Invasive Plants in Overlook

Here’s one of our articles from the latest edition of Overlook Views Newsletter.

Invasive Plants in Overlook

by Mulysa Melco

Have you ever noticed ivy smothering a tree or Himalayan blackberry engulfing an alley or fence line? These are common examples of invasive species in our neighborhood. Many plant species have been brought to Portland since settlers arrived, some intentionally introduced and others that have hitchhiked by various means. While many of these new species have been ornamental or useful, some have escaped cultivation and done too well here – outcompeting the native vegetation and causing a range of ecological and economic problems.

Overlook Neighborhood was once a patchwork of oak woodland, mixed conifer forest and wetland that was home to many species of birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Our neighborhood is on the Pacific flyway, a major migratory route, so it is also in the position to provide critical sustenance to bird species passing through. As a volunteer with Friends of Overlook Bluff, a group that is working to create a nature trail around a heritage oak and restore historic oak meadow habitat, and as a landscaper designer who gets a lot of questions about dealing with invasive plants, I wanted to know more about their impact in our area. I spoke with Overlook neighbor Mitch Bixby, the Early Detection/Rapid Response (EDRR) field technician with the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.

Mitch explains, “Invasive plants, by the definition we use, are species that change ecosystems. They’re not just “plants in the wrong place,” but species that cause ecosystems to fail in some objective, measurable ways. For example, overwhelmed ecosystems tend to have just a few kinds (or just one kind) of plant, all flowering at the same time, and then setting seed at the same time. These monocultures prevent insects and animals that depend on diversity (most of our native wildlife) from getting what they need. That’s one reason why plant diversity is so important.”

Another issue is stormwater, “We also have concerns about monoculture and infiltration. Diversity of plants leads to a variety of root systems, allowing water to soak into the ground. Having only one or two species means water is more likely to run off into the city’s sewer system, and that increases costs for Portland’s sewer ratepayers.”

Mitch’s role is to help catch new problem species before they become as established as ivy or blackberry. While it can be frustrating to see those species taking over areas while he addresses emerging invasive plant issues, “I think it’s an opportunity for folks to empower themselves on their own property.” I asked Mitch which invasive species have the biggest impact. “On a citywide basis, species like blackberry and ivy continue to do the most damage, though non-native clematis is now a faster-moving menace.  Lesser celandine and Italian arum fill spaces quickly and are difficult to remove, though not (yet) as widespread as the first group.” Tree of heaven, pokeweed, Japanese knotweed and butterfly bush are other problem species commonly found in yards.

How should a homeowner go about tackling an invasive plant problem?  Mitch says to “just keep chipping away. It’s what I do at my house. Start by clearing one area, continue keeping that area clear, and slowly expand your “territory.” Doing everything all at once can be exhausting; you have permission to let some stuff go for now!” There are many non-toxic ways to get ahead of invasives such as hand digging, sheet mulching and goats. For more management options check out the resources below.

While eradicating ivy or blackberry in Overlook may not be practical, homeowners can learn to identify invasives and do their part to control them on their property (and consider volunteering with efforts to improve the health of our green spaces.) Our efforts to create diverse habitat in our yards can be a big benefit to wildlife that have lost habitat to invasive plants.


BES invasive species information

Environmental Services City Green blog

East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) has fantastic gardening classes and workshops

The 4-County Cooperative Weed Management Area is our umbrella organization and has many resources.

Bringing Nature Home: How You can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy

Lesser Celadine, a common invasive plant in Overlook.

Lesser Celadine, a common invasive plant in Overlook.

Photo: Mitch Bixby

Creating a Pesticide Free Neighborhood video


Sustainable Overlook’s Pesticide Free Neighborhood project was featured in a mini-documentary that was filmed last summer by Cooking Up a Story.  Check out the video, article and resources to get ideas about what you can do to make your neighborhood safer and healthier.

If you want to take the Healthy Lawn and Garden pledge, visit our Pesticide Free Overlook page. If you live in other neighborhoods are regions you’ll find resources and links to where you can pledge and get your own lady bug yard sign.


Want to get involved with Sustainable Overlook? Email or check out our events page.

Upcoming Sustainable Overlook Meetings

Get involved with sustainability and resilience efforts in Overlook and help chart the course of preparedness and ecological living in our own neighborhood. Our meetings are a fun way to meet your neighbors, share ideas for sustainability initiatives and lend a hand with projects already underway. Mark your calendar for these dates.

Meetings are on 3rd Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

August – Summer break

September 18th – Steering Committee Meeting – Core group members will meet to plan 2015 events and budget. Email us to get involved!

October 16th  – Location TBD – General meeting

November 20th  – Location TBD



July Meeting – This Thursday

Hello There,

Phew!  It has been a busy summer already with Sustainable Overlook events, from the Intersection Painting to the Garden Tour to last weekend’s Yard Sale / Free Share.  We hope you’ve had a chance to connect with at least one of the events thus far.  We’d also like to invite you to our monthly meeting this Thursday at 6:30PM at volunteer Josh Cabot’s house, 4035 N Castle Ave.  We will be meeting under the covered back porch and will have some light refreshments (lemonade, iced tea, fizzy water, beer).

We will be recapping our summer’s events as well as doing the following:

  • Plan our next moves as it relates to our Pesticide Free Overlook (PFO) initiative
  • Develop ideas for new sandwich board style yard signs for advertising our events
  • Discuss how to start building our new neighbor guide
  • Determine how we can do our part to promote our local neighborhood businesses
  • Brainstorm a potential neighborhood resilience summit for next spring
  • Planning for our table at the Movie in the Park night at Overlook Park 8/31

If you can make the meeting and/or if you have any questions or constructive criticism, please reach out to us at  Also be sure to check back here for updates on all of the work we’re doing around the neighborhood.

Thanks for your interest and your support!

Yard Sale/Free Share Map!

Here is the map for this weekend’s Yard Sale and Free Share!

PDF: 2014 Overlook Yard Sale – Free Share MAP

We also have an online google map version which could be useful if you have a smart phone or other similar mobile device. Check it out here

There are over 50 sales going on on Saturday and there will be lots of free piles to go treasure hunting in on Sunday. A few highlights:

3900 N. Overlook Terrace – Friends of Overlook Bluff is having a multi-family garage sale at the historic oak which is a fundraiser for their amazing conservation work right in our neighborhood. There will be printed copies of the map at this location.

5523 N. Detroit – Plant sale with a variety of native, ornamental and edible species. You can also get a free lady bug yard sign at this stop if you want to join the Pesticide Free Overlook effort! There will be printed copies of the map at this location.

2116 N.Humboldt St. – Gluten-free treats!

2014 Overlook Yard Sale

Feel free to print out some maps to share with neighbors or post around the neighborhood.

The event is free for all but please consider making a donation to Sustainable Overlook to help us continue to put this on as well as other neighborhood events. Make a contribution on our About page.

Yard Sale/Free Share – July 19 and 20

It’s time for Overlook’s 4th annual Yard Sale and Free Share!

Sell your items on Saturday, July 19th from 10 am to 4 pm. 

Share items for free on Sunday, July 20th, all day. 

Look for the map with participating households here, available for viewing after July 16th.

Have questions for want to be included on the map? E-mail Josh at before July 10 to be included on the map.

To participate in the Free Share on Sunday, just put items you’d like to give away on the curb with a FREE sign. Make sure to clean up any remaining items by the end of the day Sunday!


Print out a flyers to post around the neighborhood or share with friends and family:

PDF  2014 Overlook Yard Sale – Free Share Flier

It takes a community!

Many people contributed to the success of our 3rd annual garden Sustainable Overlook Garden tour.

Special thanks to our garden hosts who so generously opened their gardens (and homes in two cases): Ann and Neal Forsthoefel, Jan-Marc and Barbara Baker, Robert and Sharon Sullivan, CJ Tabor, Mike O’Brien and family, Kerri Creager and family, Nikkie West, Sorrel and Chris Arends, Ruth Oclander and family and Leslie Lewis.

Thank you to our community partners who spent the day sharing resources with tour goers: Dahwiya and Christy from Oregon Right to Know GMO labeling campaign, Katie Meckes of East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Nikkie West of Backyard Habitat Certification Program, Kevin Scribner of Slow Food Portland, Ruth Oclander and Greg with Friends of Overlook Bluff.

Thanks to businesses who joined us for the tour: Lory Duralia from Bosky Dell Natives, Jan-Marc Baker of Jan-Marc Wine Cellars, Hannah Nickerson of Rain City Gardens, Greg Haines of Ecoroofs Everywhere and Leslie Campbell of Habitat Landscape Design,

Thank you to tour coordinators Mulysa Melco and Ann Forsthoefel and to Sustainable Overlook steering committee members Leslee Lewis and Josh Cabot for their many contributions.

Volunteers, we couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you to Alison Bingham, Brenden Butler, Jane Finch-Howell, Wanda Auger and Kathie Brandini and all the friends and family members who pitched in.

Thanks to:
New Seasons (Arbor Lodge) for providing the refreshments at the pre-tour reception.
Good Sport Promotion – for donating bike rack rental.
Camera Graphics – for doing a fantastic job printing tour materials.
The Xerces Society for donating a raffle prize.
Resilience Design for donating a raffle prize.

Thank you to Metro for their continued support of the Pesticide Free Overlook project and valuable natural gardening resources.

A Great 2014 Sustainable Overlook Garden Tour!

Wow! First it didn’t rain (hardy at all), then we had fantastic people come out for a day of meeting neighbors, sharing natural gardening practices, seeing cool plants and garden designs – so many great conversations! Here are some reactions from neighbors:

The Sustainable Garden tour today was so inspiring! I had no idea all the cool things that were going on in my neighborhood! Thanks to all the people who opened their houses and to the organizers! Great success!
— Emily via fb

This was great, thank you for posting. I got to go for a lovely pregnant walk and take pics of plants that may work in our new yard.
– Chandra via Nextdoor

Besides sitting at another family’s beautiful, natural garden, I got to meet several neighbors new to me and just a few streets over. It was a great day with even some excitement: would it rain, or wouldn’t it?! Thank you, Mulysa, for doing such an excellent job of organizing, and thank you, Sustainable Overlook, for sponsoring the tour.
– Jane via Nextdoor

Thank you for helping put on the garden tour. So much fun!
– Rachel via email

What a fantastically organized tour; Mulysa & crew, you outdid yourselves!
– Michelle via email

We went to all the homes on the garden tour today and we thought it was awesome! We are really inspired and it was great to get out and meet some of our neighbors…
Thanks for all you guys do to make this the best neighborhood for my family.

–Lisa via email

Sustainable Overlook Garden Tour – June 28th

The 3rd annual garden tour is just around the corner, on Saturday June 28th from 10 am to 3 pm. There is a fantastic line-up of 10 pesticide-free gardens to explore. New this year will be partner organizations and businesses with tables at every tour stop! Check out the tour day details and garden profiles on the Garden Tour page.

Profiles of the gardens are posted here.

The tour map will be available at two gardens:
Garden No.1: 5929 N. Curtis
Garden No.10: 3908 N. Concord Ave.
Start at either to sign in, donate ($5 suggested) and get your map.

The tour is bike friendly! Thanks to Good Sport Promotion. we’ll have extra bike parking at Gardens No. 1, 4 and 10.


Growing Gardens

Oregon Right to Know – Campaign to Label GMOs

East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District

Backyard Habitat Certification Program

Metro Natural Gardening information

Friends of Overlook Bluff

Slow Food PDX

Bee Friendly Portland

The Xerces Society



EcoRoofs Everywhere

Jan-Marc Wine Cellars

Sea and Sage Farms (Drinking vinegar)

Landscapers from the Backyard Habitat Certification Program’s Landscaper Directory including Habitat Landscape Design, Resilience Design, Rain City Gardens and Independence Gardens.

Bosky Dell Natives


The Historic Elliot House

The Historic Elliot House


Oregon Right to Know – Label GMOs!

The campaign to label GMOs in Oregon is underway. The effort is about “empowering people and getting the information that we deserve in order to make our own choices for what we eat and feed our families; it’s our right to know.” What’s at stake? GM salmon that could threaten our wild salmon populations and our health are about to be approved by the FDA, freaky apples that don’t brown when cut are in the pipeline and other products that consumers may not want but can’t make an informed choice to avoid if they are not labeled.

Many of us are making an effort to grow more of our own food, buy organic and non-GMO verified products but the truth is that the majority of food in most grocery stores already contains GM ingredients but are unlabeled. Even if we are concerned about the health consequences and we managed to avoid most GM food, the environmental impacts of GM crops (such as massive amounts of pesticide including herbicide use) are currently multiplying rapidly and are decimating our pollinators and polluting our water, creating resistant ‘Super Weeds’ and contaminating our seed banks – our heritage. Labeling will help us make informed choices about whether to support these practices.

“It’s no surprise Oregon is on the verge of being the first state to win labeling of genetically engineered foods by a vote of the people. We care about how and where our food is grown, we support family farmers and sustainable farming practices and we know that labeling is the only way we as consumers can truly know what we are eating and feeding our families.”

Huge corporations are spending millions of dollars to fight this effort – your signature is needed to put labeling on the ballot!

Sign the petition to let the people of Oregon vote on GMO labeling on the November ballots.

Go to


Sign the petition on the Sustainable Overlook Garden Tour (Tour Stop 1) on June 28th, from 10 am to 3 pm.

Post by Mulysa Melco. Quotes from Oregon GMO Right to Know campaign.