Flowers and Fire

Wow, has a month already gone by?!

Temperatures have started to warm up over the past couple of weeks, and so field season has officially begun. Since my last post, the early spring wildflowers have begun to display their wonderful colors; some of earliest ones are already starting to die off–for instance, Henderson’s fawn lilies, shown below.

Fawn lily (Erythronium hendersonii)

 

The other week, I went with one of the botanists to tour a meadow where a local organization had conducted controlled burns in a previous year. The organization wanted to show us how the burns had helped to control the invasion of species like Taeniatherum caput-medusae, Poa bulbosa, and Centaurea solstitialis. They had also repopulated the area with native plant seeds, so the entire meadow was pretty much an explosion of white popcorn flowers, pink plectitis, and blue lupines.

The meadow was packed with flowers!

 

Shortspur seablush (Plectitis congesta)

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time conducting surveys for Fritillaria gentneri, an endangered species of lily that is endemic to southwest Oregon. Gentner’s fritillary is pretty fascinating; from what I’ve heard, a lot of people suspect that the species is a hybrid between Fritillaria recurva (scarlet fritillary) and Fritillaria affinis (checker lily). Most of the time, the species reproduces asexually through its bulbs. It tends to prefer meadows and very open oak woodlands. A lot of work is being done by the folks up at OSU to analyze certain genetic factors (for instance–is it a hybrid or an individual species?) as well as to grow seedlings that are being used to repopulate certain areas. Most often, the plant will only display bulb leaves, but since the leaves tend to look exactly like those of other fritillaries it can’t be identified that way. However, on the scarce occasion that the plant produces a flower, Gentner’s fritillary can be distinguished from F. recurva and F. affinis in these ways:

Color: Not a great way to tell them apart, since the colors are arbitrary and usually unreliable. However, in general, F. recurva tends to be a bright scarlet color, F. gentneri tends to be a sort of dark red/maroon, and F. affinis tends to be purple-brown and yellow speckled. Gentner’s fritillary sometimes grows a sort of almost-scarlet color, though, and can often be mistaken for F. recurva if identified solely by color.

Flower shape: F. recurva has (as the name implies) petals that are recurved at the tips, and F. affinis has wider set flowers with non-recurved tips. F. gentneri usually has non-recurved tips, similar to F. affinis, but can sometimes have slightly/partially curved petals that can be mistaken for F. recurva.

Style/nectaries: The best way to distinguish between the three species is based on their styles and nectary glands. F. affinis has a style that is strongly divided (for at least half its length), as well as a nectary gland that is ¾ the length of its petals. F. recurva’s style is the least divided, usually ¼ to ⅓ its length, and its gland is less than ½ the length of the petals. F. gentneri is an intermediate of the two; its style is divided around ⅓ to ½ its length, and its gland is ⅓ to ½ the length of its petals.

Fritillaria gentneri (Gentner’s fritillary)

Fritillaria affinis the most easily distinguished due to its yellow and brown color.

Fritillaria recurva (note the scarlet color and recurved leaves)

All in all– it’s fairly easy to distinguish F. affinis by its color and shape, but recurva and gentneri can get a little dicey, so it’s best to identify based on styles/nectaries.

On another note– over the past week, I’ve been spending some time working on keeping an invading population of shiny geranium (Geranium lucidum) away from an OHV trail. The population has pretty much taken over the understory; at this point, the main priority is to prevent the plant from being carried to other places. As such, my supervisor and I have been using weed torches (yes, he trusted me with fire) to wilt the geranium within 15 feet of the trail in an effort to prevent the plants nearest the trail from seeding so bikes/ATVs/etc. can’t carry the seeds to other locations. Overall, I like wielding a weed torch. It’s kind of fun. Is that bad?

On my way to burn some noxious weeds…

 

Until next time,

Aleah

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