My time here in Safford, Arizona is coming to a close. I have been here for 20 months!! And it has been amazing. I have made some really good friends, and my mentors have been great. The CLM program has been a wonderful experience.
It is the start of June and here in the southeastern part of Arizona it is beginning to get hot again. Fires are starting up again on BLM and Forest Service lands. Spring didn’t last long here. But being here for over a year now it has been amazing watching the seasons change in the desert and watching the different plant species come up as well. It is interesting that there are still species blooming. This time last year there was nothing blooming – not even the creosote was blooming. But, it will be a good summer here. We have some large projects that we will be working on, and then heading into another seed collection season. :).
This spring has been amazing botany wise and weather wise. My days have been busy looking for plants in many different habitats here in southeastern Arizona. The locals say that this spring was a not a good year for wildflowers but to someone who has never seen the desert in the spring I can’t believe it could be better.
I have been working on a large seed/plant document for the last few weeks, it has been a fun challenge. I have about 213 species on the list to be complete. The information included is description, distribution, habitat, soils, problems and benefits, along with seed per pound. I hope to get out in the field soon with some of this rain we have gotton in the past few months I look forward to seeing some spring plants.
The unknown rain patterns of the spring monsoons, had all of guessing if we would have a spring wildflower season. We got it! So, far I have identified 35 spring wildflowers. And with cloudy days over head for the past 30 hours it is hard telling what else will come up in the next rain storms if we get any. The desert has surprised me once again with its secrets. I thought that the summer was amazing…. the spring is even better. The weather is cool so it is nice to go on hikes and plant hunts. I hope it lasts for a while and doesn’t freeze so the flowers will continue to bloom.
Now that most of the seed collecting is coming to an end and most of the plants around here have gone to “bed” for the winter, I have been inside for most of the time. There are still a couple of seed collections that we would like to complete, but now it is a race to see who will get to them first – us or mother nature. We will see who comes out ahead. We even got snow here in Safford, AZ. I was surprised by that, granted it didn’t last very long. But moisture is moisture, and we could use it. And maybe we will get enough winter rains to get some spring flowers and other annual plants up this coming spring. We can only hope. But for now things are calming down, but there is still work to be done.
We are now into November and while most folks are leaving their summer posts I’m lucky enough to still be around here in the Southwest. My partner has left for other adventures, so, with the help of my mentor I have made 25 seed collections on my own. Both of us are happy about that. But there are still more collections to be made for the fiscal year 2012. We are beginning to explore different areas, and we have gotten lucky a few times and were able to make a couple of collections. Sometimes we come back empty handed, but we have made maps to make it easier for next years collections. Arizona is the prettiest state that I have been in. The habitats, wildlife and, of course, plants are extraordinary to say the least.
We finally got to do SOS collections – we are at 3 for now. Things are finally getting to greenup and the grasses and wildflowers alike go to seed rather quickly out here in the South West. As a botanist I could not be more pleased to be here. The plants species range is amazing, I have grown so much as a professional botanist. Working with plant taxonomy and the different keys 0ut here as been really good for me.
My area of interest is the wildflowers but the internship focuses on grasses. So, it was really good for me to go outside of my comfort zone and work with some really amazing and beautiful grasses. After some long hours I finally understand them a little bit better. But for now it is a waiting game to see what else will be going to seed in the Poaceae family.
My summer here in Arizona has been amazing, and will continue although the rains have finally come. While we have not been able to collect any seeds yet, it seems promising in the next couple of weeks.
No words or pictures can do justice to the places that I have seen. The plants out here are amazing now that they are starting to bloom. My plant list has almost doubled in the past couple of weeks, and the habitat range around the state is truly remarkable. I’m so lucky and fortunate to have gotten this internship, and the opportunity to learn so much more. The desert storms are fun to watch, just watch out for lightning. 🙂
The rains are here in the desert which is a welcome sight for someone who is from the Midwest. You can tell when it is going to rain because the creosote bushes begin to smell good. Hopefully with the rain the grasses that are on our target list will begin to grow, and we might actually get to collect seeds. But for now we have been scouting out different areas such as Araviapa Canyon, Turkey Creek, Bonitia Creek, and Sandraw to name a few. Being here is a great opportunity to learn new plant species, and make some new friends. The transition from riparian areas to desert is abrupt to say the least, especially in the canyons. But if you go higher up in elevation it should come as no surprise that the plant communities change. Looking out across the landscape one can see the different patches of plant communities.
All we can do for now is just wait for more rain, because with rain comes seeds. But there are some amazing plant communities and species out here. To name a few: Schott’s yucca, Parry’s Agave, Devils claw and many others. I can’t imagine what it was like for the first people to do plant inventories out here, but I hope that they were just as awe inspired as I am now.