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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: Goatsrue


This plant starts blooming soon, and packs 15,000 seeds

goatsrue flowersPortland is breaking new ground, but in this case, it’s not an honor we want!  There are five known sites in Oregon where the invasive plant goatsrue is found, and three of them are here in the Portland area. The other two are not far away in Gresham and Sherwood.

This is how new invasive plant infestations start out, and we need your help to keep this one contained before it becomes a real problem.


Goatsrue (Galega officinalis) is a federally listed noxious weed and is one of the 100 most dangerous invasive plants according to the Oregon Invasive Species Council. The stem and leaves of goatsrue contain a poisonous alkaloid, galegin, which can cause serious health problems or even be fatal for people and livestock.  

Like other invasive plants, goatsrue can negatively impact our local natural areas and streams, threatening our clean water resources.  It reduces plant and animal diversity as other, often native, species are displaced by the goatsrue root fragments and large numbers of seedlings.  Each plant has approximately 15,000 seeds that are dispersed by small mammals, birds, wind and water.  The seeds may be viable for up to 30 years, so it’s important that we catch each plant now! 


goatsrue leaves

Goatsrue is a perennial plant in the pea family, native to the Middle East. Plants have upright, hollow stems and can reach two to six feet tall. Goatsrue blooms from June to October with light lilac to dark purple pea-like flowers. Leaflets are arranged in pairs on a central stem. Goatsrue has a leaflet at the very end, instead of a climbing tendril like a garden pea plant would have. Later in the growing season, goatsrue produces straight, narrow, rumpled-looking pods.

Look-a-likes include perennial peavine (Lathyrus latifolius) and common vetch (Vicia sativa). Perennial peavine and common vetch are widely distributed in Portland, and do have climbing tendrils at the ends of their leaves. That’s the easy way to distinguish goatsrue from these look-a-likes: goatsrue has an upright hollow stem and no tendrils.

goatsrue plant


Are you a landowner with a question about goatsrue, or suspect you have it on your property? We strongly encourage you to contact the City of Portland's Early Detection and Rapid Response Program. Please contact Mitch Bixby at 503-823-2989 or

Visit this page for more information about goatsrue. King County also has information available.

(bottom 2 photos courtesy of King County)




 Invasive species affect us all. They damage our forests, streams and rivers, and property. Nationwide, damages associated with invasive species are estimated to be $120 billion each year. In Oregon, the damage invasive weeds cause and the cost of controlling them total about $125 million each year. We know that it costs a lot less to control new invasive plants before they become infestations, so we need everyone’s help. Find out more about the problems caused by invasive species and why Environmental Services works to stop their spread.

Catch up on previous Alien Plant Invader posts:

Green Streets PDX Block Party! A Stewardship Celebration

Join the celebration dedicated to Portland's Green Street Program, and learn how you can get involved to join the fun

 The event takes place Saturday, May 31st, from Noon-4:00pm

Thanks to our event partners: Portland State University, Green Lents, Depave, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Johnson Creek Watershed Council

For more information about Green Streets and the upcoming event, find us on Facebook at Green Street Stewards. If you use Instagram, please like and share photos with us using #pdxgreenstreets. Thanks!


Filling the Gap at Errol Heights Natural Area


A recent addition will help with future projects for a healthier Errol Creek

documenting natural resources at new propertyThe City of Portland and partners have worked for more than two decades to restore over 20 acres in the Errol Heights area.  Recently, Environmental Services and Portland Parks & Recreation acquired a 2.5-acre property to fill an important gap in the Errol Heights Natural Area Park.

Errol Creek flows through the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood in southeast Portland and drains to Johnson Creek.  Environmental Services is working to restore natural resource functions in the Johnson Creek watershed, to provide flood storage, improve water quality, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.  Johnson Creek is home to Endangered Species Act-listed salmon, but has water quality limitations and alterations that contribute to nuisance flooding and limit salmon recovery.  Errol Creek is fed by cold, high quality spring water that makes it ideal refuge and rearing habitat for threatened salmon.  It's also a clean water source for Johnson Creek.

restored wetland at Errol HeightsEnvironmental Services and partners completed projects at Errol Heights in 2007 and 2009 to restore wetlands and floodplain, remove fill and create a more natural channel for Errol Creek.  Man-made structures that blocked fish passage were removed, and invasive species were replaced by native plants and trees.  Learn more about the Errol Confluence project here.  Since then, beaver have moved in and done their part to expand the wetlands. (Check out our recent post about beavers in Johnson Creek.) 


Errol Creek with man-made bank armoringAdding this new property to the public natural area helps make it possible to restore more wetland area to soak up floodwater, filter pollutants and provide habitat for native fish and wildlife.  Future work will also include removing more man-made structures and rock armoring in the creek, and upgrading a culvert at SE 45th Avenue so water can flow more naturally and fish have better access to the area.

Many groups have helped with restoration, invasive species removal and native plantings at Errol Heights over the years including Portland Parks, Friends of Errol Heights, Friends of Trees, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, Portland Parks Foundation, SOLVE, Hands-On Portland, Kelly Elementary School, Franklin High School, and Sunnyside Elementary School.



Top: This lawn really wants to go back to being a wetland! Staff document natural resources on the property.

Middle: When it rains in Portland, this restored wetland in Errol Heights helps soak up some of the water.

Bottom:  Errol Creek has been artifically straightened in a rock-lined channel through the newly purchased property. Future efforts will restore a more natural stream channel.



Innovative Problem Solving: Rain Gardens in Northeast Portland

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Residential rain gardens help reduce pipe capacity problems for a Northeast Portland neighborhood

Green streets and private facilities such as rain gardens and planters help reduce stormwater draining to sewer pipes, helping the City avoid installing larger pipes. In targeted areas, the City partners with property owners to design and build stormwater facilities to be safe for the site and neighboring properties.  The program is voluntary and the property owner maintains ownership at all times.  Following construction, the property owners maintain the new rain gardens. 

A neighborhood in Northeast Portland was struggling with an undersized pipe, which can lead to basement sewer backups for nearby homes, and can be expensive for the city to repair and a noisy disruption for neighbors. BES constructed two rain gardens that will manage 2,200 ft² of roof, remove stormwater flow, and help prevent having to up-size the pipe.  On an average water year of 37 inches, they will remove over 48,000 gallons of stormwater runoff from this pipe per year. There are several other participating properties in this neighborhood that will also help us to achieve the overall goal of mitigating 7,500 ft² of impervious area managed in the localized drainage basin.

The great news is that this approach costs less than installing larger pipes, and Darlene, the property owner, couldn’t be happier:

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the health of Portland and the Willamette River while enhancing the beauty of one’s home. Thanks to the City for creative water management!”


Fish, bikes and fun at the floodplain


East Portland Sunday Parkways is just so...Portland!

music at Sunday Parkways eventWe’re already feeling nostalgic – East Portland Sunday Parkways was a blast this year! 

It was great to see everyone who stopped by Foster Floodplain, and to introduce new people to Johnson Creek.  A special thanks to all our friends at Sunday Parkways for a successful event. (Check out their recap...14,000 people participated!)

Also, congrats to our new City Green friends Faith and Veronica for winning the Sunday Parkways goodie bag raffle!  

goodie bag raffle prizeMany thanks to the organizations that contributed to the goodie bags and made the Foster Floodplain stop so much fun – Audubon Society of Portland, Bike Farm, Foster Green EcoDistrict, Green Lents, Green Street Steward Program, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, Leach Botanical Garden, Portland Parks and Recreation, Urban Tree Canopy Program, and Zenger Farm

Mark your calendars – we’ll see you at the next Parkways events around town this year, and back at the Foster Floodplain on Mother’s Day 2015!