The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council is partnering with the Clackamas County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) Weedwise Program to reduce the spread of Policeman’s Helmet (Impatiens glandulifera) by expanding landowner outreach and surveying for other early detection priority invasive plants. These efforts will focus on high priority habitat restoration sites along the Salmon River where the Sandy River Basin Partners have invested considerable resources to control invasives, replant with native riparian plants and install large woody debris to increase in-stream habitat complexity for endangered salmon.
A private property blanketed in flowering Policeman’s Helmet
Policeman’s Helmet is a prolific seed-producer that can grow over 8 feet tall each year as an annual flowering plant. It’s flowers start off white early in the season, and begin to turn a pink to purple color later in the year. The flowers resemble orchids and are highly fragrant. Its distinctive reddish hollow tube stems and shallow roots make it easily removable, especially in riparian areas where it thrives. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds, which are held in exploding seed pods close to their flowering tops. Later in the summer once plants are mature, these seed pods burst and can propel the seeds up to 20 feet away from the plant. These traits make Policeman’s Helmet an aggressive invasive species since it can rapidly spread, especially near waterways and in boggy areas.
This summer, Watershed Council staff Corinne Handelman and Amber Ayers are reaching out to private property owners to secure access to new focus areas, identify and remove infestations of Policemen’s Helmet. During the fall and winter, we will add native understory vegetation in treated areas with the largest amount of invasive species impact to re-establish native riparian conditions. This replanting effort builds upon years of work by The Nature Conservancy, SRBWC, and CCSWCD to restore long-term riparian processes such as native vegetation succession. Replanting treated areas aims to reduce invasive species cover over time by reducing gaps in vegetation and allowing for naturally regenerating native riparian cover.
The immediate impact of hand-pulling Policeman’s Helmet is clear
In the upper Sandy basin this very prolific seed producer is found primarily in riparian areas where its seeds are dispersed by high water events. During recent years it has begun to colonize restoration sites where Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants had been largely controlled through previous efforts. A concerted effort to control Policeman’s Helmet is needed to prevent impairment of native plant communities in private and public land riparian areas. Currently, the problem is worst on the Salmon River, an upper tributary that is among the top three priorities for salmon habitat restoration in the Sandy Basin. Because of these reasons, our efforts this year will be focusing on retreating areas from last year to ensure the species is eradicated and focusing on new properties to treat in the Salmon River corridor.
Plants can grow in shady or nearly full-sun conditions
This will be the Watershed Council’s third year working on this project in partnership with CCSWCD, and each year our progress is yielding impressive results. Hand pulling has occurred each summer from 2012-2014 and has helped reduce the spread in infested areas, with measurable reduction in the plant’s extent after multiple years of treatment. Most of the invasive plants on our sites are adjacent to water where juvenile salmon are present, representing an opportunity to restore high-value riparian habitat. Since 2014, the removal efforts have been conducted primarily by the Project YESS youth crew from Mt. Hood Community College. Other partners on this project include The Nature Conservancy, the US Forest Service, US Bureau of Land Management, and local residents and volunteers. Funding to the Watershed Council comes from CCSWCD and PGE’s Habitat Fund focusing on salmonid habitat restoration.
If you’re interested in volunteering to help reduce populations of Policeman’s Helmet, you can join us at the Wildwood Recreation Site on August 15th at 9:30am.
See our “upcoming events” page for more information. Area residents who find this species on their property should report it to the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline
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