infested with arundo as well. Millions of dollars have been spent in attempts to eradicate aurndo in San Diego County. This particular creek where I’m hiking is part of the San Luis Rey Watershed, and there’s a small billboard on Highway 76 announcing the arudno eradication project in the San Luis Rey Watershed. This creek is part of that watershed, but the folks eradicating the arundo and restoring native habitat haven’t made it this far up the watershed into the feeder creeks.

California has no budget right now, and things are so bad that Schwarzenegger is proposing an executive order to temporarily reduce pay for 200,000 state employees to minimum wage—$6.55 per hour. So I doubt if this eradication/restoration project is a priority. Although it is a priority for the native plant-dependent wildlife that this watershed sustains . . .

Posted by deborah small

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