Owl Trail entrance in Cherry Canyon

Volunteers from La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, Theodore Payne Foundation and Arroyo Seco Foundation plant California native plants at the Owl Trail entrance in Cherry Canyon. The city of La Cañada Flintridge is partnering with the Theodore Payne Foundation to remove the invasive, non-native ivy in the canyon and install California native plants, such as lilac, sage, toyon, and currant, for erosion control at the entrance to the wild land area. This will help maintain the biological integrity of the area. (Photo courtesy of Mike Mullen / February 2, 2013)

Volunteers spent half a day Saturday removing recently planted ivy seedlings from the Owl Trail entrance in Cherry Canyon and replacing them with sage, currant, lilac and other native plants.

The effort was spearheaded by Lisa Novick, director of outreach and K-12 Education for the Sun Valley-based Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants. Volunteers from the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, Arroyo Seco Foundation and Boy Scouts also participated in the hillside replanting.

In December, the city planted young shoots of Hahn's ivy, a popular English creeping vine whose handsome appearance belies a surprising reality: Not only is the evergreen ground cover poisonous to dogs, cats and humans, but it is also an invasive, nonnative plant species that could harm the Cherry Canyon ecosystem.

“I was very happy to see the trail improvements but very concerned to see the ivy,” said Novick, who described the city's ivy planting as “well intentioned but ignorant.”

Afterward, Novick contacted Councilman Donald Voss, La Cañada's representative to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The city helped to fund the replanting, she said.

According to Novick, the canyon's insects such as butterfly caterpillars or beetles can only digest native plant vegetation, not the ivy. As a result, the intertwined nature system could become threatened.

“If you don't have native plants, the whole food web goes kaput,” said Novick, who maintains a native plant blog on the Huffington Post. “And the ivy eventually kills the oaks.”

While the affected area is relatively small, similar planting of invasive, nonnative species in local wild-land areas can have a cumulative effect on the environment, she said.

“Imagine this repeated over and over again throughout the county,” she said. “It could be devastating.”

While the city's ecological faux pas concerned many of the replanting participants, all seemed to enjoy the morning outing. The occasional hiker and a group of mountain bikers from Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta trekked by the volunteers.

“I'm a native-plant geek,” said Roger Klemm, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer who enthusiastically planted a sage plant with his large garden knife. “It's fun because I'm able to go out and see what's in nature. To come out here and hear the birds, it's neat.”

Debbie Tinkham of the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council rolled up her sleeves to lend a hand.

“These trails are loved by so many people,” said Tinkham, who added that a Southern California Edison grant helped pay for the native plants.

The Theodore Payne Foundation will host its 10th Annual Native Plant Garden Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 6 and April 7. Cost is $10 per person for members and $15 for nonmembers.

For more information on the Theodore Payne Foundation or the garden tour, call (818) 768-1802 or visit theodorepayne.org.

To learn more about the Arroyo Seco Foundation, visit www.arroyoseco.org.

More information on the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council can be found at lcftrails.org.