Seed seekers

Seeds of Success is only sometimes successful.

This is what it feels like lately! With summer edging towards us here in Ridgecrest the seeds are going FAST! The seeds are often gone faster than we expect them to. For example, upon seeing a flowering population and imagining that in a couple of weeks it will be ready and then one goes back to find that its almost all gone! This happened to us yesterday. I wondered if any other interns had troubles like this. I felt as if it was still a valiant effort but with a taste of failure. However, it seems there’s always more to collect. Perhaps not at the same location, but with 1.8 million acres surely there is somewhere else to go, right?

Last week I went to the Owens peak wilderness and after doing some monitoring in short canyon decided to go higher. Upon going higher I found a suitable population of Chylismia claviformis for collection that really excited me considering how it had eluded me the first time I had seen it. Senescing too quickly for me to realize what it was and that I should be focusing on it as a target. I almost wish the internship would have begun sooner to allow for more research time before the initial field season had truly began. But so it goes.

Last week we went to conglomerate mesa with our office’s wilderness coordinator. Conglomerate mesa is part of The Inyo Mountains across from The Sierra Nevada creating Owens valley. This is such a beautiful place.


We were in conglomerate mesa doing some monitoring for vegetation in a reclaimed mining area. Wilderness Areas is an interesting aspect of the BLM and its management plan. The Wilderness designation provides a lot of protection to the land, yet a Land with wilderness characteristics (LWC) has much less protection. As I witnessed with conglomerate mesa. Conglomerate mesa is adjacent to Malpais mesa, a wilderness area.  However, since it’s not technically a wilderness area, it is open for public use. Including mining. This is a surprising aspect of land management to me. As an ecologist/botanist I typically find mining unnecessarily destructive, yet the computer and my cell phone and countless other devices would be impossible without mining so perhaps my labeling of mining as something “bad” is hypocritical of me. This is a moral dilemma I have yet to solve.

We spent the next few days in Owens valley making our way up to Independence to work with an actual BLM botanist! Mr. Martin Oliver. We began a Blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) collection but as it’s a small producer and we were a little early it didn’t seem to be working out so we switched targets to a needle grass (Stipa speciosa). A much easier plant to collect. I was glad to see that I’m not the only one who inaccurately predicts seed the seed ripeness window. It’s truly a difficult factor to determine.

As the summer goes on I’m learning more and more about populations, their productivity rates and the conditions in which create a good habitat for an individual species. It’s important to note these differences when assessing whether the population will be of large enough size for a suitable collection.

Exciting stuff!

  • Robbie Wood

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