Northward Bound

Hello from Utah- one final time! Last week was the end of my time here in Vernal. In a couple of days I will be packing up and heading to northern Minnesota, where I will be collecting MORE seeds with the University of Minnesota-Duluth for two months. I’m very excited!

It has been a blast getting to know all the botanists at the Vernal Field Office. I will treasure all my memories of this summer, including hacking away at teasel, wandering up mountains surveying for rare plants, floating down river rapids on an inflatable kayak, and navigating the truck through some questionably well-maintained roads. The town of Vernal itself was not my favorite place, but the nearby recreational activities were seemingly endless. I have visited 10 national parks and five state parks this summer, along with countless hikes and scenic drives. I would definitely recommend having a car if you are planning on working in Vernal, because the town itself is not that spectacular, but the surrounding public lands should not be missed.

This internship has helped me to cement my knowledge that I am obsessed with plants, and that I would be perfectly happy wandering around outside all day looking at plants… probably for the rest of my life! I thought I might get bored collecting seeds after six months, but I really haven’t. Each plant population is unique and interesting in its own way, and it makes me realize how much more I’d like to know about plant community ecology. I am planning on attending grad school in the near future, and the workshop at the Chicago Botanic Gardens earlier this summer was incredibly helpful in teaching me the next steps of applying to grad school.

So, that was my summer in a nutshell! I will never forget my time here in Vernal, and I hope to cross paths with some of the amazing people I have met here again in the future.

Go plants!

Probably one of my favorite pictures of the summer... one of our teasel-spraying expeditions!

Probably one of my favorite pictures of the summer… one of our teasel-spraying expeditions!

Jinny Alexander
BLM- Vernal, Utah Field Office

Cleome serrulata

Time is flying by here in Vernal- it seems just yesterday that all the Astragalus species were in flower! These past few weeks have seen the Eriogonum, Chrysothamnus, and Artemisia genera begin bursting into bloom. It has been amazing witnessing all the different bits of color along the highway this summer, transitioning from the white Oenothera, to the orange Sphaeralcea, to the brown and yellow Helianthus, and finally to the yellow Chrysothamnus genera.


Cleome serrulata near Rangely, Colorado


Such a pretty plant!

This past week we finished collection of Cleome serrulata, or purple beeplant. When first scouting this plant, we saw that some pods on the plant were red, and others were green. Both the red and green pods contained immature green seeds. We found virtually no mature seeds that were still attached to the plant, suggesting that perhaps as soon as the seeds are ripe, the pods split open and the seeds drop to the ground. This was worrisome, because it would mean that we would have a very short window of time in which to collect mature seed before they split open and fell to the ground.


Cleome serrulata with reddish-green seed pods

We wondered if it would be feasible to collect the unripened pods, and see if the seeds would continue to mature off of the plant. We decided to take back the a small sample of Cleome seeds and see if they would continue to develop further and eventually darken and harden in the bag. We filled three paper bags with seeds, the first containing closed green seed pods, the second containing closed red seed pods, and the third containing immature green seeds without a seed pod. After several days, we opened the seed pods and examined the seeds in each of the bags.


Cleome serrulata with red seed pods

Surprisingly, the bag containing closed green seed pods was the only bag with seeds that ripened. It seemed as though the seed pods started out red, then as they began to ripen they turned green. In addition, since the seeds collected in the bag that were not enclosed in a pod did not ripen, we assumed that the presence of the pod was necessary for seed development.

Therefore, we concluded that we should only collect Cleome serrulata seeds that were enclosed in a completely green seed pod, and that these seeds should sit for several days in open paper bags (to prevent molding) while they developed.

By collecting green seed pods, we were able to successfully collect Cleome serrulata. The population we found was fairly large, so we did not have any problem meeting our goal of 20,000 seeds. In addition, we also noticed several albino Cleome serrulata plants, which was pretty cool to see.


White Cleome serrulata plants with green seed pods


All in all, this species was a lot of fun to collect and I am looking forward to wrapping up our last few collections of the year. Until next time!

Jinny (Genevieve) Alexander
Vernal, UT BLM

Late summer seed collection

Hello again from Vernal!

The summer is already winding down, and we are well on our way to collecting 30 species, our end goal. Currently, we have five more plant species to go! I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to talking a bit about one of my favorite seed collections we have done so far, and our seed collecting process.

Lepidium alyssoides var. eastwoodiae (mesa pepperwort)

Before going out and collecting seed, it is important to key the plant, in order to make sure you are collecting the correct species. For example, last week we had the opportunity to collect Lepidium alyssoides, a native mustard that looks very similar to Lepidium latifolium, which is invasive in this area. However, by keying the plant using a plant identification book, we were able to discern several key differences between the two Brassicaceaes. Lepidium alyssoides is described as having some leaves which are deeply lobed to pinnatifid, whereas Lepidium latifolium has leaves which are either entire or serrate. In addition, L. alyssoides plants are mostly 60-120 cm tall, whereas L. latifolium plants are greater than 35 cm tall.


This was clearly a GREAT year for Lepidium alyssoides

At the beginning of my internship I was skeptical about being able to collect 20,000 seeds of each plant population, but for the majority of the mustards this collection goal has been easy to obtain. Lepidium alyssoides was our fastest collection to date, and we were able to complete the entire collection in about an hour.



After a long day of collecting seeds, Ashley demonstrates her superior technique for staying hydrated!

The cherry on top of the seed collection trip was discovering my FIRST antler shed! All in all, it was a great day. I am looking forward to collecting our remaining seeds and seeing the late-summer plants begin to bloom!


Selfie with a super cool antler shed!

Jinny Alexander

Vernal, Utah BLM

River trips and Cirsium snips!


This summer has been flying by- it’s hard to believe that my internship is already more than half over!

The majority of my internship has been spent collecting native seeds for the Seeds of Success program. At the beginning of the summer I was worried that this would become monotonous, but it still hasn’t! To date, we have completed 21 collections. Our most recent was Cirsium barnebyi, one of the seemingly few thistles which are actually native to the Uintah Basin region. Like many other thistles, this one is pretty prickly, so it required a certain amount of dexterity whilst removing the seeds from the flower heads. In addition to the prickles, we had to fight off some bumblebees trying to pollinate the late-blooming Cirsium flowers, as well as hundreds of worker ants carrying off the seeds, plus some other unknown bug that way laying eggs in the newly opened seed heads! Although Cirsium barnebyi was a pain to collect, it is nice to know that we are collecting a species that seems to serve such an important ecological function for insects.

IMG_0483 Cirsium barnebyi, a Uintah Basin endemic species

Later this week we took a break from seed collection and embarked on our first river trip! Our mission was to cut and spray teasel, along with some other invasives including Canada thistle, bull thistle, and white top. The weather was perfect, there were no bugs, and we spent a relaxing two days floating down the river.

IMGP1483Perks of the job.

In addition to killing weeds, we also had our eye out for a threatened orchid, Spiranthes diluvialis (Ute ladies tresses). This plant is very tricky to survey for, since it pretty much blends in with every other riparian grass species, unless you happen to catch it in bloom. Therefore, the window to conduct Spiranthes surveys lasts only about a month. However, this trip we were in luck, and we found over 70 plants on one riverbank!

IMGP0117 The elusive Spiranthes diluvialis in bloom!

All in all, it was a great week! I can’t wait to see what the next month and a half here in Utah will bring. 🙂

Jinny Alexander
BLM Vernal, Utah

Life in Vernal

Greetings, blog-readers!

This is my first blog post, as well as my first experience as a CLM intern. I am originally from Seattle, Washington, but I will be working primarily as one of two Seeds of Success collectors for the Vernal, Utah BLM field office. Going from a temperate rainforest to a dry desert basin has been quite the climactic adjustment, and I find myself drinking around three times as much water here. In addition, I am seeing a plant community in the Utah Basin that is completely different than what I have experienced before (such as sagebrush, tiny cacti, and pinyon-juniper woodlands), which is great!

Here are some pictures of us in the field during our first few weeks:


So far, the majority of our time in the field has been spent scouting for candidate plant populations that will be used for seed collection. In this picture we were collecting a voucher for Vulpia octoflora, a native grass.


Last Friday we helped set up some transects, which will be used to monitor Penstemon flowersii populations in the future. Despite the ominous clouds, the weather was actually very pleasant!


This little guy is a horned lizard, I believe!

My mentor likes to say that we have the best job in the office, and so far I think she is probably right! I am very happy with the amount of time we get to spend out in the field, the diversity of tasks we work on each day, and especially all the plant knowledge that we are gaining! (Ohh boy, am I going to learn about Astragaluses this summer…!)

I will end this post with some things that I am excited about for this season:

-Learning new plants
-Getting the opportunity to wear my snazzy new sunglasses
-Exploring national parks in Utah over the summer
-Experiencing what it’s like to work with a government agency

That’s all for now, folks! Tomorrow I will be heading down south to spend the weekend exploring some of Utah’s awesome national parks.

Jinny Alexander
BLM Vernal, UT