Take Santee Lakes & San Diego River Walk in California as an example
SanteeSaturdays Episode 22: Santee Lakes - San Diego Real Estate Agent: Kyle Whissel
Growing up through the 1960s, Santee Lakes recreation was a big part of how we spent our weekends. The landscaping at Santee Lakes has come a very long way from it's generic bland beginning where only a handful of native California Sycamores, a few Fremont Cottonwoods & a couple of Coast Live Oaks existed. A few areas had some lawn strips and picnic tables but mainly it was sand and gravel, but nothing overly spectacular. Most people came there for the fishing. The concept of water recycling was really born here. Many researchers came from around the globe to study and find out what Santee was doing with their water. As kids at Pepper Drive Elementary School, we went there on field trips to learn how this innovation of reccling water worked. I remember the guy showing us a movie and a magnification of a water sample where these sort of clear looking squiggley things were moving around in the water and the guy commented, "We really don't know what these things are, but we know they don't hurt you." 😕 I was super-glad our water came from Helix. I'm sure they know what those things are now compared to 1960s understanding and they've been dealt with. 😉 Most Municipal Sewage Treatment Facilities conventionally cleaned up most of the solids from sewer water before the grey water was further transfered on it's way out to Sea. Later many Facilities started grey-water programs for the mega-water users like Public Parks and Golf Courses.
The northern most reaches of the lakes is where the actual mechanized part of the treatment facility itself is located where solids (yuck) are separated and grey water further aerated prior to release into the northern most percolation ponds and lower series of lakes. That lake and the one below it were always off limits for boating and fishing or even walking around. But the idea behind the concept was to further allow nature (aquatic ecosystem with algae, cattails, rushes, fish, crawdads, etc), to take care and restore the water as it filtered through each of the various gravity fed lakes down stream where it was eventually re-used. Here is a link to the Padre Dam Municipal Water District website where a detailed but not overly complicated explanation is given as to how the treatment facility's concept works. (Water-Recycling-Facility) In the photo at left you can see an aerial view of the majority of the series of gravity fed lakes where little by little 2 million gallons of water a day becomes more and more purified and further treated prior to reuse. In researching their website, they actually only recycle about a third of the available sewer water that is generated and have plans to expand the plant's capacity for far more water recycling. They also have plans for pumping the extra cleaned recycled water and mixing it with Lake Jennings Aquaduct water from natural sources up north and from the Colorado River. I think it's a kool idea and there is some talk of filtering it even further by pumping it first within the floodplain of El Monte Valley allowing the Sand (excellent filter for water) and the microbological forces of nature to further cleaning it before pumping it out near the west end of the valley up into Lake Jennings. Now there is more good news about Santee Lakes.
|Image from Santee Lakes Archive|
Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve
|Images by Mountain Bike Bill|
|Image - Frank Bruce (2013)|
Excellent Reading & Information References
Plant it and they will come! 😎
|Image is from SanteeLakes|
|Image - Santee Lakes|
|Photo . Mike Thirkell|
|Image - imgur 2012|
This shot above is a Hummingbird nest where the mother has built the nest on top of a Sycamore seed ball. Shot was taken in 2012 and the picture on the left here is 2 days later when the little Hummer chick hatched. It's amazing, most Sycamore seed balls are not all that big. Makes you wonder what inspired that mother to built there. Makes perfect sense though. Most of the seed balls of a Sycamore tree are just under the large leaves and such flimsy limber twigs wouldn't really hold the weight of a large bird looking for a meal. Hummers are always kool to have around and aside from their nesting tree choices, there are multiple flowering shrub and perennial choices for which will attract lots of hummingbirds.
|Image - Santee Lakes|
|Image by Mary Beth Stowe|
|Photo by Ron Niebrugge|
|Image - Santee Lakes|
California Sycamore an amazing Wildlife Tree @ Santee Lakes
|Image from Hans & Lisa - Metamorphosis Road|
|Wikimedia - User Lorax (2011)|
Of course the woodpeckers eventually abandon their nests which are then utilized by other birds link owls, squirrels and other cavity nesting critters. If you are fortunate enough to find some exceptionally tall Sycamores, then maybe you'll also find an entire Rookery of Great Blue Herons. Another riparian bird taking advantage of California Sycamores. These in this 30 second video below are in Kansas, but I've seen them here. They like safety in numbers. Herons may or may not create a rookery around the busy noisy Santee Lakes, but they could well develop one over somewhere along the San Diego River Walk where there is more privacy, but they need more landscaping done along the trails set further back from the river bank. More on that below.
Bald eagles also live the great heights and privacy of a tall Sycamore if they can find one
|Image - Prairie Rivers Network|
Bald Eagles most likely prefer not only the great height of a old growth California Sycamore, but also the fact that the California Sycamore with it's twisted contorted open airy structure makes it easy to get in and out. They are not nearly as dense as other trees, even other varieties of Sycamores. Again, another kool addition if located over along the San Diego River Walk where there is more privacy and wildness besides the peace, & quiet.
|Image - Woodpecker Chronicles|
Then there are Squirrels and Owls of all kinds
|Image by D. Bruce Yolton (2011)|
River Walk Project: Imagining a Greener Future for the San Diego River
|Photo by Katy Chappaz|
Walking trails near the San Diego River in Santee, where I went to remind myself of what we're working towards. There are also playgrounds, picnic areas, basketball courts and a dog park nearby.
The Open Earth Project: Exploring a restored section of the river, and some before and after photos from this week's River Rescue clean upI actually love the idea of rebuilding and restoring the San Diego River course from the Cuyamaca Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Such ambitions and ideas were never entertained when I was a kid growing up in the 60s & 70s. For most people the river has been mostly a fractured mess of dry floodplains, sand mining and gravel pits, over grown tangled mess of invasives used as a residential habitat by the homeless, etc. Here and there golf courses utilized the bottomland which has often been prone to periodic flooding of the country clubs. It's certainly not the large picturesque rivers like those of the eastern United States fame where waters always flow abundantly and recreational activities like fishing and boating can be enjoyed anytime of the year. But change has been slow for a couple of decades where some folks have seen a real beautiful vision for this river and they've been proven right as you can see from areas which have been developed with park-like settings and well manicured trails. Take this photo in the example above. This is an area of the wider floodplain far removed from the banks of the San Diego River's edge that you see further in the background. This tree in the foreground looks to be a native Fremont Cottonwood. Oddly enough this tree looks like it may be several years old, yet it's height should be four times this with lush vigorous foliage, but that's not the case here. But why ??? 😕
|Image by Brian Holly Ojai Riparian Restoration project|
|Copyright 2018 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved.|
|Image - CBS8.com|
On February 20th 2017, Takeda California, Inc., the San Diego-based innovative research center of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, showed up to the Walker Preserve in Santee to complete its four year effort to restore a 1.3-mile long stretch of the San Diego River Trail with native plants and shrubs and help from other volunteers.
|Image - East County Magazine|
Examples of 100s of one gallon plants being planted. From what I can tell mainly native shrubs, maybe some trees.
Nursery grown stock (irrespective of tree or shrub variety) is susceptible to root system training where the pattern of a circular spiral will often develop. Despite the straight tall desirable form of the trunk, branches and foliage above, the root system has no such freedoms. The bigger the container, the bigger the problem of spiraling. This example of spiraling roots in the large landscape planted tree at left is what happens after years of growth where the roots never self-correct and the term for this is girdling. “Girdling roots” are roots that grow around other roots or the trunk of the tree, eventually restricting their growth and choking off any nutrients they carry to the rest of the tree. Go to any older city park and you will often find large trees with this problem. The girdling can be on one side of the trunk, or in more sever cases, will encircle the entire trunk, causing the eventual death of the tree. It can also be susceptible to being blown over by severe wind storms. As these girdling roots continue to grow with time, they eventually enlarge causing further restricting of water and nutrient flow to the rest of the tree. The tree can quite literally strangles itself. Tree life would be even more greatly reduced in a wild preserve setting where life support irrigation is usually absent. Your main goal here with Sycamores is to encourage roots to grow straight down as far as they can go to reach the water table and if not, then just above it where capillary action of soil will force moisture upwards to be tapped into by the tree. Same applies here to Fremont Cottonwoods which will also thrive in dry washes in hot summers where deep underground soil moisture is abundant and easily accessed.
My Own Personal Experience in Riparian Tree Establishment based on Observation of Prolonged Flooding Events during Wetter El Niño Years
|Image is mine from 2007|
|Image - 2006 - Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery|
|Photo is mine from 2011|
This photograph above now is 2011 and as you can see these trees are huge. The only trimming I did was from below and to keep limbs off the patio roof. Sycamores in Nature tend to self prune themselves, especially in youth. There is a native fungal disease, anthracnose. This will make disfigure many of the leaves each year. The most damaged leaves will fall in the early Summer. I have never seen this to be fatal to the Sycamore trees. Only the new leaves are susceptible to anthracnose canker, which causes a side bud to become the new leader. Don't worry, this is a kool thing. It's kind of like a natural tool which creates those picturesque angling trunks and branches on older specimens. Do NOT freak and feel you have to go out and purchase a fungicide to spray and kill the stuff. That would be the worst thing to do. Where I have seen real harm is in non-native Sycamore from eastern USA and Europe. The natives in SoCal do fine with the anthracnose.
|Photo is minee from 2011|
This is simply another angle shot of the Sycamore woodland in my mum's backyard from the backside of the other photograph above here. Rich lush foliage and accomplished with no science-based fertilizers.
|Photo is mine from 2013|
Take note of how close together the six Sycamore trees are together. This shot here is from 2013 and behind the backyard viewing the trees from the west towards the east. Notice in pruning them I've left the west side branches much lower than on the east side near the house. This provides further shading from hot summer afternoon sun. My here goal in the original layout was planting three trees in a sort of triangle pattern at a meter apart and two separate groups of these at about three meters from each other was to replicate the pattern of California Sycamore found in the wilds or like the example below at Tree of Life Native Plant Nursery. I'm told now that presently the height of these group of trees tower way over the roof of my mother's house. In fact she's been contacted by drive by tree hacker companies telling her she needs to top these trees. This is bunk and to be honest, most tree trimming companies don't know the art of actual tree trimming with an aim at beautiful picturesque sculpting. My mother has also been contacted by numerous Solar Panel companies who like the tree trimmers say she needs to cut the trees way back and put solar panels on her roof. This is also bunk. Prior to these trees being so large, this house cooked in the summer time (100+F). She has an industrial air conditioner mounted on the back part of the roof which used lots and lots of electricity. These trees with their cool moist shade and the back screen door open and front screen door open allow a westerly prevailing breeze to blow through underneath this massive Sycamore tree canopy have quite often negated the use of the air conditioner and a savings.
|Image by Tree of Life Native Plant Nusery, San Juan Capistrano, California|
|SDSU: Post-Fire Environmental Recovery Process|
|Stephen Chernin/Getty Images|
Okay, so pay close attention to our goal here in Sycamore or Cottonwood deeproot training program. This scupture above is from a massive old Sycamore tree which once stood in front of the Trinity Church in New York City, but was destroyed by falling debris from one of the Twin Towers. You can research for more on this later. The point here is to look at all those main branched thicker roots which grew straight down. Sure at the topsoil layers there are lots more smaller lateral roots, but almost every tree has those, especially when in an urban landscape. So again goal here is a root system where the main roots grow straight down and as deep as they can go. Take a look at this Groasis Waterboxx video of where this planting strategy forces roots of a Mango Tree to grow straight down and deeper into the subsoil. (Mango-Roots Here 00.48 sec) It's a beautiful illustration. But take this other illustration below which is improtant in describing what exact function those large anchor roots provide other than stability.
This is an illustration of what takes place at night generally in the much hotter months throughout Summertime. Just focussing here on California Sycamores and Fremont Cottonwoods found in normal dry washes and floodlains of the Southwest, these large deep roots which may go down several meters (seven meters on average). This is good because ground water levels are fairly high through Santee, El Cajon and Lakeside valley floors. Hydraulic lift & redistribution is the passive movement of water from those thicker deeper verticle roots in the subsoil layers to shallower lateral roots in the surface soil of either Sycamore or Cottonwood. Hydraulic redistribution can increase water availability in the drier shallow soil later to alieviate the drought stress of summer, providing better soil and root water availability, which affects shallow root conductivity and native tree's lateral root hydrated and alive. This effect is of further importance when we consider mycorrhizal fungal grid connection functions in the lateral roots being kept alive and transfering water to other shallower rooted herbaceous plants and other shrubs within the sphere of influence of the large tree's absorption zone. The entire mycorrhixal network or grid is kept functional and operational for the benefit oof the entire riparian ecosystem. Several trees in large woodlands or groves keep the understory lush and green if developed properly in youth and this benefits all wildlife. This is why it's so important to biomimic what nature does in the wild to establish mature trees from the start during a wet period phase like an exceptionally wet El Niño event. Keep in mind this also goes for other chaparral and forest pioneering phenomena in the mountains. Now look at this pic below of the San Jacinto Valley floor which is mostly dry with the exception of subsoil layers which are very wet. Researching one water department report from the San Jacinto Groundwater Basin and they said water wells in this basin produced from 200 to 2,600 gpm. Wow! 😲
|Photo taken by me in 2013 - San Jacinto Valley, Riverside County|
|RiverPartners.org - Riparian Ecology|
|Photo by LA Creek Freak|
The same idea can be applied to California Sycamore by aquiring long pole cuttings. As much as 20' long. This could be a challege if you don't know where to find good straight long poles. I took this photo along Hwy 74 leading into the mouth of the San Jacinto River canyon on the drive up to Idyllwild California. It's right close to the North Fork San Jacinto River Truck Trail turnoff. These Sycamore trees along this stretch of road have always been molested by Southern California Edison for a few decades now by hiring tree hack jobber Asplund or Davy Tree to constantly maintain the electical and telephone pole easement that you see in the photo. In so doing they are triggering the tree's need to replace lost and damage branch and trunk infrastructure through excessive suckering. These trees will never ever amount to anything, but at least large long quality poles could be obtained at the right time of year when they are in dormancy phase and by someone who knows what they are doing and has the proper transport and equipment to keep the dorment cane poles continually wet or your efforts will be wasted. Seriously folks, you want success, so do it with forethought
|Image from Google Earth|
Note small California Sycamore in the center of photo ?
This area above in the Google Earth photograph is along Interstate 15 heading north from San Bernardino just before Devore. This area is a region of massive floodplains and alluvial fans which are geological features also known as Bajadas. The floodplain soils here are rocky large, medium and small cobble stones with massive amounts of sand. Yet throughout this area are multiple lone sentinel California Sycamores (& Fremont Cottonwoods) which look like there is no earthly reason for them to not only NOT germinate and establish themselves, but also to even thrive here for countless decades or well over a century. Remember, these trees love lots of continually available water, because they are riparian trees and are usually not far from water sources. Yet this is a dry hot floodplain on the outskirts of San Bernardino where temps are often well over 100+ degrees Fahrenheit (40+ C). Dry hot Santa Ana winds are also common here which blow in from the eastern deserts with the ferocity of a hurricane at times. So the question that has always intrigued me is, under such conditions of extreme hot weather climates which normally thrash most riparian trees, how do these ever get established in the first place and thrive, especially since no water course of a stream or river channel is anywhere nearby ??? Drive along the 210 freeway west from here to Los Angeles and you'll find the same exact scenario as you drive through numerous dry boulder strewn floodplain Bajadas. Sentinal Sycamores are everywhere & nowhere near a water source. Ask yourself, how did any of these trees get established within a hot dry environment far from the main stream or river channel ??? I pondered this for over a decade until the 1978-1983 El Niño Event which brought massive flooding each winter for a few years. And then it clicked.
Well there's not enough time or room here to explain, so if you want to learn more, click on this link below I created about Bajadas and Alluvial Fans and rare heavy flooding period events that happen every few decades. Once you learn this, you'll be able to plant and succeed at installation of not only riparian trees and shrubs, but any plant community theme or ecosystem, either in the urban landscape or habitat restoration project anywhere. It's helpful to experience it first hand, as opposed to just reading my words. Hands on experience tends to burn things into the memory which cannot be erased. Disclaimer: May require getting off your duff, going outside and trashing your electronic devices. 😛
|image - KWCH12|
Further Reading References - Santee Lakes
Further Reading References - San Diego River Walk
Practical Application for Urban Landscape Biomimicry of Nature
Future Update - I'll post a future El Monte Valley and Lindo Lake in Lakeside version of this post after I visit there and take more photos in April 2018