The last two days were a double-feature in the John Day Fossil Beds. First, it was finally time for our first SOS collection of the year! We set off to collect Lithophragma glabrum (bulbous woodland star), a little annual that had shot from flower to seed with the help of two hot weeks. Secondly, we were to pull 3-7 ft tall sweet clover carcasses (Melilotus I think officinalis) from a BLM enclosure surrounding a Prineville district sensitive species (Thelypodium eucosmum; not pictured here as they weren’t yet in flower, but imagine little basal leaves with a tint of red down their midribs in the Brassicaceae family).
I knew coming in that our L. glabrum site was also populated by L. parviflora (smallflower woodland star), but I was pretty confident about telling them apart – the bulbous woodland star, after all, has bulbs stuffed into the nooks of its inflated petioles and just below the flowers (pictured to the left). I also remembered that our site, when we made our pre-collection visit two weeks ago, was by far more populated by L. glabrum. So come collection day, when I looked at little stems that had blown petioles that looked large enough to have once held little bulbets, I thought winner winner chicken dinner. They probably had just fallen off, my addled field-brain rationalized. But then I came across many, many fried plants that were all stalk and bulbs and realized that L. glabrum loses its flowers and fruit capsules before it loses its bulbs… which meant the first 300 capsules I collected were irrevocably contaminated with L. parviflora. L. parviflora‘s life cycle was apparently just a week behind L. glabrum‘s, meaning it was now the more populous and visible of the two.
Oh well, 300 down. Starting again.
Just around then the blue-gray skies cracked open and let down sparse but fat rain drops, a mollifying gesture of amnesty for my trespasses. My SOS partner and I sat in the rain for a while, enjoying the reprieve from the heat while looking to the skies to see if the rain would let up. When it did, we got back to work. (A nice thing about the high desert is that things dry up almost alarmingly fast.)
On the second day of collection, after I had squatted up and down our north-facing hills to tease off the little capsules off these 5 inch stalks, my partner reminded me (with a cocked brow, or so I imagine, though she was across a hill so I can’t be sure) that our mentor had told us that we could pull the entire plant since they were annuals and the Bend Seed Extractory would do the rest. I vaguely, vaguely remembered the part of that AM conversation the day before but it hadn’t stuck. Whoops.
3570 capsules later between the two of us and we called it a collection. It feels great to finally have one of 40 down. My glutes are going to be rock hard after this summer.
– Vi Nguyen, Prineville BLM