So my time here in Zion ends,

My time here in Zion ends with an adventure which feels like has only just begun.   I have to admit the desert hasn’t always been my favorite place.  I believed in the past that these places are far to dry for my liking with vegetation that seems monotonous to the eye.  With my time here in Zion National Park I have gained a greater understanding of this landscape. I was brought here to further develop their “working herbarium” and I must say I feel lucky in having done just that.  I have discovered and surveyed moisture loving vegetation in hanging garden after hanging garden, rivers, and monsoonal driven habitats.   I have been lucky enough to collect plants in places that are only rarely seen by researchers and park service employees alike.  Far from any trail lays secret springs and seeps which feed the Virgin River, here you can find native ferns, their allies, shrubs, forbs, and grasses that inhibit these microhabitats. You see, after being here for a couple of weeks I realized that what specimens the herbarium currently had were mostly plants which occupy dry habitats.  I made the discussion then to make it a priority for my time here to provide the herbarium with a collection representing moisture loving plants. So I began.  It all started with study conducted back in the 1970 when there was an inventory done of Zion’s hanging gardens to discover the biogeography of them for a doctoral dissertation.  I discovered this only after discussing my love for hanging gardens with colleagues.  They pointed me toward this dissertation which had been filed away many years ago only to collect dust.  In this dissertation I found species lists, maps, and coordinates for the hangings gardens surveyed.  So I looked back into the “working herbarium” to see what plants needed collecting.  I worked to update the coordinates into the correct datum and created a comprehensive map to lead me and a volunteer on our journey.  Success!  With this project and many more I initiated I have added over 60 species to the herbarium.  I have worked with the GIS team to document every collection site for species collected thus far in the park, with hopes that documentation will continue to create tool that follow distribution of the parks native, rare, and invasive plant populations. I feel good about leaving this position knowing that I have worked hard to re-organize the herbarium, add specimens, and develop a database which documents its collections.   Zion in return has given me a greater appreciation of a landscape I once thought of as being drab and too hot to enjoy. Further more, it has allowed me too further my botanical knowledge.  

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

This brings me to the people I have met along the way.  The people here in Zion have been another highlight of my adventures over the past four months.  Only being here a short amount of time, I feel comfortable in my surroundings.  I am greeted everyday with smiles and people who know you by name.  During my time as an intern here I was lucky enough to present and meet with the local chapter of Utah’s Native Plant Society (all older women).  These ladies really know there stuff and are eager to learn more.   We have learned a lot from each other.  As an intern in Zion you also get to work and share knowledge with various other departments beyond the “Veg Crew.”  I have helped and shared with Interp, Wildlife, GIS, Archeologist, etc.  Much depends on plants and the people here in Zion understand this.  I help them and in return learn more about them and their work.   It’s a great relationship and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to work in Zion National Park where…

The work is fun

The people are nice and …

The place is truly amazing!

Donna Peppin, Botanist Intern – Zion National Park

Big views and rare plants in Zion


Big views of Zion Canyon from Observation Point Lookout

It’s been a gradifying couple of months interning in Zion. When I arrived the weather was pleasant but soon turned hot.  I’m talking over a month of above 110 degrees in the Canyon.  No biggy here in Zion, I escaped the heat by taking several dips a day in the Virgin River.  My field time collecting new specimens to be placed in the herbarium moved from the canyon bottom to the higher elevation mixed conifer forests atop the canyon walls.  Here I found an abundance of moisture loving species.  My days have been filled with searching for some of the parks most rare and endemic species for collection.  Alas, I found them…Astragalas concordus, Heterotheca jonesii, and Erigeron religosus. Even on my hiking adventures outside of work I stumbled upon them, one in particular, Cymopterus minimus (Cedar Breaks biscuitroot), an endemic only to Garfield, Iron, and Kane counties in Utah. 

Cymopterus minimus a rare and endemic species found in Ashdown Gorge Wilderness on the "Twisted Forest Trail"

I found it while hiking in a remnant Bristlecone pine forest in Ashdown George Wilderness.  This species has only been found to occur on Claron limestone soils from 8,000 to 10,400 ft elevation in July-August.  Needless to say, during my time here in Zion I have looked at more rare species then I have in my whole career thus far.