Seed season is slowly coming to a close here in central Wyoming. It is amazing how different the landscape looks now than it did in the early summer months. Once green and vibrant, the wide open lands are now covered with dead, brown vegetation. One of the only plants down in the basin that has yet to go to fruit is the sagebrush, but the seeds will not be mature until after I have gone.
On the bright side, my partner and I have discovered a high elevation oasis – Green Mountain. Because parts of the mountain sit above 9000 feet, the plants here are behind the basin plants in their seasonal cycle. We managed to complete collections for 6 new species at this location and we still have our eyes on a few more.
Green Mountain has become my new favorite collection site due to the cooler temperatures, fantastic views, and the abundance of wildlife that we run into. A herd of wild horses frequents this area and we have been fortunate to run into its members more than once. Although the presence of wild horses is a very controversial topic out here, I truly enjoy there presence and find it both exhilarating and comforting.
A wild horse grazing on top of Green Mountain.
Back in the office, we have been packaging up our seeds for shipment and putting the final touches on our data sheets. The next item on our agenda is to begin mounting specimens for our local herbarium.
The seeds of Mimulus guttatus, a wetland plant that we collected from Green Mountain.
I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I only have 2 weeks left in Wyoming! Hopefully I can have a few more amazing experiences before it’s time to go.
The bison herd of Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, WY.
The time is just flying by here at the Lander Field Office! We now have completed 18 seed collections and have just a few more planned before the end of the season. Some new additions include 3 different species of Penstemon, and important genus on our target list, and Hedysarum boreale ssp. boreale var. boreale (sheesh – what a long name!) which has never been collected in this field office before.
Penstemon paysoniorum (Payson’s beardtongue)
Penstemon humilus ssp. humilus (low beardtongue)
Penstemon laricifolius ssp. laricifolius (larchleaf beardtongue)
This past week, we have begun packing up our seeds and preparing them for shipment to the Bend Seed Extractory in Bend, Oregon where they will be cleaned and processed for long-term storage or conservation projects. I spend much time admiring the seeds and taking notice of the great variety that exists amongst the different species. This variety carries over in all other facets of life and it amazes me every time I think about it.
Seeds of Lomatium simplex, a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae)
Seeds of Hedysarum boreale, a member of the pea family (Fabaceae)
Seeds of Antennaria umbrinella, a member of the aster family (Asteraceae)
Field season has really taken off since my last blog post! In the past 2 weeks, my partner and I have completed 6 entire collections for the Seeds of Success program. The species that we have collected thus far include Balsamorhiza incana, Townsendia incana, Lomatium foeniculaceum, Cerastium arvense, Oxytropis sericea, and Arnica sp.
Collecting is such rewarding work, but we have definitely encountered a few difficulties along the way. Due to abnormal weather events this spring, plants within the same populations seem to be very developmentally out of sync with one another. This finding has required us to return to collections multiple days in a row to collect the individuals that are further behind in their maturation.
This whole experience has been a learning process, but we are getting very good at perfecting our techniques and equipment use.
On a brighter note, this past weekend was the 4th of July. Lander, Wyoming hosts a fun festival which includes a parade, barbecue, rodeo, and fireworks after dark. The whole town came alive and it was really great to experience the strong sense of community here.
A beautiful Wyoming sunset!
This double rainbow made an appearance during the 4th of July festivities.
Work continues to go well for me here in Lander, Wyoming. In the recent weeks, my partner and I began familiarizing ourselves with the Seeds of Success protocol and have done some preliminary surveying for potential collections.
After the plentiful precipitation we have received this month, many plants are finally beginning to flower. One of the steps of the SOS protocol involves collecting voucher specimens of the species you will be collecting seed from. These vouchers specimens are usually collected before the plant goes to seed because the flowers are useful aids in the identification process.
My partner and I went out to a location called Red Canyon and located 6 potential collections there. These species include Aletes sessiliflorus, Pteryxia terebinthina, Lomatium triternatum, Dodecatheon conjugens, Balsamorhiza incana, and Oxytropis sericea.
Other species that we have collected vouchers for include Allium textile, Vicia americana, Erigeron sp., Lomatium foeniculaceum, Cerastium arvense, Astragalus oreganus, Townsendia incana, and Thermopsis rhombifolia.
We recently returned to all of the sites to check the progression of seed set. Nothing is ready quite yet, but a few species are getting close. We should be able to begin collecting next week.
Welcome to Lander, Wyoming – where the views are great and the people are even greater!
The Wind River Mountains observed from a high point in Johnny Behind the Rocks recreational area.
It’s been 4 weeks since I’ve began my position here and I already feel so fortunate to have been placed at the BLM Lander Field Office. Everyone around the office has worked hard to be inclusive and make me and my SOS partner, Shannen, feel right at home.
The first few weeks consisted of orientation tasks, safety training, and some other office work. We are beginning to get a really good handle on GIS and the other software and equipment we will be using on the job.
April and May have proven to be the two wettest months here in Lander. There have been several days of rain and snow, followed by a couple days of sunshine, then back to rain and snow again. It seems the plants may be a little further behind this year, but we are using the free time to conduct surveys for rare plant species at Johnny Behind the Rocks – a recreational trail system 20 minutes southeast of Lander. There are currently 14 miles of trails in the area and 40 more miles have been proposed for construction within the next few years.
Shannen and I have been out and about looking for 3 special status species within a 20-foot corridor around the proposed trails. These species include Phlox pungens, Physaria saximontana var. saximontana, and Trifolium barnebyi.
Physaria saximontana var. saximontana (Rocky Mountain Twinpod) is a BLM sensitive species found within the Mustard Family.
In addition, we were given the opportunity to go out in the field with a researcher from WYNDD (Wyoming Natural Diversity Database) who is studying the Trifolium barnebyi present in Red Canyon along with the pollinators there.
So far this has been a wonderful experience and I’m very excited for all of the vegetation to bloom so that we can dive more deeply into Seeds of Success. Stay tuned!
Castilleja (Indian Paintbrush) is the state flower of Wyoming.