July 13, 2011
The week so far has been extremely fun and exciting. It was packed with new activities and I really appreciated the break in the routine. We had an early start as we headed out to revisit Middle Ranch and work with Peter Dixon, the native plant nursery supervisor at the James H Ackerman Nursery. For the first half of the day, we worked on transplanting Catalina Island currants: Ribes viburnifolium, into bigger pots. These were native species in the gooseberry family. We transplanted over 100 of them, completing 6 trays. Before we started, Peter demonstrated the transplanting process. We began with filling the larger pot with soil, about 2/5 of the way. Then, we massaged the outside of the smaller pot to loosen it, and gently turned the pot over to remove the plant. Once we had the plant in our hands, we carefully “tickled” the bottom part to open up the roots. It was then time to transplant the currant into the bigger pot. We packed it into the soil. Peter advised us not to bury the plant too deep and to actually expose the root near the surface to prevent fungus disease. We continued to add more soil, compacting it around the edges and in the center, until it was firm. Then we placed the transplanted pots into a wheeling cart and watered it 3 times back and forth. It was important to get them soaked. Then we wheeled the cart into the nursery and placed the pots on the shelves. On the way back we got another tray of plants. We transplanted until we completed all 6 trays.
The second half of the day was dedicated to collecting seeds. We drove towards Avalon and stopped at two different sites to collect seeds for the purple needle grass (Nasella pulchra) and the silver lotus (Lotus argophyllus var. argenteus) respectively. We tied plastic bags on our pant loops to put the seeds in there. The purple needle grass was a fine, long brown stalk that swayed elegantly with the wind. We found them in an enclosed area where most of the seeds had already been released. Because the area belonged to the Conservancy, we could only take at most 10% of the plant. We had to leave some grass to regenerate. I had a difficult time differentiating the purple needle grass from other grasses, especially since the entire enclosed area was all grassland. I frequently got the purple needle grass confused with the ripgut grass. For me, I have to touch the seed to figure it out. The ripgut was harsher at the end; it almost felt sticky to me. Once we found a stalk with seeds, we held the stalk and pull the seeds in one quick upward moment, like a zipper action, and the seeds fell off easily.
We went further along Avalon, near the Catalina Island Marine Institute at Toyon Bay to gather the silver lotus. The site had an abundance of the plant. The silver lotus was more distinguishable than the purple needle grass. It was kind of weedy and had a yellow, brownish flower. The browner lotus meant the seed was ripe. We pulled out horn-like petals, which crumbled easily at our touch, and opened one with our nails. It was extremely difficult, but with much persistence I was able to pry it open and discover the tiniest seed I’ve ever seen. It looked similar to cricket turd. It was such an adventure going around the canyon to collect these seeds.