It’s my second month working in Vale and I finally feel like I am getting to know the plants around here! In the last few weeks, my co and I have been busy visiting SOS sites and sensitive plant sites, checking on potential collections and monitoring a few sensitive species. Last week we started collecting Nothocalais troximoides seed, our first collection of the season! Unfortunately, it has been pretty windy and wet (very unusual here this time of year), making seed collection a little difficult. In the upcoming weeks, we are hoping to start collections of some Allium spp., Phlox longifolia, and orange globemallow. It’s exciting to finally be collecting seeds, and it’s fun to see how much each site changes with every visit.
The site where we’re collecting N. troximoides is one of my favorites because it is flat, and the volcanic rock doesn’t allow for much grass growth (walking through fields of cheat grass can be a pain). The site is also covered in one of my favorite flowers, Lewisia rediviva! We first visited this site at the end of April, when the flowers were in full bloom. I’ve wanted to see Lewisia in real life for a long time. It has been on my plant bucket list for a few years now (I’m not realizing just how nerdy it is that I have a “plant bucket list”). I spent probably 20 minutes trying to get the perfect picture on our field camera.
A couple of weeks ago, we started monitoring several sensitive species including Hackelia cronquistii, Mentzelia mollis, and Stanleya confertiflora. Some of our surveys have been more successful than others. We have visited a few sites where the population has declined in recent years, or become potentially extirpated. Around here, population decline is usually due to fire, competition from invasive grasses, or grazing, and often a combination of these factors. We have also found a couple populations that have flourished since their last survey. One population of Mentzelia mollis in particular has grown drastically, increasing almost 30-fold in the last two decades! Seeing sensitive populations thrive is one of the many rewards of land management.
With the field season picking up, I am really looking forward to more collections and monitoring!