On days when we collect for Seeds of Success, the day could go a variety of ways depending on the plant we are working with, how hot it is outside, the conditions of our field site. Some days are totally perfect. Helianthus nuttallii is a beautiful sunflower. Each head produces 60 seeds, which means to get to our goal of 20,000 seeds, we only need about 330 seed heads. The population we found sits in mountain foothills where the temperature usually sits around 70 degrees and it’s only about a 90 minute drive from our field office. The actual collection took 45 minutes, our field site was gorgeous, I wasn’t drenched in sweat the whole time, and afterwards we had time leftover in the day, so we got to scout for other possible collections afterwards and “had to” drive through Medicine Bow National Forest to get back. I love Helianthus nuttallii. That was a great day. An easy day of field work.
Some collections do not go as great. Purshia tridentata is a shrub in the Rose family. Each flower produces an achene with a single seed. You read that correctly, one seed. That means, in order to reach the goal of 20,000 seeds per population, one has to pick 20,000 individual achenes while also making sure you pick from enough individual bushes to get an acceptable amount of genetic variation within the population. The population we worked with was in the desert. We collected on two hot days (90 degrees), morale was pretty low during the collection, and there were known rattlesnake sighting in that area before (eek!). It took around 10 hours to complete the collection. My back was sore from squatting down to pick the fruits– the bush was just low enough to the ground to be out of reach from a standing position. I am not a big fan of this plant. My opinion of Antelope Bitterbrush will probably always be colored by this experience of collecting its seeds. Apparently antelope love to eat this plant and it’s super great for the local habitat, but it also is probably my least favorite plant in the state of Wyoming.
I am not usually the kind of person who hates any plant. In fact, I am very partial to organisms of the botanical persuasion. I have had some bad experiences with the Rose family (Rosa multiflora has destroyed one of my jackets and has poked holes in several of my pants… and it’s invasive), but I generally do not hold grudges. However, it is going to take a while for me to forgive Purshia tridentata.