Mystery of the Missing Lomatium

Her stem was long as she was beautiful. Her basal leaves dripped with tears as if they were morning dew. There were only two things that would bring a flower like this to a weed like me: seed collection time… and a mystery.

Detective Bower, my partner of two months, tore her gaze from the dame to look up at me. Her expression was steely beneath her wide-brimmed hat. In the stead of the high desert sun – conspicuously missing that day – today’s horrors had hardened the seed husks of her eyes. And who could blame her?

“Another goner,” Bower said, her tone carefully monitored, flat.

Before her, the crime scene: an innocent Lomatium donnellii chopped down before it could even reach its fruiting potential. Its (flowering) head decapitated before it could even properly seed. I shook my head morosely. It could have been so much more. It could have seeded and rose again. It could have seeded and been collected by us, in the name of conservation and restoration. But now…

“No use crying over spoilt seeds,” I said, as much to myself as to my partner in (plant) crime.

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One crime scene, of many.

I kneeled down. Whatever had deheaded about a fifth of our clients at this playa hadn’t been neat about it. Nay, they hadn’t even tried to conceal the nature of their heinous deeds; the hundreds of heads lied, shriveled and uneaten, on the ground, like a calling card. What sociopathic creature could have done this?

We radio’d in to HQ with our report. “Should we round up the usual suspects?” they asked us.

I shook my head, then realized I was on the radio. “Nguyen to HQ. No. Too few cow patties out here. Suspects unknown… and at large.”

Whatever rodent or insect it was, well… we didn’t have the womanpower for a stakeout. All we could hope for was that the next time we returned, more of the seeds would have fully ripened and dried. And then we’d save (20% of) them from those raving, ruinous throngs of… something.

“Well, at least –“ I began. Bower caught the look in the eye. We’d been partners for two months, but after all we’d seen in sage grouse land, heck, it felt more like two years. She, like my ex-wife, knew what was coming before it even budded.

“Don’t –“ she warned.

“At least this’ll make for a good blog post.”

——

Detective Vi Nguyen

Prineville BLM

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