The last day of field work for my CLM internship in Grants Pass, OR brought me back to working with the rare, endangered lily Fritillaria gentneri, which could be considered the centerpiece of my entire internship (trust that you don’t want to hear the rest of my metaphor comparing this internship to Thanksgiving dinner). Only this time, instead of just searching for the lilies and entering data about populations of them, we were digging up their bulbs! All you botanists may be up in arms at that last part, but sit back down in your chairs because we were digging for a good purpose. The clonal reproduction of F. gentneri results in a number of smaller bulblets that can be found attached to its main, “mother” bulb. Every year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) identifies F. gentneri plants in the spring that it then collects bulblets from later in the summer. These bulblets are brought back to the ODA’s greenhouses to be cultivated. After about three years in the greenhouse, the plants are ready to be brought back to the wild. They are usually planted in about the same general area that the bulblets were sourced from. These outplantings help augment populations of this rare plant and are imperative to bringing it closer to recovery.
Digging up one of the rarest plant I’ve worked with was nerve-wracking at first, but Kelly and Cameron from the ODA helped me get over it. The bulblets were very small, most were the size of rice grains, and they popped right off the main bulb. I wish I had taken pictures because they were quite adorable, but we were digging among poison oak roots and I didn’t want to get my camera covered in the oils.
This experience brought me closer to coming full circle with Fritillaria gentneri. This whole internship has opened my eyes to the world of endangered plants that I had previously known so little about, the overall message being that a LOT of work goes into trying to help these species recover. Surveying for new populations, revisiting old sites for monitoring, growing new plants for augmentation, adaptive habitat management to protect populations from threat, research, regulations, reports and more paperwork, an incredible amount of time and money, all for a single species!
I’ve learned so much about rare plant conservation, but also a lot about how the BLM operates. I’ve worked with botanists who have provided insight into what it would be like to have their jobs. This experience has shown me what working for the BLM would be like, and after this summer, I could easily see myself enjoying a permanent botany position with the BLM or another government agency.
I’ve really had such an amazing time working as a CLM intern, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better internship experience. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities afforded to me through this internship and for the lasting connections I’ve been able to make. Thanks especially to my awesome mentor Stacy, my super supervisor Biker Bryan, and my favorite fellow intern Lillie.
Kiki, Grants Pass BLM