Last time I wrote a blog post monitoring was just beginning- the Lomatium bradshawii was just starting to flower and rain gear was as essential as data sheets. Now you’d be more likely to find a single butterfly egg than water in the wetlands. These seasonal wetlands rapidly dry out in late spring-early summer and have been bone dry for weeks. Most of the plant species here are going into a sort of summer hibernation until the fall rains come in September/October. There are just two more sensitive species to monitor- Pyrrocoma racemosa and Sericocarpus rigidis, both members of Asteraceae. While many species in Asteraceae are what people think of fondly when they think of flowers, this family is probably one of my least favorite plant families. (Obviously I love all plant families so this is just preference not dislike).
All my sites with Pyrrocoma racemosa also seem to have two other native asters that from afar look very similar. If you’ve ever tried to ID more than one plant you probably know how there can be much variation within a species even at the same location, which doesn’t help with separating species. Although now I feel that I have a pretty good eye for picking out Pyrrocoma racemosa from afar the first few hours of monitoring I had to touch almost every single plant. The texture of the leaves seemed to be the most consistent field characteristic- Microseris laciniata has smooth, thin leaves, Grindelia intergrifolia has thicker leaves that are very sticky to the touch, and Pyrrocoma racemosa has thick leaves that aren’t quite as smooth as the Microseris laciniata but much smoother than the Grindelia intergrifolia. Maybe they look obviously different to you in the following photos but they sure don’t when they’re mixed together in large fields.
With two months left in my internship I’ll being doing a mix of projects to fill my time- learning how to use GeoBOB, reflagging plots for next year, helping the other CLM intern attempt to control some of the invasive species that have flourished this season, a couple more butterfly surveys and hoping the fall weather comes soon.
On a more exciting botanical note the other plant family that seem to all be blooming as of late are the orchids!