Photo: Janice Tucker

Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve (LCWP), a 35 acre nature preserve managed by the Santa Fe Botanical Garden (SFBG), has forested riparian, scrub upland, and rare cienega (wetland) habitats hosting a diversity of native plant and wildlife species. These habitats have become degraded due to historic land management practices and intentional and unintentional introductions of invasive plants.  Noxious weeds present at LCWP, including Russian knapweed (Rhaponticum repens), Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), have the potential to spread into forested riparian areas through a number of vectors including hydrological (along drainages), recreational (frequent use of the site by hikers and birders), and airborne and wildlife seed dispersal.  Over the past ten years, populations of invasive species have expanded to a magnitude where SFBG staff and volunteers no longer have the resources or capacity to control them.  Two acres of upland habitat are now impacted by dense stands of Russian knapweed.  Russian olive trees in the riparian forest gallery (est. 10-25 trees/acre over 8 acres) have been implicated in the drying of the cienega.  Bull thistle is appearing throughout the site in low densities.  And, while the teasel population currently only encompasses a ½ acre of wetland habitat, it is clearly spreading upstream.

In late 2016, the Santa Fe-Pojoaque Soil and Water Conservation District received a grant from New Mexico State Forestry for Invasive Weed Management at the LCWP in partnership with Santa Fe Botanical Garden and the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE). IAE led the restoration effort in 2017 and will continue working alongside partners, contractors, and volunteers to complete treatments in 2018. Other project partners and support are: Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), volunteers, and Robert Sivinki (RCS Southwest Consulting).

The project goals are to: 1) prevent invasive species from displacing native communities in forested and forest-connected habitats, 2) restore the habitat and improve water resources available to native species, and 3) protect adjacent forested areas from invasive species expansion.


  • Spring & Summer 2017
    • 0.5 acre of teasel was treated by snipping flowering heads early in the season (starting mid-June) and clipping seed heads and cutting the plant at the base (late August and into September).  Mechanical teasel control has proven to be very challenging as many plant clipped at the base in July re-sprouted and re-flowered in August.
    • 31.25 acres of bull thistle was surveyed and treated by scouting and digging up and removing basal rosettes. If plants had bolted and were flowering later in August and September, flower heads were bagged to prevent seed dispersal.
  • August 2017 – 1 acre of Russian knapweed including 3 small “spot fires” off the main population were treated by herbicide
  • November 2017 – 6.5 acres of Russian olive were cut at base and treated with herbicide. All material smaller than 14 inches was shredded using a masticator.  Larger pieces were cut and piled for firewood giveaway to public.
  • February 2018 – IAE and Robert Sivinski hosted 5 days of wood removal efforts.  Much of the Russian olive wood has been removed and given away to local community members and volunteers.
  • Spring & Summer 2018 – New measures of removing the 0.5 acre of teasel were taken by the current YCC crew. This method consists of excavating the plants before they have gone to seed and revisiting the area several times over the course of 8 weeks as new plants shoot up from the ground. The crew also focused on removing kochia and prickly lettuce before the plants went to seed.

The local community has been extremely excited about this opportunity to harvest free firewood from the preserve.

Next steps:

  1. Clean-up will continue in the coming months, including hauling away wood.
  2. According to Robert Sivinski, the large seed bank at LCWP will begin to fill in areas where trees were removed.  We should begin to see an emergence of grasses and other herbaceous plants, many of which have been crowded out by the Russian olives and other invasive species over the years.
  3. Reseeding will be managed by botanical professionals who know the proper time and species for reintroduction.  Some of this began last summer with SFBG’s Scott Canning and YCC members working in the areas where kochia was removed.


  • Some volunteers have graciously asked how they can help. The YCC has renewed a $32,000 grant for 2018 and volunteers are welcome to help with targeted invasive species removal.

Outreach Signage (click to view larger)


These articles explain the project to date and should answer some relevant questions.

March 1, 2018 – The Santa Fe New Mexican, Invaders get ax to help local wetlands, by Andy Stiny.

December 5, 2017 – Santa Fe Reporter, Cutting Coverby Elizabeth Miller.

We will do our best to keep all of you updated.  In order to keep lines of communication flowing,  let us know if you have questions or concerns. Thanks to all of you for your continued interest in Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve and Santa Fe Botanical Garden.


Lindsay Taylor

Marketing and Public Relations Director, (505) 471-9103