A Sad History of Ravenna Park Allowed My Successful Introduction of a Missing Native Species There!

If you see, or make, an observation of, Petasites frigidus var. palmatus - Western Sweet Coltsfoot (or "Palmate Coltsfoot" as I prefer to call it) in Ravenna Park in Seattle, that plant was most likely part of what may have been my greatest success in introducing or re-introducing, a locally native species that I estimated was missing from its habitat!

In 1996, when I was living in the Ravenna neighborhood, I had made it my goal to bring back as much of the lost biodiversity where I lived as possible, and decided the shaded wetland habitat along Ravenna Creek would be perfect for Palmate Coltsfoot, but I couldn't find any there. I then found a large and healthy population in a wooded wetland in a Seattle area greenbelt, and dug up several roots. I also gathered some seed. I then planted the root-stock in a several spots in the wetland along the creek in Ravenna Park, and I sprinkled the seed all along that wetland. I then moved to West Seattle, and didn't return to Ravenna Park.

Then, after I began to use iNaturalist in 2017, I started seeing observations of Petasites frigidus in Ravenna Park, and they kept coming! Though the park is not very large, there are now 54 iNaturalist observations of P. frigidus in Ravenna park! The P. Frigidus had evidently spread throughout the wetland along the creek there! I'd also like to think a couple of outliers, such as 2 observations nearby along the Burke Gilman Trail, might have originated from the Ravenna Park population's wind dispersed seed. I also later realized that, as one of the closest natural areas to the University of Washington, it would be a top destination for students in classes now using iNaturalist. It would also be a top destination for other Seattlites, living not too far away, to enjoy nature. Of course the coltsfoot with its dramatic, giant, leaves would attract the attention of anyone looking to make their next iNaturalist observation.

I then asked why the coltsfoot spread as easily as it did throughout the Ravenna wetland? When I started on my goal to help "Mother Nature" recover the lost natural wealth of species, and natural beauty, that she had in my local area before European contact, I thought it would be easier. I would just learn which plant species may have historically grown in my area, but were evidently lost, I would learn to identify them, and learn just the kinds of habitats they naturally grew in, and grew best in. The locally lost co-dependent animal and fungus species would also have a better chance of returning after I brought back the plant species that they depended on. If the plant species wasn't totally extinct, I would then find where it still lived, and, if the population I found was large enough to spare some seed, or plants, with no impact, I would collect some seed, and / or a bit of plant material. I would then find areas near where I lived that had the habitats closest to the preferred natural habitats of those locally lost species, and plant them there. Then, if that remaining habitat was close enough to what they grew well in, they would grow, and spread through that habitat. I knew it might require some additional effort to get plants, and populations established, such as maybe some initial watering, or some weeding around them, and that my efforts might not always succeed.

I later realized that if a species no longer grew where it once did, something probably caused it to disappear from that location, and odds were that the thing that caused it to be lost wouldn't have changed, and would still interfere with the reestablishment of that species in that location. Many species that once lived in a given location have been lost because newer conditions no longer supported their being able to hold their own, and continue indefinitely there. So the coltsfoot spreading through the shaded wetland along Ravenna Creek, with no help beyond planting several pieces of root stock, and sprinkling seed through the wetland, was more the exception, than the rule.

Most of the plant species lost from the Seattle area, that were here before European contact, disappeared either because of land management practices imported with the European commercial culture, or because introduced, incompatible, species that came in with the global commerce the Europeans brought here, made the habitat less suitable for the lost native species not compatible with the introduced species.

So if I found good, shaded wetland habitat for Palmate Coltsfoot along Ravenna Creek, why wasn't the Coltsfoot there already. I initially thought people of European heritage may have somehow wiped out a previous Ravenna ravine population. Maybe they over-harvested the coltsfoot for coltsfoot cough syrup (whether or not it was effective).

Then, about a week ago, I was looking into the history of parks officials selling off the commercially valuable, older trees in our parks, and pocketing the money. While I had long suspected there were other examples, my limited websearch revealed only one documented example, in the history of Ravenna Park

Ravenna Park was originally created in 1887 as a private preserve showcasing Seattle's last patch of old growth forest, with magnificent, enormous trees, up to 13' in diameter, and 274' high, no longer seen then in Seattle, and ceremonies by admirers named each of a number of the largest trees after some famous person. While this old growth forest would have had a wealth of biodiversity, I imagine the forest floor might have been darker than the coltsfoot usually grew in. Ravenna Park also had a trout and salmon stream, fed by Green Lake, running through it, and mineral springs, popular at the time to drink from for the reported healing properties of their waters. The original private owners charged 25 cents admission (~$9 in today's dollars), and it was a very popular destination, especially after the street car line was extended to the new town of Ravenna in 1892.

While the private owners of Ravenna Park had offered to sell the park to the city, rather than buying it, in 1910 the city condemned the park, the legality of the condemnation highly questionable, and took ownership of it. A court determined that the owners should get $144, 920 for it, only about $5,000 less than the asking price! So they could have just bought it!

In another act of misuse of city power, in 1911 the level of Green Lake was lowered by 7' by the city of Seattle, nominally to create additional park land, and Ravenna Creek was also diverted into a sewer line to put Ravenna Boulevard over its former path. This left the tiny fraction of the former Ravenna Creek, that we see today, flowing through Ravenna Park, no longer supporting the trout and salmon, but with a newly created wetland along most of the bed of the formerly much wider stream.

Not only was the much wider stream that supported salmon and trout turned into a far narrower creek, without those fish, but by 1913, with the park in the city's hands, and the superintendent of parks J. W. Thompson, in charge, the ancient trees of Ravenna Park started disappearing. This was also in a culture, and a time, where, and when, the enormous trees of the Seattle area had recently been cut for the money they could yield. The first to come down, was the largest, that had been named "The Roosevelt Tree", after President Theodore Roosevelt, (or alternately called "The Big Stick" after Teddy Roosevelt's famous saying "Walk softly, but carry a big stick") An investigation revealed that the superintendent pocketed the money for the sale of 63 cords of firewood. The superintendent falsely claimed it was rotten, and had to be removed as a threat to public safety. In spite of protests, the largest of the trees kept being cut, and removed.

So rather than those from the commercial, European culture having degraded the habitat for a lost species, they added light, and expanded the wetland surrounding the now much narrower creek. This may have created appropriate habitat for a native species that may not have occurred in that location before. And, as Ravenna Park had become an island of P. frigidus habitat in a growing urban sea, the nearest remaining P. frigidus population may have been too far away for its seeds to easily blow to Ravenna Park, so to grow there the coltsfoot needed to be introduced there to occupy the habitat that was created by, what I would argue were, misguided modern humans at around 1911.

Posted on Μάρτιος 02, 2023 0414 ΜΜ by stewartwechsler stewartwechsler


Congratulations on your Petasites success, Stewart!

Αναρτήθηκε από sedgequeen πάνω από 1 χρόνo πριν

Thank you @sedgequeen !

Αναρτήθηκε από stewartwechsler πάνω από 1 χρόνo πριν

Great success story! Thanks for sharing Stewart

Αναρτήθηκε από stevenhayward πάνω από 1 χρόνo πριν

My pleasure Steven! I was just reading about the history of Ravenna Park. It started out as a preserve for old growth trees, that made it a major attraction, with that old growth otherwise gone from the area, and it had a much larger stream running through it. The main source of water was eliminated by a lowering of its Green Lake source, and more water may have been diverted into a sewer line. The ancient trees were sold off by a parks superintendent after the parks department got a hold of it. I now think the reason there may have been no Palmate Coltsfoot there was that the wetland there was previously the bed of a much wider stream. So the wetland habitat of the Coltsfoot wasn't always there.

Αναρτήθηκε από stewartwechsler πάνω από 1 χρόνo πριν
Αναρτήθηκε από stewartwechsler πάνω από 1 χρόνo πριν

Sad history for that park.

Αναρτήθηκε από sedgequeen πάνω από 1 χρόνo πριν

I've just done a major re-write of my original post, focusing more on the sad history of Ravenna Park, and the wetland habitat that was created there by routing a much wider stream there into a sewer line, the habitat possibly too far from the nearest population of Petasites frigidus palmatus for the species to become established in the wetland that was created without my bringing the plants and seeds there.

Αναρτήθηκε από stewartwechsler πάνω από 1 χρόνo πριν

Προσθήκη σχόλιου

Συνδεθείτε ή Εγγραφή για να προσθέσετε σχόλια