By Mary Reid Barrow
Saltbushes growing along the marshes are so full of blooms this time of year that they appear covered with snow.
Look across a creek these days. If your eyes light on saltbushes beyond, you might be tricked into thinking for a moment that it really had snowed the night before!
Before too long, those blooms will burst like dandelions and then your eyes may think the ground is covered in goose feathers!
This denizen of the high marsh, also known as Baccharis halimifolia, not only shines in the fall but also does a good job of spreading its seeds across the marsh. All the while, saltbush does a stellar job of holding sand in place and protecting shorelines.
And now it is serving another purpose. More than 100 young saltbush seedlings are standing guard to protect unauthorized social trails at Pleasure House Point.
It all started with Virginia Beach Master Naturalist and LRNow volunteer Gail Kynett who has so many salt bushes in her Thalia yard that she has to pull up and discard their seedlings every year to keep the plants from taking over.
Gail mentioned her dilemma to Jody Ullmann, president of the VB Master Naturalists and a staff member at LRNow. Jody met with Kati Grigsby with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation at the Brock Environmental Center and Laurie Fox at the Hampton Roads Agriculture Research and Extension Center on Diamond Springs Road.
They came up with a plan to block off the social trails and protect the marsh by creating “living fences” of salt bush in certain areas in front of the Brock Center. In the process they found it took a village to build a saltbush fence!
Along with Gail, Jody, Laurie and Kati, there was, of course, CBF, LRNow and the research and extension center horticulturists. Then there were the volunteers from several businesses and LRNow who actually planted the little saltbushes.
The work began in Gail’s yard last fall when Jody and Gail dug up more than 100 seedling babies. The seedlings were transported to the agriculture and extension center where theyhad a year to grow out under the care of their “foster mom,” Laurie, and other center horticulturists, Jody said.
Then last week, 112 pots of hale and healthy salt bush juveniles arrived at their new home at Pleasure House Point ready to go to work.
Volunteers in neon green shirts from Garney Construction, water and waste subcontractors with Hampton Roads Sanitation District, arrived to help plant. They were joined by volunteers from LRNow’s Stewardship and Access Committee and CBF.
After a few words of introduction and instruction, volunteers grabbed shovels and dug in. They quickly put the plants to work in their new jobs as living fences in front of the Brock Center.
The volunteers also installed temporary fencing of stakes and rope to protect the young plants until they get a foothold in their new home.
Now 110 little saltbush babies that might have ended up in Gail’s compost pile are standing guard over the marsh at Pleasure House Point.
“It just goes to show,” Jody said, “that one man’s trash is another’s treasure.”
Reach Mary Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org