Final Blog

When I first began my internship in eastern Montana I thought that five months was a very long time, but nearing the end now it seems to have flown by. Having submersed myself in plant identification and seed collection of species in the area I have come to appreciate the diversity offered even in a place that is not so kind to plant growth. I’ve been told that because of the heavier than normal rainfall the landscape stayed green much longer and plants flowered in places with abundance not usually seen. For this I am grateful to have observed, because when the heat and dryness of August arrived it truly became a struggle for plants everywhere here. Add to the weather the grasshoppers and the fact that the cattle graze EVERYWHERE; I was sometimes amazed that there were any seeds to collect.
Living in a smaller town is a different experience, and though I have lived in small towns before, they never are alike. People definitely have to make their own fun here while trying to participate in whatever is being offered in the locale. A part of that fun is exploring the immediate/distant area with road trips. I totally enjoyed traveling to and exploring Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Custer State Park, Rushmore National Monument, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and parts of Idaho on my time off.
I am grateful to have this time because being out of my comfort zone I was able to see life from a different perspective. I not only learned a lot about botany, but also about others and myself. I now feel fairly confident in my botanical skills and look forward in using it in future endeavors. Life truly is an adventure, and you never quite know what is around the next turn. The trick is to enjoy the ride.

I have been collecting seeds from plants for a while now, and everything seems to be winding down for the last flush of seeds that will be collected late October/early November. Driving through a meadow after picking from a population of sideoats gramma (Bouteloua curtipendula) I am suddenly made aware of how everything has changed since I first drove this road in June. Everything was so new and green and full of promise back then. Now colors have changed, plants have died back and I am filled with a sense of calm anticipation. I can almost feel the silent activity as everything around me prepares for the coming winter. How beautiful this all is!


Finally the seed is ripening and the collections are adding up. After spending a few hours collecting Orthocarpus luteus that is used for sage grouse forage, we brought it back to the office to let the plants dry out a bit. To our horror little worms starting crawling out of the bucket onto the floor. Knowing that the other people in the office would not be overly pleased with our “runaways” we tried to figure a way to capture them as they emerged from the bucket. At first we tried to attach sticky tape around the rim in hopes of stopping them as they tried to escape. Unfortunately they were not phased and just moved across it as if it wasn’t there. Then we had the idea of making a moat with water around the bucket to catch them and hopefully stop them. After searching for an appropriate “moat” we came across a huge platter that we put the bucket in the middle of and filled it with water. Perfect! When we came into the office the next day we could see the dozens of worms that had tried to make a run for it, but failed. Has anyone else had this problem? What did you do? Anyway, we are thinking of dropping a few moth balls in the bucket and close it up for about 15 minutes in hopes of eliminating any stragglers. At least the people in Bend won’t be unpleasantly surprised when they open this accession.

The rainy spring and early summer made it feel like we were never going to get out in the field. It was not wasted time, though, because we were able to do a lot of research on what plants would be good to target for collection. Now a good number of these plants are producing seed and the excitement is growing as we keep monitoring for the perfect time to harvest. To date we have been able to do collections on three different species and anticipate many more in the near future. I still haven’t got used to the fact that something so enjoyable is my job. It truly makes me appreciate this time in my life, and I look forward to the surprises each new day brings.


Coming from the tall grass prairies of Nebraska, I was surprised to see how totally different the short grass/shrubland of eastern Montana was in comparison. Life in Miles City, MT is definitely different from Omaha, NE. This is great experience, though, and I feel like I’m starting over in learning to identify what grows in the area. After weeks of researching potential target species and then driving extensively to find big enough populations, we finally found a patch that met the requirements and picked our first batch of seeds (pasqueflowers). What a thrill! I am keeping quite busy exploring the area and checking out what it has to offer, so I will keep this short. I am grateful to have this internship because it has given me all sorts of opportunities and experiences I would not have had otherwise.