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Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

1120 SW 5th Avenue, Room 1000, Portland, OR 97204

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Alien Plant Invader: Japanese Butterbur

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An update on successful efforts to fight this plant, and what you can do to help

At first glance, Japanese butterbur (Petasites japonica) appears to be a tropical beauty and a fantastic groundcover for your back yard. But beauty can be deceiving! Its huge leaves shade out other plants. It steals nutrients and can quickly invade an entire area. It’s not yet widespread in Portland, but it is growing in some sensitive natural areas and it’s hard to get rid of. Japanese butterbur is listed as a “watch” species in Portland, but may be reclassified with a higher “B” ranking.

As its name suggests, Japanese butterbur hails from Japan where some people consider it edible with careful preparation. Some parts of the plant are poisonous. Its scientific name comes from the Greek word petasos, meaning a wide brimmed hat.

Japanese butterbur’s kidney-shaped leaves can be up to four feet wide and are fuzzy on the underside. It emerges in late winter or early spring, sometimes with clumps of white or pale yellow flowers appearing before the leaves, and can grow up to six feet tall.

Japanese butterbur spreads mostly through underground stems, and sometimes through seeds. It seems to be spreading in Portland through yard waste dumping, plant trading and when the underground stems break apart and float down streams. Gardeners sometimes plant Japanese butterbur in containers to check its spread, but this plant is an escape artist! It’s been known to spread in spite of containment.

Hand-pulling is an effective way to remove small areas of Japanese butterbur from your yard, though you’ll have to continue pulling sprouts for at least a few years. Mowing will not remove the plant but can keep it from spreading. More established populations are difficult to control and common herbicide treatments don’t seem to be effective. If you find Japanese butterbur, please contact Dominic Maze at Environmental Services to discuss control options.

Invasive species affect us all. They damage forests, streams, rivers and our property. Nationwide, invasives cause an estimated $120 billion in damages every year. In Oregon, the costs of controlling invasive weeds and the damage they cause amounts to about $125 million each year. It costs a lot less to control new invasive plants before they become infestations, but we need your help. Read more about the problems caused by invasive species and why Environmental Services is concerned about their impact on water quality.

Catch up on previous Alien Plant Invader posts:

·                     Garlic mustard

·                     Tree of Heaven

·                     Goatsrue

·                     Italian arum (orange candleflower)

·                     Lesser celandine

·                     English holly

·                     Spurge laurel

·                     Japanese and giant knotweed

·                     Ivy

·                     Pokeweed

·                     False brome

Get Registered for 5/30 Rain Garden Workshop

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Seats are still available for FREE workshop in the Hollywood neighborhood, sponsored by East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District

Every year, the staff at East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) provide FREE naturescaping and rain garden classes across Portland. From the EMSWCD website:

Perfect for all levels of do-it-yourselfers, our FREE workshops highlight landscaping with native plants, water conservation, creative stormwater solutions and chemical-free gardening techniques that are good for people, water and wildlife. Most include a field trip to a neighborhood project or garden to see these principals in action.

This Spring Environmental Services is hosting one more of these workshops—Rain Gardens 101—in areas where private property stormwater facilities would be most helpful to current sewer rehabilitation projects. The Rain Gardens 101 class will take place on Saturday, May 30th. If you're interested, see the details below and register now!

Rain Gardens 101

Date: Saturday, May 30th  9:00am-1:00pm

Location: Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Ave, Portland, 97212

Learn how to build your own rain garden! We’ll explore the critical role rain gardens can play in urban stream restoration, and how they add beautiful landscaping to your yard at the same time.

You will learn how to assess your site to determine the best location and size, calculate impervious surfaces, determine soil suitability, choose appropriate plants, and how to maintain your new rain garden. You will also receive a comprehensive manual that guides you through all the steps in constructing your rain garden. Where possible, workshop includes a short tour of a nearby rain garden.

RSVP for this event!

Put a Fish on It!


East Portland Sunday Parkways is this Sunday, May 10

family with fish hats at Sunday ParkwaysEast Portland Sunday Parkways is almost here and we’re excited to see you along the route.

On Sunday, May 10th (Mother’s Day), the Foster Floodplain Natural Area will be the stop for nature-based games, crafts and the always-popular fish hats. 

Stop by at SE 106th & Foster Road to see the Audubon Birds of Prey or use a spotting scope to view birds along Johnson Creek.

For a break, enjoy bluegrass by Train River and treat yourself with Scoop Handmade Ice Cream.

We hope to see you there!

This stop is sponsored by the Bureau of Environmental Services.

Other participants:  

Audubon Society of Portland


East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District

Environmental Services Tree Program

Foster Green EcoDistrict

Green Lents Community Tool Library

Green Street Steward Program

Johnson Creek Watershed Council

Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership

Open House: Tryon-Stephens Neighborhood Street Plan


Join us on Thursday, May 7

Please join us for the second Open House for the Tryon-Stephens Headwaters Neighborhood Street Plan.  This effort covers the area of southwest Portland shown on this map.

unimproved street

This is the final open house before the plan wraps up in June 2015. Through this plan, we are looking to answer the question: How should street and stormwater management facilities fit the unique character of your neighborhood?

The details:

Tryon-Stephens Headwaters Neighborhood Street Plan OPEN HOUSE #2

Stephens Creek Crossing Community Center (Community Room) 6715 SW 26th Avenue, 97219

Thursday, May 7, 2015 from 5:30-7:30 pm

                   5:30pm      Doors Open

                   6:00pm      Overview Presentation

                   6:30 –7:30pm Workshop

Come to the Open House and tell us what should be improved or preserved on different types of streets.  Learn about proposed street types and tools for matching street and stormwater management concepts.

Learn more about this project here: 

For more information, contact:

Denver Igarta, Portland Bureau of Transportation


Naomi Tsurumi, Bureau of Environmental Services


Measuring and reporting on our rivers and streams


Portland's new Watershed Report Cards are available online

Sure, the Willamette River is Portland’s front yard, centerpiece and working harbor.  But did you know, Portland has about 300 total miles of rivers and streams in the city?

Have you ever wondered about water quality in the river, conditions along Johnson Creek, or the health of fish populations in Tryon Creek?

coho salmonCheck out the new Watershed Report Cards!

This is a new tool we have to report on the current conditions of our streams, the Willamette River, and our watersheds. 

Watershed report cards are used by many communities, like the Chesapeake Bay region, Puget Sound, and Toronto, Canada, to help people understand what’s going on in the environment.

Environmental Services is working for clean rivers and healthy watersheds.  Many other city bureaus, community partners, and regional organizations are part of the effort, too.  Even your individual actions, like planting a tree or reducing pesticides in your yard, make a difference.

The report cards will help us track changes in local water quality, habitat and salmon populations over time.  They will also help show where everyone’s efforts can make a difference.

Explore your watershed graphicLearn more about the Watershed Report Cards here.

Check out Urban Watersheds 101 for information about the challenges facing our watersheds.

Explore Portland's Watersheds with our new interactive map.