CLM three years later

Hello! I’m Laura, a returning CLM intern working for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management (BLM-NM)’s state office (NMSO) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was a CLM intern in 2016 collecting seed for Seeds of Success (SOS) for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank in Staten Island, New York. I collected seed across Long Island, New York, for conservation seed banking and restoration projects for coastal ecosystems degraded by Hurricane Sandy.

An East Coast prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) in Long Island!

Three years later, I’m assisting the state botanist at NMSO develop outreach materials for BLM-NM’s Plant Conservation Program, using ArcGIS to find suitable habitat for sensitive species in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and preparing for the 2019 seed collection field season.

In March, I presented a poster on the BLM-NM’s Plant Conservation Program at a restoration conference in Fort Collins, Colorado. The HAR SER-RM 2019 Conference was jointly hosted by the High Altitude Revegetation Committee (HAR) and the Society for Ecological Restoration-Rocky Mountain Chapter (SER-RM) to explore the possibilities of ecological restoration and revegetation in diverse ecosystems.

Presenting a poster on the New Mexico BLM’s Botany Program at the HAR-SER-RM Conference

It was inspiring to see non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, state and federal agencies, and private companies and landowners collaborating from different perspectives to protect and restore natural resources that affect all of us. Presenting the poster and networking with other conferees reinforced how science, restoration, and natural resource management are interconnected and synergistic.

The BLM-NM is tasked with the huge task of managing over 13 million acre of land in New Mexico—the state with the fourth highest floristic diversity in the country. There are many threats to plant communities in New Mexico, and conversely, many opportunities for restoration. BLM-NM oversees ecological monitoring, rare plant monitoring, and native plant materials development.

BLM offices throughout the country use the Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) Program to monitor botanical, soil, and ecological resources on public lands. BLM-NM AIM crews have collected data from three field and district offices throughout the state. I actually was an AIM technician in Kemmerer, Wyoming with the Great Basin Institute in summer 2018!

Sagebrush Steppe in Wyoming

BLM-NM also monitors rare plants. Started in 2017, the Rare Plant Monitoring Program has established over 75 demographic trend monitoring plots for seven rare species. These species were selected because their restricted ranges overlap with high impact zones, mainly related to energy development and recreation.

The program I’m most involved with is native plant materials development. BLM-NM is part of the Southwest Seed Partnership (SWSP), a collaborative effort to improve the supply and diversity of native plant materials in the Southwest. To supply ecologically appropriate plant materials, the SWSP develops target species lists, collects seed, and works with farmers to increase wild-collected seed in seed production fields. The SWSP was started by the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), BLM-NM, and Forest Service Region 3 in 2015.

I was an intern with IAE in the fall of 2018 collecting native plant seed for the National Park Service (NPS) throughout Northern and Central New Mexico. Working with IAE and the SWSP connected me to BLM-NM, and my current position. Seed collection is one of my favorite types of fieldwork. It’s a tangible way to contribute to conservation and restoration—collecting living seeds that have the potential to become plants that stabilize soils, prevent erosion, enrich soils with nutrients, and provide food and habitat for wildlife and pollinators.

Red whisker clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra) at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico

In 2016, I hoped that I would be collecting seeds again, but I couldn’t have guessed that my career would take me to the diverse landscapes of New Mexico and conferences in the Rocky Mountains. Thank you CLM for providing me with these opportunities for growth and change—I wouldn’t be here without you.


Laura Shriver

BLM—New Mexico State Office

Five months of field work in photos

June: Training at the North Carolina Botanic Garden (NCBG), group field day at Connetquot River State Park, training/camping trip in Delaware and New Jersey, and our first few scouting trips in Long Island.

My coworkers and I posing as carnivorous plants during our training at the North Carolina Botanic Garden (NCBG).

A delicious breakfast at the NCBG training.

My coworkers, Gio and Barbara, in the Connetquot River on our first field day. Most of us newbies swamped our boots.

Eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) on a beach in Delaware. Definitely a top contender for prettiest native plant of the field season.

Some cool bones on a beach dune in Delaware.

Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) in the Delaware woods. This plant is parasitic so it has no need for chlorophyll (the chemical used in photosynthesis that makes photosynthetic plants green).

A rare orchid, the snakemouth orchid (Pogonia ophioglossoides), in a bog in New Jersey.

More orchids in the magical NJ bog – this was one of those sights that makes up for the heat, bugs, and exhaustion. 

In addition to orchids, there were carnivorous pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp)!

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in some New Jersey woods. Kalmia was one of the first plants we learned to identify, and one of the lasts plants we collected (it was ripe in mid-November).

A grove of white cedar trees (Chamaedaphne thyoides) in New Jersey.

Blooming common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in a New Jersey field – we collected milkweed’s fluffy pods later in October.

We stayed in a hotel the last night of our 7-day camping trip – I was very happy to be in a real bed again.

Virginia glasswort (Salicornia depressa) at Cow Meadow Park – the first site my field partner and I scouted on our own. We found out later that glasswort is edible (it’s called sea bean in the culinary world), but very salty.

July: More scouting, more rare plants, and our first independent collections in Long Island.

A salt marsh path in Seatuck National Wildlife Refuge from which we collected black grass (Juncus gerardii).

A rare eastern spotted box turtle (Terrapene carolina).

An ant stuck in a rare carnivorous thread-leaved sundew plant (Drosera filiformis)!

Rare carnivorous horned bladderworts (Utricularia cornuta).

Meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica) at Sears Bellows County Park. We collected this species here in September.

Our black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) collection from Connetquot River State Park.

August-September: more scouting and collecting.

The beautiful crimson-eyed rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) at Merrill Lake Sanctuary.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) at Conscience Point National Wildlife Refuge.

A boquet of marsh lavendar (Limonium carolinianum) and salt marsh fox glove (Agalinis maritima) in Wading River Marsh.

Patridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciulata) at Scallop Pond Preserve.

Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sp.) – unfortunately I didn’t realize this fungus is edible and delicious until later!

My field partner, Emily, by the fish hatchery during our lunch break at Connetquot River State Park.

Me, quite content, collecting American sea rocket (Cakile edentula) at Nickerson Beach.

Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) at Welwyn Preserve – I ate some of the delicious fruits on my birthday, but got a few prickles in the process.

A monarch caterpillar on the leaves of some common milkweed we were collecting.

October: some quality time in the office, then back into the field.

I spend a week and a half in the office after getting a laceration in a salt marsh from some broken glass, and I spend a lot of quality time with the office cat, Miss Kitty.

I also made lots of herbarium vouchers, including this woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus) specimen.

Finally back in the field! Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) and woolly beach heather (Hudsonia tomentosa) by a nice, bleavhed crab exoskeleton at Cupsogue Beach.

Dune Rd in Westhampton floods twice a day with each high tide. It was an interesting adventure to drive through.

The seed heads of some rabbit tobacco (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) I collected at Cupsogue Beach.

November: our last collections of the season.

A beautiful fall view at Gardiner County Park.


Another beautiful fall view, at Caleb Smith State Park.

Some very late blooming American sea rocket (Cakile edentula) in Accaounauc Harbor.

Cakiles late-blooming buddy, evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), also in Accabonauc Habor.

Eastern groundselbush (Baccharis halimifolia) fluff.

The 6PM sunset on our last day in the field.

Thanks for the great experience CLM. I hope my readers have enjoyed my posts and learned a few things about plants!



Pitch pine and the southern bark beetle

During my internship, I got to see many beautiful and unique ecosystems in Long Island. One ecosystem that stood out is the Long Island Central Pine Barrens – a fire-adapted region dominated by scattered pitch pine (Pinus rigida) trees with a dense shrub layer. The pine barrens are naturally adapted to and dependent on fire. Fire thins the forest out, reducing competition between trees and improving their overall health. The pine barrens are ecologically and economically important to Long Island – they provide a contiguous habitat for rare and endangered fire-adapted plant and animals and they sit on top of the island’s only freshwater aquifer, purifying and protecting the island’s drinking water (

The Long Island Central Pine Barrens are currently threatened by the southern pine beetle (SPB). SPB is a bark beetle that feeds on the vascular system of trees, disrupting the flow of water and nutrients, killing them in 2-4 months. SPB, as its name suggests, is native to the southeastern United States. The beetle has been spreading north, likely due to the warming of extreme winter temperatures. SPB was found in Long Island in October 2014 and has led to large infestations in several parks, including Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Connetquot River State Park, and Hubbard County Park (

Tunnels under a pine trees bark left by the southern pine beetle (image via DEC).

Natural and managed fires in the the southeastern U.S. prevent SPB from causing significant pine mortality. Individual trees are healthier in pine barrens that are allowed to burn, increasing their ability to fight off infestation. Additionally, smoke and thinning disrupt the ability of beetle populations to communicate and organize infestation. In Long Island, the natural fire cycle is suppressed, and the SPB infestation is devastating the pine barrens. To manage the infestation, Long Island’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been cutting down infested trees to artificially mimic the effects of fires (

Pitch pine tree debris in an area of Connetquot River State Park that has been thinned through cutting.

In addition to thinning trees, management efforts include collecting pitch pine seed. The Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI), an all-volunteer organization that protects Long Island’s native plant populations, organized three pine cone collection trips. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB, the organization I work for) helped coordinate the pine cone collection trips, and my field partner and I helped collect on two of the three trips and made our own collection for MASRB.

Pitch pine cones in a collection bag.

During our first collection trip, at Hubbard County Park, we learned how to collect pitch pine cones. Pitch pine cones only open, allowing their seed to disperse, when exposed to fire or heat – an adaptation to release seed in post-fire conditions, when it is easiest for a seedling to germinate and grow into a tree. We only collected from unopened cones because they still have seed inside of them. Many of the cones in the park had popped from the summer heat, but there were still plenty of unopened cones to collect on small trees or on branches that were cut down from larger trees.

A popped pitch pine cone on the left, and an unopened cone on the right.

Hubbard County Park was beautiful in October – the black huckleberry plants (Gaylussacia baccata) in the understory turned bright red and contrasted with the evergreen pines.

Our second collection was in the Dwarf Pine Plains in November. The Dwarf Pine Plains are a really cool sub-section of the Central Pine Barrens. They’re a rare ecosystem only found in three locations in the world – Long Island, New Jersey, and upstate New York. The pitch pines in these forests are very short due to the extreme acidity and sandiness of the soil, which does not hold onto nutrients or water well.

My field partner, Emily, next to some dwarf pitch pine trees.

Many of the pitch pine trees grow horizontally rather than vertically in the Dwarf Pine Barrens.

A partially popped pitch pine cone.

Lastly, we made our own collection of pitch pine cones for MARSB at Connetquot River State Park, one of our favorite collection sites. There were lots of un-popped cones on cut down trees/branches throughout the park and it was one of our favorite collections.

Our collection of pitch pine cones from Connetquot. They started popping from the heat in the seed lab, so we covered them in grates to prevent seed loss.

A healthy adult pitch pine tree at Connetquot River State Park.

Long Live the Pitch Pine!

Until next time,


Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge: Land of the Bulrush

Hello! In this post I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite field sites: Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. Wertheim is the headquarters of U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s (USFS) Long Island Wildlife Refuge Complex. It’s a lovely place with beautiful nature trails, information about Long Island’s National Wildlife Refuges, a gift shop, and several realistic models of Long Island’s ecosystems (see pictures below).

A beach/dune model with Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass) and Lathyrus japonicus (beach pea).

A salt marsh at low tide with Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) and its symbiotic marsh mussels.

An old field model with Schizachyrium scoparium (little blustem), Opuntia humifusa (eastern prickly pear), and Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed susan).

My field partner, Emily, and I first scouted for naive plant species at Wertheim in August. We were looking for bulrushes – sedges in the genera Scirpus, Schoenoplectus, and Bolboschoenus – and we were starting to worry that there weren’t many collectible bulrush populations in Long Island. Luckily, Wertheim had every bulrush species we had hoped to find, and several other native plant species. We were ecstatic! At one point, we shouted “Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani!” in unison, like true botanical nerds.

Emily, a true botanical nerd, in her waders, prepared to brave the muds of Wertheim!

In total, we made fourteen collections at Wertheim, including five bulrush collections: Schoenoplectus americanus (chairmaker’s bulrush), Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (soft-stemmed bulrush), Schoenoplectus pungens (basket grass), Bolboschoenus robustus (sturdy bulrush), Scripus cyperinus (woolgrass), Hibiscus mosheutos (crimson-eyed rose mallow), Pluchea odorata (sweetscent), Symphyotrichum subulatum (eastern annual saltmarsh aster), Typha latifolia (broad-leaved cattail), Triadenum virginicum (Virginia marsh St. John’s wort), Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem), Sorghastrum nutans (indian grass), and Pseodognaphalium obtusifoloium (rabbit tobacco).

Now, let me tell you about some of these awesome native plant species:

Bolboschoenus robustus (study bulrush):

Bulrushes are really cool. They look like big grasses, but they’re actually in the sedge family (Cyperaceae). You can tell most bulrushes apart from grasses and some other sedges by their triangular stems. Bolboschoenus robustus is a bold looking plant with its triangular stem and, as its epithet implies, robust seed heads.

Bolboschoenus robustus (sturdy bulrush) seed heads.

Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (soft-stemmed bulrush):

So in the last paragraph I said that most bulrushes have triangular stems – Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani is the exception to this rule (most botanical rules have exceptions, it’s actually pretty annoying). Schoenoplectus‘s round stem, as its common name suggests, has a soft pithy core and is easily snapped.

A field of Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (soft-stemmed bulrush).

Pluchea odorata (sweetscent):

Pluchea a sweet little plant with pink flower heads and a wonderful smell. Pluchea is in the Asteraceae family – a huge, diverse family that includes many common flowers, including dandelions, sunflowers, and daisies to name a few. Many of the flowers in this family are wind-dispersed – they fluff up like dandelions and wait for the wind to blow their seeds away. Collecting wind dispersed Asteraceae can sometimes be challenging, but Pluchea’s fluffy seed holds on to the plant pretty well, and we were able to make a great collection.

Pluchea odorata. Picture found on

Typha latifolia (broad leaf cattail):

Typha latifolia is a common cattail that grows along pond edges. We found it at Wertheim growing around a large brackish (slightly salty) pond, along with Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, Pluchea odorata, and Hibiscus moschetuos. Typha was one of the easiest collections we’ve ever made, because each head has TONS of seed.

A pond edge with Typha latifolia (broad-leaved cattail) and Hibiscus moschetuos (crimson-eyed rose mallow).

Thanks Wertheim!

Until next time,


We’ll miss you Wertheim!


What’s a seed collection intern?

Most people are curious (and a bit confused) when I tell them that I’m a seed collection intern, so I thought I’d explain it in this blog post. I work for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB), a regional partner of the national Seeds of Success program. Seed banks are controlled environments in which seed can remain dormant and viable for long periods of time. Seed banking helps ensure the long-term survival and genetic diversity of stored species. MARSB is a mid-term storage seed bank in which seeds can remain dormant and viable for several years. In long-term seed banks, like the well-guarded seed bank in Fort Collins, Colorado, seeds can remain viable for decades.

As MARSB interns, my field partner, Emily, and I spend much of our time collecting seed for Seeds of Success East’s coastal restoration efforts. We have a list of twenty foundation species that grow in coastal areas that were harmed by Hurricane Sandy. These species are used in immediate restoration projects and/or stored for future restoration projects, which is especially important as climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of storm events. We spend a lot of time collecting species that grow in salt marshes, beaches/sand dunes, coastal freshwater wetlands, and coastal forests. Here are a few of the foundation species we’ve collected so far:

Hudsonia tomentosa (woolly beach heather) is a short, shrubby plant found on back dunes in the rock rose family (Cistaceae). Hudsonia’s spreading growth habit and widespread roots help prevent dune erosion. We collect Hudsonia by massaging seed off of the stems into a cloth bag or by scooping up fallen seed from the sand. Hudsonia was the first species I collected seed from during our training trip in June, and I got a bit overzealous with my scooping method – I wound up collecting more sand than seed. However, by my second and third Hudsonia collection I had perfected my scooping method and Emily and I made some great Hudsonia collections.

Dunes carpeted with Hudsonia tomentosa (woolly beach heather)

Teucrium canadense (Canada germander) is a cute little forb in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that’s found on the edges of salt marshes. It was easy for Emily and I to find populations of Teucrium once our mentor Clara taught us that it’s often associated with Phragmites australis, a common and highly invasive reed that also grows along salt marsh edges. Despite sometimes having to bush-whack through Phragmites, Emily and I loved collecting Teucrium because each plant has a ton of seed and it was easy (and satisfying) to strip handfulls of seed heads from each plant.

Teucrium canadense in seed (Canada germander)


Teucrium canadense (Canada germander) in bloom – image via Minnesota wildflowers

Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rose mallow) is a salt marsh plant with big, beautiful flowers in the mallow family (Malvaceae). We only had one collection site for Hibiscus, but it had thousands of plants – it was really beautiful when they were all in bloom. Like Teucrium, Hibiscus has many seeds per flower head, so it was easy to collect. However, once we got the Hibiscus back to the seed lab, we had to treat it with anti-pest strips because we wound up collecting all the little bugs that live in the seed heads – the prettiest plants sometimes hide the creepiest critters.


Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rose mallow)


Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rose mallow) flower close up – because one picture is not enough. Sorry it doesn’t have a crimson eye!

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) is a tall, common grass (Poaceae) found in open fields, forest path edges, salt marsh edges, and on sand dunes. It’s fun and easy to collect because you can strip handfuls of seed from every plant, and by the end of our six collections, I had some pretty tough finger callouses (and a few cuts). It’s a great restoration plant because of its heartiness and ability to grow in multiple environments.

Handfull of Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) seed

Cakile edentula (American searocket) is a small, fleshy plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Like Hudsonia, it has a deep root system and is a good dune stabilizer. When Cakile’s seeds are ripe the whole plant dries up and rolls around in the wind dispersing its seed, like a tumble weed. This dispersal method led to a long collection day, because the population just kept going along the beach!

Partially dried up Cakile edentula (American searocket)

Cakile edentula (American searocket) is a lot prettier before its leaves fall off and it dries up. Image via California florae.

Until next time,


Botanizing in NYC


I’m Laura, one of those rare East Coast CLM interns. I’m working for the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island and living in Brooklyn. Being placed in New York City was not what I expected, though it was definitely a blessing in disguise, even though living in a big city with all its crowds and traffic can sometimes be a lot.

Anyways – onto the plants! I’m working for Seeds of Success – a program through the Bureau of Land Management that aims to collect wild native seed for research, conservation, and restoration. As interns, our goal is to make 100 seed collections per team, each of 15,000-30,000 seeds. Since most seed is ripe in the fall, the first few months of our internship mostly consist of getting to know our target collection species and scouting out different parks and preserves to see what’s growing, if there’s enough to collect, and monitoring its phenology (when it blooms and when the seed is ripe).

Getting to know 200+ species is definitely a challenge, but I’m getting better at it the more I slow down, make careful observations, and consider the habitat that the plant is growing in. Some plants are easier to remember than others because, well, they’re really cool – something all plant lovers will understand. Here are a few of my favorites:

Salicornia depressa:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 7.02.24 AM

This little squirt, the common glasswort, grows as the edges of salt marshes and turns bright red in the fall. Its small, squishy, and adorable.

Opuntia humifusa:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.59.42 AM

Did you know that the east coast has a native cactus? The eastern prickly pear grows in sandy areas along the coast and has showy yellow flowers that pollinators (and botanists) love. Each flower lasts a single day, but each cactus pad produces many flowers that bloom throughout late spring and early summer.

Kalmia latifolia:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 7.01.33 AM

I’m used to seeing the flowers of the great laruel (Rhododendron maximum), but I was instantly drawn to the flowers of its relative, the mountain laurel. They’re unique and delicate, and they go quite well with its elegant evergreen leaves.

Lathyrus japonicus:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 7.09.23 AM

The beach pea! All Fabaceae (the pea/bean/legume family) are adorable, but the beach pea really takes the cake. I actually took this picture on a beach in the south shore of Massachusetts – it would have made a great collection if it was in New York!


Until next time,

Laura Shriver

Seeds of Success Intern

Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Staten Island, NYC