Photo courtesy of Robert Rayburn, ASLA, LEED AP , Landscape Architect
Just west of Langham Creek and south of the new Park Row extension lies a wooded piece of land where the native habitat has been overrun by exotic plant species and careless littering.
But 30 volunteers from ConocoPhillips, with help from The Energy Corridor District, could see the forest for – well, in this case – a booming understory of Ligustrum, Lantana, Chinese Privet and trash that is taking over what once was a jewel of native habitat just west of Langham Creek near the Addicks Reservoir.
On a long day in May, ConocoPhillips' Health, Safety, and Environment team joined Robert Rayburn, landscape architect for The District, to begin a conquest to take back the land and let its indigenous Gulf Coast species shine in the heart of The Energy Corridor.
The District-sponsored event was part of a larger effort by the Bayou Preservation Association to restore native habitat along a section of Langham Creek's riparian, or stream-related, corridor.
Armed with machetes, herbicide and heart, the group cut down 15 cubic yards of invasives in their quest, while killing in place around 100 Ligustrum trees too large for the volunteers to remove. That labor-intensive effort meant scarring the root flares and trunks of larger Ligustrums with machetes, exposing the cambium tissue behind the bark to allow herbicide to do its work.
They also hauled out 1.5 cubic yard of trash.
The result of all that hard work?
“Before the project began, the understory below the native Texas trees in the work zone was estimated to be about 50 percent native species and 50 percent invasive and exotic plants,” explains Rayburn. “Now the understory has been restored to about 90 percent native. Biodiversity is key to restoring the benefits these lands can provide Houstonians.”
Stream corridor lands along waterways such as Langham Creek flow into Houston’s bayous. By supporting native grasses and plants these corridors can improve water quality, while reducing sediments and pollutants from reaching Gulf Coast bays and estuaries, explains Linda Shead, vice president of programs and director of watersheds for Bayou Preservation Association.
“Native plants help reduce runoff velocity and volume, and play an important part in the storm water management of the region,” says Shead. “These forested areas also provide habitat for wildlife and shade for the users of the abundance of outdoor recreational trails found within the Energy Corridor District.”
But after knocking back the invasive plants, the volunteers didn’t rest on their laurels, so to speak.
Moving to an area along Langham Creek cleared previously of invasives by Eagle Scouts, the volunteer group plunked down native plants such as Laurel Oak, American Elm, Coralberry, Mexican Plum, Southern Magnolia, Texas Persimmon, Turks Cap and Coral Honeysuckle, known to temp fluttering hummingbirds along creeks and thickets throughout East Texas.
“Globally, ConocoPhillips is focused on water and biodiversity conservation efforts in the communities where we live and work,” says Mary Ellen Weylandt, ConocoPhillips Community Relations. “We are especially thrilled that this stream bank improvement project will take place at Langham Creek, so near to our headquarters. We are also appreciative that the Bayou Preservation Association provided an out-of-office environmental education opportunity for our employees.”
With the speed at which exotic species multiply, the Bayou Preservation Association will continue to monitor the success of this project and provide oversight and follow-up.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council provided gloves for the effort.
“Thanks goes to The Energy Corridor District for being a valuable partner and for helping to celebrate, protect and restore the natural richness of our waterways,” Shead says.