A Day In The Life of A Rare Plant Intern

Feature Image: Raven’s Manzanita

Hello Everyone! In this post, I’ll be talking about what an average day as a rare plant monitoring and management intern is like.

My day normally starts off in the Marin Headlands. Which is located north of the Golden Gate Bridge. My dorm is located right up the road from Rodeo Beach and as you can see from this picture to the left, we get some pretty amazing views! However, as I mentioned in my previous blog, most of my work takes place within the presidio of Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).

Just south of the Golden Gate Bridge is the Presidio. This area was largely transformed by the U.S. Army in the 19th and 20th centuries, but there are still some remnant wildlands found in this area. In fact, out of the 45 endangered or special status plant species located in GGNRA, 12 of those species can be found within the Presidio. This is the main reason that the rare plant team is based out of this section of the park unit.

The Presidio’s landscape varies greatly within its 1,500-acre boundary. Here you can encounter dune scrublands, coastal bluffs and prairies, riparian forests, oak woodlands, diverse wetlands, and urban environments. This is what makes working in this area so interesting!

(Image: Me working at a subsite along the presidio bluffs)

At the moment, the main focus of my team is to maintain the areas within the Presidio where we find our rare plant species. This is often accomplished by performing invasive plant removal at our subsites. Invasive plant species, more commonly referred to as weeds, are plant species that are non-native to the area. They take over areas if not managed because they thrive even in the poorest of conditions. Invasive plant species produce seeds in massive quantities and are distributed easily either by humans or wildlife. They also can propagate very easily, an example of this would be Delairea odorata, commonly known as cape ivy. This plant grows rapidly and takes overlandscapes, often spreading into the canopy of nearby trees, and can propagate itself from a single leaf node. This makes eradication of this species almost impossible. Management rather than eradication of this species and similar species is a more reachable goal. Luckily, GGNRA has a legacy of volunteer stewardship. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, GGNRA hosted numerous volunteer events that often worked to remove invasive species and create suitable habitats for native plant species including rare plant species. We are slowly increasing volunteer opportunities and hope to host more in the future. Currently, we host a volunteer event every Wednesday and on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Our volunteers are a huge help especially when we encounter areas that are greatly overrun by invasive plants. Below are some common invasive species that we see throughout GGNRA.

My position will also include monitoring activities for our rare plant species, but that will take place in the following months, so stay tuned for a blog about that! For now, we will continue to work on maintaining and improving habitat within our management sites. It is very satisfying to see the drastic change in a landscape after we perform invasive plant removal. The bottom images show a before and after from our Lobos Valley management site. We removed cape ivy from a slope to allow native plants to have a better chance to establish naturally. It was an impressive amount of biomass that we removed and the majority of the cape ivy was grubbed out, meaning that its roots were pulled out of the soil. This grubbing method allows for the highest probability that the plant will not reestablish or that its growth will be greatly slowed down.

As I mentioned previously, this is mostly what my days as a rare plant intern consist of for the moment but I am looking forward to monitoring season and working more directly with our rare plant species. Thank you for reading and I hope that you are enjoying seeing my experience through these blogs!

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