Manzanitas, Divisions, and Yurts – Oh My! by Angie Wu

The GOGA SF Veg Team following a successful volunteer program at Fort Funston!

A Month of Service

2024 has started with a bang! In addition to our normal weekly volunteer programs, SF Veg Team organized some really outstanding large scale volunteer service events at the beginning of the year. To commemorate MLK Day, we hosted a day of service at Fort Funston in mid-January. With the help of over 25 volunteers, we removed about 30 (!!!) bags of ice plant from the site to make space for native scrub plants that lived in the area. We had a couple of corporate volunteer groups join us, as well as families and youth!

Picking up plants at the nursery for planting day at North Baker Beach!

Additionally, we outplanted approximately 1,400 dune scrub plants in just one morning at North Baker Beach thanks to the help of our volunteers and the awesome Natural Resources staff from the Presidio Trust. Prep work for the event involved picking up the plants from the nursery the day before and laying them out at the site to ensure that the plants remained evenly spaced when planted by volunteers. On the day of the plantapalooza, we did not anticipate how quickly our volunteers would get plants into the ground, so we eventually had to return to the nursery to retrieve more plants about halfway through the program. I especially enjoyed running these programs because I love interacting with the public and talking to them about why their volunteerism is so important to the park and its resources. Of course, equally enjoyable is uncovering the occasional millipede or gigantic mushroom to show the volunteers (usually to their dismay and excitement, respectively).

Tennessee (but not that Tennessee) Valley

DID YOU KNOW that Tennessee Valley was named after the SS Tennessee? This steamship shipwrecked in a nearby cove on a foggy night in 1853! However, Tennessee Hollow, which holds the largest watershed in the Presidio of San Francisco, was named after the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Regiment, a group of soldiers who used what is now designated as Tennessee Hollow as a campground in 1898.

I also had the wonderful opportunity to join the Habitat Restoration Team in Tennessee Valley for the day with my co-intern Danijela! This was my first time working with Laura Booth and Ren Gravely on HRT, and I got to see firsthand how veg programs in Tennessee Valley were both similar and different to our own in San Francisco. While goals of both of our programs are similar (removing invasive vegetation and planting/maintaining native ones), Tennessee Valley is a bit more remote and does not have as many dune scrub species that I am used to seeing in the San Francisco parts of the GGNRA. In addition to assisting a volunteer program in the morning where we grubbed cape ivy from a willow stand, I also learned how to make divisions, which is essentially dividing off-shoots from a mother plant so that it can be planted elsewhere. Specifically, Danijela and I made divisions from Juncus patens (common rush), Juncus effusus (soft rush), and Elymus triticoides (creeping wild rye). Giving our divisions a haircut encourages belowground growth because it forces the plant to invest more resources into root growth rather than in aboveground growth (because it now has less photosynthetic machinery). In order to mulch with hay, I also scraped the earth for debris and weeds to make mulching easier. Scraping was extremely challenging and tiring work, and it makes me really appreciate all of the mulching efforts throughout the park from different teams! This was my first time in Tennessee Valley and it was absolutely gorgeous. I hope that I can go back to TV to support some more habitat restoration work again soon!

Manzanita Madness!

If I could describe 2024 thus far with a single word, it would be Manzanita. In early February, I attended a manzanita research symposium at Tilden Botanic Garden with Michael, who gave a talk about GGNRA’s work on two rare manzanita species: the fabled Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) and the lonely Raven’s manzanita (Arctostaphylos montana ssp. ravenii). The symposium was a deep dive into the Arctostaphylos universe, as it covered a wide range of topics, from manzanita phylogenomics and biogeography to restoration success stories throughout the state of California. Though I am fairly new to this manzanita world, I learned so much from the symposium’s presenters and now have a new appreciation for both the species and the passionate people that work hard to conserve it and learn more about it! I really want to get better at identifying manzanitas, which are notoriously difficult to differentiate between certain species due to their readiness to and history of hybridizing with one another.

Michael Chasse: part time NPS Biologist, part time Mountain Goat.
I will never get tired of these views!

Additionally, the SF Veg Team started its annual rare plant monitoring surveys in February for both the Franciscan and Raven’s manzanita. These surveys brought me and my team to various areas of the Presidio Bluffs, where we visited each individual plant and noted whether or not they were alive. Because I have heard and learned so much about these species and their unique histories within the park, it was an extremely special experience to work with such rare plants and be a part of the monitoring efforts that have re-established them in the park. I look forward to the rest of the rare plant monitoring adventures that lie ahead of me in my internship!

Rest, Recreation, and Relaxation

Despite the busy busy busy start to the year, GOGA EFTA interns were able to find some time to get out of the GGNRA and into State Park territory! We rented a yurt at Bothe Napa Valley State Park just a bit north of GGNRA boundaries and spent a weekend hiking, eating fajitas, roasting marshmallows, gazing at stars, and freezing in the yurt at night. Like the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Bothe Napa Valley State Park hosted a wide variety of ecosystems and habitats, from old growth forests and oak woodland savannahs to chapparal systems. We also had a chance to visit the town nearby and drive through gorgeous wine country on the way home. I hope that we can return soon to visit again!

Notable Naturalist Finds

There were many many notable naturalist finds throughout the last month – it was hard to choose my favorites for this post! I also just reached 300 observations on iNaturalist and now think that I will easily be able to hit 500 by the end of the year.

Henderson’s Shooting Star – Primula hendersonii

Seen along the Julian Trail in the Marin Headlands growing amongst the stonecrop and coast rock cress (Arabis blepharophylla)!

Footsteps of Spring – Sanicula arctopoides

I think Sanicula arctopoides is my favorite plant that I have encountered thus far. They remind me of the footprints of the forest spirit from Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke that bring life to everything they touch. It is such a vibrant yellow green and I never tire of it! Spotted on the North Bluffs of the Presidio Bluffs. What a view!

Convergent Lady Beetle – Hippodamia convergens

Just a small part of the huge ladybug cluster that we spotted at Bothe Napa Valley State Park!

California Slender Salamander – Batrachoseps attenuatus

Sleepy little guy! Seen on the Presidio Bluffs after moving some logs so that we could hand weed panic veldt grass underneath them.

Beaked Twig Gall Wasp – Burnettweldia plumbella

Seen growing on an oak at Bothe Napa Valley State Park. It looks otherwordly!

Bobcat – Lynx rufus

Seen just outside of the Natural Resources Building at Fort Cronkhite! This little pal was not afraid of me at all.

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