April in the Great Basin

Erythranthe carsonensis

Erythranthe carsonensis

It’s been an eventful month for the team and I here in Carson City, NV.  We began the month by traveling to Boise, ID for pesticide certification. It was basically like taking a super condensed college course, then having several finals at the end of the week. It was a challenge, but the whole team passed the general pesticide exam, as well as all of the category exams. We are straight up pesticide certified, so don’t mess with us!  We also did a couple of outreach events. We helped organize the Truckee River Environmental Education event on Earth Day. We took the kids on a botany safari and organized a game that taught the kids about noxious weeds. We also had a BLM booth at Earth Day in Reno, which a lot of families enjoyed.  Our booth had free posters, tattoos, homemade plant pressed book marks, as well as a couple games which included ecosystem jenga (super fun!) and the trash game, where the players had to guess how long it took certain everyday trash items to degrade.  Reno Earth Day was pretty neat, I got a chance to walk around a little bit and check out the vendors, food, and live music.

My favorite project we have been working on this month is rare plant monitoring.  We have been surveying for both Ivesia webberi and Erythranthe carsonesis.  We have successfully mapped several polygons of the Ivesei, and have been attempting to survey elsewhere for the plant. It’s been kind of a treasure hunt! We only spent a day surveying for the Erythranthe carsonesis, but it is a very unique looking plant, characterized by a yellow flower with a tiny red dot. We did find a few very small populations, a couple of them only have two or three individuals. Many plants are in bloom right now, so I expect lots of seed collecting on the horizon…

Adios, CLM & SOS. Thanks for everything

I’m signing off from my fantastic adventure that was the SOS/CLM/CBG internship with much gratitude and appreciation to the people and systems that put time, energy and effort into making this program a possibility.

My time with the CLM was slightly different than the experience that most people had. Instead of working in a BLM Field Office, reporting directly to a natural resource specialist within the Bureau of Land Management, I was dispatched to Patagonia, Arizona to work for Borderlands Restoration, L3C. I still had duties that required me to collect seeds using the Seeds of Success protocol, but anything over the 10,000 seed accession that the BLM held on to came back to Patagonia to be used for restoration mother plant populations. Once these mother plant populations are established, we will be able to dramatically ramp up the source of readily available native seeds for use on public and private lands alike.

My favorite aspect of the CLM/SOS/CBG internship is that it connected me with people actively involved in restoration. I was afforded the opportunity to identify native plants in the field while strengthening relationships with conservationists from different federal agencies and private industries alike. I know that the connections I made will continue to develop, even though my funding source will change.

The funding that SOS provided allowed me to develop a seed collection protocol for Borderlands Restoration, passing on knowledge to another organization. I will in turn train future seed collectors with other funding sources to over time increase the available seed resources for future restoration activities. The SOS support also allowed me to set up a seed lab for Borderlands Restoration to clean, assess, and store wild seeds.

Now that I’m equipped as an experienced wild seed steward, I’m excited and honored to continue carrying the torch of seed love. I’m excited to continue developing as a seed scout, harvester, cleaner, hoarder and steward. Thanks for all of the knowledge, resources and support Bureau of Land Management, Seeds of Success, Conservation and Land Management and Chicago Botanical Garden! May this internship continue to bear many yields of delicious fruit

Measuring and Monitoring Plants in the Mojave Desert

My fellow interns and I have stayed very busy the past few weeks monitoring and measuring plants all across the Mojave Desert. This past week we traveled to all three of our common gardens to monitor and measure our transplants for a second time. We were happy to see that survivorship in the gardens is still quite good and many plants have new growth.

In addition to measuring and monitoring the common gardens, I also traveled to the Eureka Valley in Death Valley National Park to continue with measurements of two endemic and endangered species: Eureka Valley dune grass (Swallenia alexandrae) and Eureka Valley Evening Primrose (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis). Although the strong winds, heat, and aridity of the Eureka Valley create a rather hostile environment, these plants don’t seem to mind! Many of them have dramatically increased in size since my last trip to the dunes and several have an abundance of flowers and seed pods.

As I struggled to stay hydrated and avoid sunburn I couldn’t help but marvel at the adaptations that enable many organisms, including the plants I measured, to successfully live in the dunes. Although I finished each day of fieldwork feeling exhausted and a little sunburnt, my experiences in the dunes were extremely rewarding. I enjoyed working with plants that are found nowhere else in the world. Additionally, the scenery of Eureka Valley is absolutely breathtaking. Each night when I would camp under the stars I had a stunning view of the Milky Way stretched across the entire night sky. This is a sight I had never seen before and it is one that I know I will never forget.

Until next time!

Renee Albrecht

Las Vegas Field Office, USGS

The sun sets on a day of fieldwork in the Eureka Dunes!

The sun sets on a day of fieldwork in the Eureka Dunes!


My last month here has been an exciting one: the desert is in bloom. Every week, a new plant comes into bloom. One week the palo verdes turn from pale green to bright yellow, the next the massive silver-grey ironwoods turn pink, and the dense arrowweed stands are all tipped with little purple flowers. But easily my favorite of all these are one that just came into bloom this week, the Smoke Trees. Normally they’re a uniform grey green color, billowing out in a way that really does look like smoke. But this first week of may, they’re flowering, and the silvery plant is suddenly spotted with rich purple-blue. Looking closely, one can see that each flower is ringed with orange spots on the sepals, and with a deep orange stamen poking out the end. Amazing, and presently my favorite plant out here.

Of course, shortly after flowers come seeds, and shortly after seeds come CBG Interns collecting for Seeds of Success. So I’ve had my work cut out for me there: seven 10,000-seed collections done and mailed off to be cleaned, with plenty more to come. It looks like my fellow interns are also enjoying the desert flowers, so I hope they are all as enamored by the smoke tree flowers as I am.


Joe Brehm

Smoke tree flowers Smoke Tree (Psorothamnus spinosus)

Big Bear Lake, April-May


Eriogonum ovalifolium var. vineum

Eriogonum ovalifolium var. vineum


Pholisma arenarium

Pholisma arenarium

Mojave paintbrush

Mojave paintbrush


We’ve been doing surveys for carbonate endemics and other sensitive species at two mining claims, out towards the desert side of the forest.  There’s a lot blooming right now, including the adorable borage above (Pholisma arenarium) and the federally endangered Cushenbury buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium var. vineum).  I headed down to the chapparal for a backpacking trip over the weekend, for a taste of another part of the San Bernardino Mountains flora.   

We finished surveys on the north side of the forest, as part of a project to close some unauthorized off-road vehicle routes, while designating others.  Mojave paintbrush (Castilleja plagiotoma, pictured), a hemi-parasite on buckwheat and sagebrush, was one of our target species.  We’ll be conducting surveys in the southeast part of the project area in May; since this area is at a higher elevation, the phenology is farther behind, and we’ll be focusing on a different suite of species of species. 

In mid-April, we attended a Forest Service sponsored Poaceae workshop at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.  It was a great introduction to CA grass genera, grass morphology, and more difficult and subtle key steps and characters.

Mountaintop RD, US Forest Service

Big Bear Lake, CA


The maples were almost in bloom when I left the city of Buffalo to begin work as a botany intern in the Vale district of Oregon. Soon their fruits will mix with the urban sounds in the air and perhaps land gently on the waters of Lake Erie. I’ve lived in Ontario, Oregon for a month, yet, the torrents of Niagara River escaping the glassy waters of Lake Erie persistently occupy my consciousness. Personal relationships formed and disappeared within that industrial environment and memories of those now guide me through a new land void of my personal narrative.

My main interest concerns the ecological relationships within a social and natural system that constantly places us within a complex narrative full of diverse elements. However, despite my best efforts, my descriptive abilities fail as I try to explain the layers of relationships occurring within the public lands and sagebrush steppe. A long history of use sits heavily on these lands and it appears on the landscape as some indecipherable script.  As I try to write something of this hidden language for the entry, I come in contact with a photograph of two men near Steens Mountain. Both men wearing denim jeans and layers of cotton flannel stare into the camera with a dejected aspect to their faces. Behind them a vast steppe stretches to the foot of the mountain and a startling gray looms in the sky.  A shovel sticks out from the ground and one of the men holds a cheat grass bouquet. I mention this photograph because it captures a moment in the ecological transformation of the sagebrush steppe. A change sparked by the grazing of cattle and continues to this day. Perhaps after staying out here and listening to more stories about the land I will be better equipped to explain these relationships, but this is all I have for now.