City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 6, 2017

April 3rd

Filed under: Hummingbird, Sounds, Stream — canopus56 @ 2:55 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part XV – Present Era – Plant Invaders

1:30 p.m. Yesterday’s front clears out and there is warm sun this morning, but in the afternoon the next front crosses the valley creating a cold job. The canyon is primed but in stasis. Daytime temperatures are sufficiently high for an explosion of life, but overnight freezing holds back both plants and insects. Only one songbird is heard in the thickets and they have numerous gnats to feed on that hover above the stream. The hummingbird nests at picnic site 1 are dilapidated, but ready to have their materials harvested by migrating birds for this season’s nest. The stream engorged with spring run-off remains loud, and its intense melody has continued for for almost two and one-half months (see January 16th). I take several readings: at the Red Bridge 75 decibels; at picnic site 3, 75 decibels, and at the Guardhouse Gate abandoned measuring weir, 87 decibels.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 3rd, 1842, he hears a flicker. On April 3, 1856, he notes the first green tinge of new growth forming on the landscape. He sees robins, and hears song-sparrows, redwings, and gackles. On April 3, 1858, he sees a purple finch. On April 3rd, 1859, he sees purple grasses, and yellow and red lichens and mosses.

* * * *

City Creek Canyon also contains many plant invasives. I have recorded purple tansyaster (August 8th), bull thistle (August 8th), watercressOctober 19th and January 23rd), teasel (Nov. 11th), tamarisk (Oct. 14th), and yellow star-thistles (October 16th and February 11th). Cultivars like Horsechestnut trees (October 17th), and green and red crab apple (August 10th, August 31st and November 19th) trees technically invasives. Bright-green myrtle spurge (Ephorbia myrsinites), an escapee from gardens, covers the lower canyon walls below milepost 1.0 and is found, hidden from view, on the upper south slopes of the canyon between mileposts 2.0 and 3.0. Arbor Day plantings in the canyon introduced hardwood trees such as ash and maple along with locust or Indian cluster bean (Salt Lake Herald, April 14, 1898; Salt Lake Tribune April 16th, 1898). Native tree species were also reforested into the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, May 10th, 1918, regarding the planting of 2,000 trees).

In 2009, as part of a proposal to return the canyon to a more natural state, the City and the Forest Service proposed a controlled burn in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake City Corporation 2010a). University of Utah Biologist and former head of the Utah Native Plant Society William Gray and Westminister College Biologist A. T. Harrison performed three transects of City Creek Canyon Road and recorded many non-native and invasive plants in the canyon (Gray and Harrison 2009) as part of a City plan to restore the canyon using controlled burns (Salt Lake Dept. of Public Utilities 2010). Their work was expanded upon by University of Utah Biology Professor Lynn Bohs (Bohs 2016), and in 2016, the City produced maps surveying the location of noxious weeds in lower City Creek and in areas adjacent to City Creek, including Ensign Peak, the Avenues slope and the Warm Springs western valley slope (SWCA Environmental Consultants, Maps-21 to 27). The following is a consolidated list of the non-native plants reported in City Creek Canyon:

List of Non-Native Plants found in the Harrison-Grey 1999 Survey of City Creek (Gray 1999), Bohs’s 2016 City Creek Plant List (Bohs 2016) and SWCA Environmental Consultant Report (SWCA 2016).

• Norway maple (Acer platanoides).

• Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia).

• Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).

• White mulberry (Morus alba).

• Green ash tree (Fraxinus americana).

• Common apple (Malus pumila).

• Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila).

• Chicory (Cichorium intybus).

• Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense).

• Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare).

• Prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola).

• Winged thistle (Onopordum acanthium).

• Salsify aka Giant dandelion (Tragopogon dubius).

• Dandelion (Taraxacum officionale).*

• Hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum officinale).*

• Smoothpod alyssum (Alyssum minus).

• Clasping pepperweed (Lepidium perfoliatum).

• Watercress (Nasturtium officinale).

• Two-seed orach (Atriplex heterosperma).

• Summer cypress (Kochia scoparia).

• Teasel, common (Dipsacus sylvestris).

• Blue myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites).

• Hop clover (Medicago lupulina).

• Alfalfa (Medicago sativa).

• White sweetclover (Melilotus alba).*

• Yellow sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis).

• Catnip (Nepeta cataria).

• Patience dock (Rumex patientia).

• Toadflax (Linaria genistifolia).

• Water speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica).

• Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).

• Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tartarica).*

• Burdock (Arctium minus).*

• Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis).*

• Spring Parsley (Lomatium dissectum).*

• Dyer’s Woad (Isatis tinctoria).*,***

• Tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb.)**,***

• Hoary cress (Cardaria draba).***

• Yellow starthistle (Centaruea solstitialis).***

Entries marked with an asterisk were reported by Harrison and Gray. Double asterisk is reported by this author (Fisher) located at the picnic site 12 entrance. Triple asterisk are entries reported by SWCA Environmental Consultants. SWCA Environmental Consultants lists tamarisk below Guardhouse Gate but did not plot a location. By species count, Bohs’ list records 35 native species and the consolidated lists 36 non-native species, but the raw species count is not representative in terms of biomass of the canyon. Below mile 3.0 the canyon’s biomass is dominated by the native Gambel’s oak (Quercus gambelii). The overall visual impression is dominated by native plants.

* * * *

In April 3rd, 2009, the City announced plans to do a controlled-burn during the summer along the entire length of City Creek Canyon in order to remove fuel debris and reduce damage from any wildfires (Deseret News). On April 3rd, 1945, a lecture by University Biology Prof. A. M. Woodbury was scheduled followed by a field trip to City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 3, 1934, the annual state-wide running race up City Creek Canyon was scheduled (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 3, 1933, the annual state-wide running race up City Creek Canyon was scheduled (Salt Lake Telegram).

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