We have a prickly situation this spring on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Despite the lack of rainfall, we have bumper crops of many varieties of thistle with their spiky flowers and leaves.
We are happy that our rare and endangered cobweb thistle (the compact version and the slightly taller ones) is growing in abundance along the Bluff Trail. The Wednesday Weeders volunteers have been dealing with invasive milk thistle, bull thistle and Italian thistle for years, but this year tocolote thistle, Centaurea melitensis, has flourished. Also known as tecolote, Maltese star thistle and Napa star thistle, it has really expanded its domain this year, mainly between the Marine Terrace Trail and the ocean.
Little is known about how to control tocolote, so our volunteers are trying a variety of methods to remove it. The work is slow because of the density of the plants and the prickliness of the flowers.
Some studies have shown that wild oat, Avena fatua, litter may significantly reduce tocolote seed germination, so we will be planting it in the removal areas to stabilize the sandy soil and help stop the spread of this noxious invasive. Wild oat is a native plant in good standing and already naturally occurring on the Ranch.
I recently led a workday removing the dreaded tocolote thistle at the south end of the Ranch, along the bluffs. These days, my work for the Ranch is done mostly in meetings, the FFRP office or from my home office, and I seldom have the hands-on experience with the Ranch that I used to. I found that it is always gratifying working outdoors. Stepping outside of your daily routine once a week or once a month is a good thing. Spending time in the fresh air, doing good work for a cause you care about, in the company of like-minded folks is guaranteed to remind you why you live here and help you appreciate it all the more! Along the Bluff and Marine Terrace Trails is especially beautiful — so many passersby stop to chat and thank volunteers for their labors.
I remember … when the mustard and radish were higher than my head along the north end of Bluff Trail and had also overtaken the bush lupine at the south end.
I remember … the RanchHands, Weed Warriors, Invader Raiders, Wednesday Weeders; so many different names for the same evolving group of wonderful volunteers, all dedicated to removing invasive plants on the Ranch so that the natives could return.
Today there is far more diversity of plant life along the Bluff Trail. There are also many less noticeable areas that are being restored. Sometimes native plants just sprout from the dormant seedbank where the invasives were removed. Sometimes they need a little help by replanting seeds. Working on what seems like an impossible task can be rewarded with success.
I remember … Alese Bell, who passed recently. You really can’t think of the Ranch without thinking of Alese. She was a part of the original group of hardworking RanchHands. She took over leading the group and served as a shining example of hard work, dedication and faith that great things can happen if you just get started and put your heart in it.
Because of Alese, we have a new group of volunteers who stepped up to the plate when she was no longer able. The Wednesday Weeders work on different invasive removal projects each week at 8:30 a.m. at different locations on the preserve. We also have workdays the third Saturday of each month, which sometimes focus on invasive removal but take on other projects as well.
If you are interested in joining our lively volunteers, please email the office at email@example.com.
The Ranch is a living memorial to Alese’s tenacity. We will never be able to replace her, but we can honor her by carrying on in her footsteps.
- Monthly Docent Walks — The walk schedule can be seen on line at cambriaranchwalks.com, and brochures may be found at either end of the Bluff Trail on the Ranch. Reservations are required and can be made at reservations@cambria ranchwalk.com or 805-927-2202.
- Great Kitchens of Cambria — An event benefiting the Ranch will be our annual kitchen tour July 25, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We will have six unique and wonderful kitchens on display. Each kitchen is new or newly remodeled. Along with our tradition of serving fabulous hors d’oeuvres, we will be featuring recipes, demonstrations and/or displays at many homes and a raffle consisting of six great prizes. Be sure to buy your tickets early and tell your friends, as we usually sell out! For more information visit our website at www.ffrpcambria.org or call our office, 927-2856.