Gales, Gulls and Goodbyes

Gale arrived this week — a strong wind with speeds below a storm but above breeze — 39 to 54 mph. Ketchikan pulls on a blanket of fog, now a sleepy town with longer nights and greying days of mist and fog and rain. When the sun does come out, the sky is a cold blue — the air piercing, but the sunlight warm and welcoming.

Refuge Cove at sunset

The rainforest is wet and dark, and speckled with fall colors. Devil’s Club exchange their bright green leaves for orange-tipped umbrellas and Salmonberry branches, once dripping with yellow-orange-red berries are almost bare.

Misty rainforest, Perseverance Trail

Field work is drawing to a close along with summer. But Mather and I recently spent a day out in the field with the Recreation Crew, repairing and reconstructing a bridge on a local trail. We hoisted heavy packs onto our backs and hiked to the bridge site. We used pry bars, sawszalls and hammers to remove the old, decaying planks, and replaced them with new, treated ones.

We hiked in 30 wooden planks on our backs. I fell through 1 — slipped straight through the boards and to the ground. The two crew leads pulled me up out of the bridge, all of us, laughing and laughing.

Hiking out the old, decaying planks

Another field day this month drew multiple departments together, completing surveys for potential cabin building sites. We walked several different sites, taking plant inventories, with an eye out for rare plant species. The wildlife biologist looked for eagle nests and rare birds, and considered the possible impacts to salmon, bears, wolves, and deer in the area. The landscape architect took note of the soil and depth and thought about accessibility to and from the site. The recreation management specialist addressed the water table and the amount of flat ground available to them for building the cabin, while the forester assessed the stands of trees and the timber demand. The whole day teemed with friendly debates and conversation.

Just before we all left, we walked through a marshland that brimmed with sprawled, decaying bodies of salmon, out to the inlet. Where the ocean flooded in, a flock of short-billed gulls lifted in one swift group up and off the water, calling and calling.

Wildlife Biologist, Ben Limle, looking through binoculars at a flock of short-billed gulls

Complimenting the new wintry chill in the air, the forest harbors another touch of fall these days. The color red. The huckleberries.

Vaccinium parviflorum (Red Huckleberry) carpets the forest floor, but few are still holding onto their berries. To finish out what will likely be our final collection, we ventured off trail, and up in trees to discover the ripest huckleberry patches. Many were tall and required us to gently bow the stems toward us to pluck their berries. Stellar’s Jays flitted around my head as I reached up to collect the small, blushing berries.

Vaccinium parviflorum (Red Huckleberry)

Seed collection is not the only thing coming to a close. This is my field partner’s final week.

Mather, I want to thank you for the following:

  • Confirming my estimations were often wrong
  • Doing math and counting seeds with impressive concentration
  • Delighting in the smell of decaying salmon while collecting seeds 🙂
  • Making me laugh
  • Being a truly excellent field partner, hiking pal, and friend
Mather taking pictures of plants on the Deer Mountain Traverse

the incomplete education of alexandria colpitts

Some fall color in the form of delicious Golden Currants.

4th graders. It seems that no matter how many times I work with children, I might add that this has not been very many times, I always get nervous. I can’t put my finger on just what it is. The responsibility? The potential chaos? Maybe just the unfamiliarity? This week Alyssa generously signed us up to spend the week educating 4th graders about plants. I know I sure can’t think of a topic a 4th grader might be more interested in. 

We decided to go with a practical topic, something they could use on a daily basis, something I have been using on a daily basis since we started this, every time I go for a walk. A few basic classifications of leaves and flowers: leaf arrangement, shape, and divisions, flower symmetry, and counting different floral parts. The words lance-like, whorled, and pinnate have been some of the favorite words. When answering questions a child might be perfectly audible until they get to one of these words. Evidently they are unsure of how to pronounce the word and so they start noncommittally whispering attempts to sound it out. 

Table of educational materials for a plant lesson that we taught to 4th graders.

After practicing with these classifications for a bit we pass out cards that have pictures of flowers from 6 different plant families. Their task is then to sort themselves into families based on similar characteristics. Without any information on how to figure out which family they were in I was very impressed at how well they sorted themselves out. I’ve surprised myself by how invigorated I’ve felt after these days. 

Something about learning is invigorating. Watching people learn as well as learning myself. 

An unrelated picture of an amphibious friend we found.

I too have had the chance to learn a lot lately. This position has given me so many opportunities to grow my field skills, my plant identification skills, my botany knowledge, my networking abilities, my understanding of where I’d like to take my career, and my abilities to successfully use USAjobs….

After a few years of seasonal work I will be taking a possibly permanent hiatus from seasonal to work a permanent position. I have learned from every single seasonal position I’ve had and I am ready to settle into one job for a while. To have the time to learn a single job really well, to continue my growth from a place of stability and familiarity. 

Speaking of learning….

I’ve recently started learning a bit about environmental ethics. This is something I was completely unfamiliar with until I saw a book about it in a used book store. I instantly knew just based on the title that it would address so many questions that are floating around in the back of my mind.

The first question of mine it’s been addressing is why do I care about nature, the environment, and so many people around me seem not to, don’t even seem to have a sense of what drives my passion for it. This question hasn’t been answered per se but this book has begun to give me context within which to think about this. 

My co-intern Alyssa and our supervisor Rose botanizing.

The book uses the phrases environmental metaethical objectivism vs. environmental metaethical subjectivism. The first phrase describes the idea that natural objects are valuable in and of themselves. The second phrase describes the idea that natural objects are valuable only because and if and to the extent that humans desire them. I, in my body, believe the first option and yet when I think about how to communicate the importance of anything in nature or to justify my own love of it I must act as if the second option is what is the correct belief. 

I think these ideas are interesting in the context of conservation and land management. What motivates individuals to believe in, work in, vote for conservation? For what reasons and to what end do we manage the land in this country?

Signing off,


Seeds on the Move

As the seed collecting season has ramped up these past few months, I’ve taken to having a storage cooler in my car for seed collected on days when I can’t make it out to the Big Bear seed shed. A majority of the seed as of recent being various species of milkweed that I had sorted into separate bags into the car cooler. To my mistake, I left the cooler open in the back of my car one tired evening and I reaped the results of my actions the following morning. The following morning, I began my commute to Big Bear and rolled my windows down as I usually do to enjoy the brisk air when suddenly a flurry of white fluff began to swirl around the cabin and to my surprise one of the milkweed bags in the cooler was open! Dozens of seeds began to fly out my window and I quickly pulled over to a turnout to secure the seed bag but alas it was too late. It got me thinking however, how seeds from different species have evolved various ways to disperse into new habitats. As of current, Karen and I have been racing to gather milkweed seeds from monitoring sites throughout the San Bernardino National Forest as once the pods pop open the seeds will quickly drift away in the wind. The seeds reach rather large heights as well even surprising the both of us how far they drift away once the plant is disturbed. In addition to hand harvesting directly from the pod, we have also taken to bagging up unopened pods in preparation for future harvesting. In doing so, we hope to collect as much as we can during this quick seeding timeframe.

Image: Me doing a drive by a milkweed population at the Northshore Cabin in Lake Arrowhead. A few feet deeper into the brush is a larger population of Asclepias californica and Asclepias eriocarpa ready for harvesting.

Other notable seed species I’ve seen displaying brilliant dispersal tactics are not only the milkweeds but Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), Manzanita Trees (Arctostaphylus glauca), Anderson Lupine (Lupinus andersonii), and Candlestick Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei). While C.betuloides are a pain to harvest as there trichome like hairs are irritating to the skin they travel quite far in the air when a gust of wind hits the trees. The corkscrew like shape of the seed helps it hook into the ground firmly once it lands, slightly digging its way into the soil beginning the first step of possible propagation. Collecting Lupine seed was especially fun and also frustrating as a ready pod will pop instantly at the smallest touch sending the seeds in a variety of different directions! When collecting these I sometimes bent the stalk into the bag and gave it a little shake to trigger the pods to pop open and maximize the number of seeds collected. Penstemons also pop in a similar fashion, though the seeds tend to stay in their pod unless given a hard smack. These are another favorite of mine to collect as the rattling of the seeds into the bag is incredibly satisfying. Lately with our hikes into the forest for monitoring I’ve also noticed an increasing number of small hitchhikers on me as I crouched under shrubs and slid through brush (no not ticks), manzanita berries! These berries are covered in hairs and a sticky sap that sticks to your clothes or hair with ease. I found it neat how the stickiness of the berry’s aids in their dispersal and who knows how far I spread some of these berries in the habitats I was walking through for that day. Another honorable mention is H.whipplei and how one smack to its large stock will release an explosion of glossy black seeds all over the ground. When harvesting from this species we often aid in dispersing the remnant seeds as well by shaking the stalk violently and spreading the confetti like seeds throughout the area. Last but not least I can’t forget about the pesky invasive grasses that are constantly getting stuck in my socks and boots. Not only are they prickly, but they are incredibly difficult to get out of fabric. I spend a good amount of time when I get home plucking out each of the seeds with their pronged or edged shapes in order to minimize spreading into forest habitats. There large presence throughout parks and open nature areas throughout SoCal showcasing how efficient they are at hitching rides to new locations. It’s been rather enjoyable collecting different seed species throughout the forest and becoming familiar with the mechanisms they’ve evolved that help them spread throughout. From popping lupines to barbed cheat grass the evolutionary processes that have driven the development of these unique dispersal characteristics is not only functionally fascinating but incredibly beautiful to watch in action.

Images: The top two pictures show seeds from Cercocarpus betuloides (Mountain Mahogany) and Asclepias californica (California Milkweed) with their unique corkscrew shape or large awn like pappus. Below is a picture taken of me after crawling through some shrubs out near Deep Creek in Lake Arrowhead. Would prefer these berries over spooky insects any day!

The One Where the Seed Girls Work With Archeology

September came and went in the blink of an eye. Its parting gift to us was a slight chill in the air and a blanket of fall colors that is slowly falling over the mountains. The changing colors has sparked a new excitement in me for the La Sals. Every place I explore feels new again.

This past week, our final species has started to seed but the first three weeks of September we were left waiting. This allowed us to take a couple days to shadow the archeologist here.

Working as an archeologist here is not like working as an archeologist in most other forests. Part of the Bears Ears National Monument is managed by the forest and the monument has over 100,000 cultural and archeological sites. While with the archeologist we were able to see a few historical sites and a prehistoric site. After a short hike we reached the prehistoric site. Seeing these structures absolutely took my breath away. Nestled into the rocks were stacked stones cemented into place with a mud mixture. Each rock and piece of mud was placed by hand which was obvious due to the hand prints still visible in the mud. Along with hand prints there were in some placed imprints of corn that was farmed and being stored in some of these structures.

Me at one of the archeologic sites.

Since we had some time to kill, I was also able to help the alpine botany crew with some repeat photo sites. The hike to the sites was about 4 miles in and was one of the harder hikes I have ever done. Once at the sites, we were taking repeating photos of goat wallows that had been been monitored in the years prior in order to document changes. The goats were introduced to the La Sals about 10 years ago as a game animal and their wallows can harm rare alpine plants as well as cause soil erosion.

View from one of the Repeat Photo Sites

When it came time to start collecting our seeds the aspen leaves were just beginning to change to a vibrant yellow. The last week of September, despite it now being fall, was sunny and clear up in the mountains. Our last species was found growing mostly around 10,000 ft in elevation giving us the most beautiful views.

Our last day of collection in September, we went to a canyon nestled between the two tallest peaks in the La Sals. The sun was shining and we were collecting near a stream with breathtaking views of the mountains. It was a perfect fall day and ending to September.

Some Garbage I Found

The idea of eating yogurt in a forest seems so foreign to me, yet in 2010 an unnamed Colville National Forest visitor downed a Yoplait mixed berry 6 ouncer while driving down the Marias Creek Road between mile markers 1.5 and 2. What possessed this visitor to carelessly fling their discarded yogurt cup out their window into the drainage ditch paralleling the road, I may never know. The discarded cup was found thirteen years later almost completely submerged in dirt and leaf litter. I found this cup while walking back to my rig after a long day of plant surveying along Marias Creek; a lovely little trickle surrounded by downed logs, thorny plants, cow pies, and discarded garbage.   

The yogurt cup in question

I have found garbage all over the forest this summer while conducting plant surveys. Of all the garbage I have found, very few pieces stand out. For every exciting piece; like a license plate, ammunitions crate, hot dog wrapper, or golf club; there is a discarded beer can.

I found this partial license plate near the summit of Mt. Bonaparte. I suspect the owner may have been involved in some illicit activity. Because Tonasket does not have a police department, I may have to take matters into my own hands. 
This ammunitions crate is likely from the Vietnam War-era, when U.S. forces repelled the seldom discussed Vietnamese invasion into North-Central Washington. 
The contents of this hotdog wrapper were nowhere to be found, despite an exhaustive search. 
Golf club found off a forest service road, miles from the nearest course. Someone must have been really mad. 

Beer cans are by far the most abundant pieces of litter in the Colville National Forest. Though, I am sure you are wondering which beer brands are most commonly found discarded in the forest. To answer this question I conducted some statistical analyses. All analyses were done in R (version 4.0.3). Funding for this project was provided by a bank I robbed. 

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Table 1: Raw data of discarded beer can abundance across two areas in the forest. Natty Ice and Natty Light were separated into different brands due to the belief that drinkers of these beers account for two entirely different demographics.

First, I conducted a t-test on the seven most abundant beer brands in the forest. Based on the results of the t-test, Coors was found more frequently than all other beer brands (P<0.05). Other pairwise comparisons were not statistically significant. 

Figure 1:

Results of the t-test. Coors was found significantly more often than other beer brands. 

Next, I used a Tukey p-value adjustment to account for the number of individual tests done. Based on the results of the adjustment, Coors was found significantly more often than Natty Ice, Natty Light, and Rainier (μdiff≠0, with 95% confidence). Other Coors pairwise comparisons were no longer significant.

Figure 2:

Results of the Tukey adjustment, showing that Coors was found significantly more often than Natty Ice, Natty Light, and Rainier. 

Overall, the results of this study show that, when not factoring in differences in beer popularity, Coors drinkers may have a proclivity to discarding their empty beer cans more often than some other beer drinkers, mainly Natty Ice, Natty Light, and Rainier drinkers. More work should be done exploring patterns of beer can disposal in a wider variety of forests. 

Falling for September

Time has been flying by since I began this internship back in June. It feels like just yesterday I had packed up the car and made the trek across the country from Connecticut to Utah. September seemed to fly by the quickest of all for some reason! Perhaps it was the growing signs of fall (my favorite season), the beautiful crisp air, the changing leaves, and the Halloween decorations getting put up around Moab that had me enjoying September so much. I have always loved fall in New England and I was so excited to see what fall looked like in the La Sal mountains. So far, I have not been disappointed.

Fall colors amongst the oak brush

At last, our third target species, Heliomeris multiflora or showy goldeneye, is ready for collection. We began collecting seeds from this species in the last week of September, which was a pleasant surprise considering we thought we had a lot more time until seeds were mature enough to collect. We have found that the best way to collect these seeds is to clip off the seed heads and put them in a paper bag. We give the bag a little shake and the seeds fall out from the heads pretty easily! If anyone else is collecting this species and has a better method we are open to constructive criticism 🙂

One of the most exciting adventures that Mattie and I got to partake in this month was accompanying the Archaeology crew to survey archaeological sites. Hiking around the woods and coming across remnants of Puebloan peoples and later tribes was like traveling through time. I learned so much about the rich history and culture present in the Manti-La Sal National Forest and especially around Bears Ears National Monument. Having a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of the land that I work on has helped to grow a greater appreciation of it and I value the time I get to spend on it so much more now.

Thanks to very bad weather one day, I also got to tour the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum which features exhibits of Ancestral Puebloan artifacts such as pottery, baskets, blankets, etc. dating back to as early as the Basketmaker III period (A.D. 500-750). My favorite thing that I saw in the museum was the different effigies that had been recovered in the area, particularly the ones of dogs that I included images of below. It is super cool to imagine people having dogs as pets thousands of years ago like we do today! I also loved learning about the different methods that archaeologists use to determine what time period an artifact is from. This includes radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, pollen dating, and more!

Overall, September was a very enriching month that will go down in the history books and I am eager to see what the future holds for the seed girls!

The Dog Days of Summer are almost over…

The prairie has unlocked her vault on seeds to be collected and let the creatures in to take the plants riches. Birds, bugs, slugs, and us have run into the prairie overwhelmed by the amount of seed ready to be harvested and the limited amount of time that we have. It’s gotten to the point that we strap two vinyl bags to our waists that are filled with even more paper bags and still have plentiful amounts of seed that we don’t have room for. It’s a restoration goldmine.

Me in the field collecting seeds with the two giant vinyl hip bags

Unfortunately Mother Nature has other plans. Since she has withheld the water as long as she can and has burst in random days of immense rain that has left us limited in our seed collection journey. Checking the radar has been added to the normal morning routine in hopes that we can get a few hours of “no rain” to go gather seeds. We have discovered that radar is not as accurate as it seems…. And I should really invest in a rain coat.

This doesn’t mean we have stopped learning here at Midewin. It seems like every time I learn a new plant five more pop up that I need to remember the name of. Remembering the differences in the Genus name and the correlating species name is the hardest part but the feeling of accomplishment and joy over correctly identifying a plant makes it worth the memory struggles. It also helps being out in the prairie five days a week.

Me and two FS technicians helping college students seed collect and identify a graminoid species.

With our unexpected days we have learned a new skill as well. Seed cleaning with Midewin’s big cleaning machines (some all the way from Denmark) makes hand cleaning child’s play for us now. But you gotta wear the proper PPE. So when it rains, we gear up with our masks, glasses, and ear protection and hit the seeds where it really hurts. Clean. Weigh. Bag. Throw it in the cooler. Is there anything more fun to do on a cold rainy Tuesday morning?

Gearing up for a morning of seed cleaning at Midewin.

Seed cleaning isn’t the only thing we are gearing up for. With only two weeks left in our season, and the impending threat of a government shut down, we try to get out as much as we can to collect seeds. Along with also finalizing our days if we are to never come back….. the dogs days of summer might be over but now comes the sadness of leaving the prairie. Maybe that is why Mother Nature is crying so much. Maybe she doesn’t want us to leave. Don’t worry, we aren’t done just yet.

Finally the End

The last month, a story of incredible learning and experiences

To start this one off I just must make clear that the AQI’s of over 400 in the Umpqua area have finally come to a halt, we can finally breathe again! In place of the smokey visor is the looming dark clouds of fall. Which brings me to one of my favorite parts of this experience, extracted from any work duties, which are the low-alpine meadow openings that showcase some of the most mystifyingly incredible views of low-lying clouds (I suck at cloud identification) enveloping the upper echelons of the best peaks, scenery that any fantasy drama show director would be jealous of.

This last month consisted of some of the most intense berry collection known to man. Feeling like bears in spirit, the botany crew set out to complete their berry collections. The final destination: Snowbird Road. The weary travelers made their way through the rocky ridge known as snowbird taking no prisoners. Assaulting each population of bitter cherry, mountain ash, and blue elderberry alike, the hardy crew finished their quest at the end of four days. The rewards were splendid. Alone, they managed to collect over 100 pounds of berries in just that location. However, added together with the spoils of previous ventures their total reached 286 pounds. The brute of the part even had a difficult time lifting that sort of weight. Their journeys are to continue with a different target in mind in the upcoming month. Seeds. Stay tuned…

The days start to get shorter, the nights longer. As each day passes in which the sun of whom illuminates the sky begins going to bed earlier, we get closer and closer to the end of term here at Umpqua. It starts to feel cooler and the smell of autumn wafts ubiquitously through the air. It’s a great feeling. It feels bittersweet in some sense but also incredibly empowering and endearing. Bittersweet because it’s the end of a truly incredible experience but at the same time empowering because of the opportunities each intern has ahead of them.  Some have already accepted permanent positions (shoutout Casey!) and some are browsing the job market as we speak (shoutout me!). Either way we have all paved our way towards a successful career whether through this position or prior. We’ve all improved our skills in the field of botany and have cemented confidence in our abilities going forward. While ending so soon, there are so many opportunities still out there to continue our journey. I just hope everyone enjoyed their truly one-of-a-kind experience like I did.

To my favorite collection species: Columbine (Aquilegia formosa). Your dried-up floret resemblant of a trumpet nose was the most enjoyable feeling. It felt as though each collection was a treat, spinning the bracts as the numerous seed went flooding into the bag. In conclusion, aquilegia you make me happy!

To my least favorite invasive species: Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus). You were a huge pain in the ass (apologies for the French). Your extended root ball made it almost impossible to remove all parts of you. Your fruit was tasty but not worth the struggle of pain-staking geopick maneuvers.

We did it!

Recipes from the Toketee Homestead

This season the Diamond Lake Botany Crew and I collected a little bit less than 300lbs of fruit! We plan on taking our first trip to the Bend Seed Extractory this Thursday (9/28) to deliver our collections for cleaning. Our collections included Sambucus cerulea (Blue elderberry), Prunus emarginata (Bitter cherry), Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry), and Sorbus scopulina (Mountain ash)…

Bitter cherry (left) and Blue elderberry (right)
A good berry year! Most of the trees we collected from were weighted down with ripe fruit like this one!

While the crew and I were busy making collections for CBG during the week, I was able to spend a few weekends picking fruits for myself! Earlier in the season I spent a day collecting some of the smaller, native blackberries located in the Forest. I cooked them down that same day, making a syrup for easy storage. This past weekend I finally got my hands on some pectin, took my stored blackberry syrup, and made jelly! While picking enough of the smaller blackberries to make jelly was a labor of love, it was absolutely worth it! I can now take a little taste of Oregon back home with me to Alabama.

Additionally, I foraged for elderberries and also made a nice elderberry syrup with local honey in preparation for the colder months. (Just in time too! The high for Toketee this week is a rainy 53degrees. Brrrrr.) In recent years, elderberry syrup has gained popularity. These days, you can find it in just about any grocery store or pharmacy. However, elderberry syrup has been used in folk medication for hundreds of years! The syrup is known and still used today as a strong cold preventative and remedy. One cup of berries contains around 58% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Similar to blueberries, elderberries are also a great source of antioxidants.

Below I have the recipes I used to make my elderberry syrup!

Elderberry Syrup

Ingredients Needed (1 Batch)

  • 3/4 cup of dried Elderberries – I picked my own but you can order dehydrated elderberries online.
  • 1 cup of Raw Local Honey – Honey that has been filtered goes through a heating and cooling process. A majority of the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are killed by the high heat, negating many of the health advantages of raw honey. Additionally, raw, local honey can also shield you from seasonal allergies by gradually exposing you to local pollens until you become used to them.
  • 2-3 Cinnamon Sticks (Optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of shredded Fresh Ginger (Optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground Cloves (Optional)
  • 1/2 cup of dried Rose Hips (Optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups of Water – I used filtered water

Equipment Needed

  • Cheesecloth, small mesh colander, and/or juicer
  • Saucepan
  • Spoon or masher
  • Container/jar for storage
  1. With the exception of the honey, combine all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat to a rolling boil. For my syrup, I only added shredded ginger root and cinnamon sticks.
  2. When the boil starts, reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Turn off the heat and allow the product to cool for about 30 minutes before handling it.
  4. Take out the cinnamon sticks and use a spoon or masher to crush the mixture.
  5. Squeeze through cheesecloth or pass through a fine mesh filter.
  6. Add 1 cup of honey to the juice it produces.
  7. For up to a few months, keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Take a teaspoon per day or as desired. I usually take 4-5 spoonfuls a week!

*Elderberry syrup is not a guaranteed “cure all”. I believe that paired with a healthy lifestyle it does boost your immune system and when taken early enough, can reduce the symptoms of a cold! With any folk or traditional medicine, appropriate expectations are required. Again, if you are eating McDonalds everyday, never engaging in any forms of exercise, stay chronically dehydrated, get terrible rest, etc. then yes, I doubt a homemade remedy will help you.

Nursery Trip and a Day of Plant Keying

This month was pretty typical – with a lot of time spent on many new collections and updating our data to make sure everything was in order as our collection season begins to slow down. At the beginning of the month, we were lucky enough to be able to make a trip to Coeur d’alene to hand deliver some of our more perishable fleshy fruits. These included collections of Actaea rubra (baneberry), Prunus virginiana (chokecherry), Rubus parviflorus (thimbleberry), Rubus idaeus (raspberry), Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick), Berberis repens (creeping oregon-grape), and Symphoricarpos albus (common snowberry). Since all of these species are at least semi-fleshy fruits and needed to be refrigerated, we decided to drive them to the nursery rather than sending them through the mail with the less perishable collections.

Picture depicts Symphoricarpos albus growing in the Big Belts on 09/13.

On September 7th, we packed these collections into a bear proof cooler with ice and started our long drive towards Coeur d’alene. The trip took us over 12 hours of total driving time, but, luckily, we were able to break up the trip and stay a night in Missoula, MT with Selah – a fellow CBG intern working at the Lolo NF. We were so thankful to Selah for letting us stay with her and enjoyed catching up and talking about how all of our summers were going. The next morning, we left for the nursery. 

At the nursery, we were able to take a tour around the facilities. Many of the seed cleaning tools we saw were similar to the ones at the Lucky Peak Nursery I visited during the CBG training in May, but it was still cool to see them again. It was also awesome to see all of the seedlings that were being grown in the greenhouses – especially the area filled with Whitebark Pine saplings. I was happy to see so much effort being done to help out the Whitebark Pine that are currently endangered due to blister rust. While we were there, we also saw the nursery workers collecting seed from some of the bulk seed plots using seed vacuums – which was very neat. There was also a very cute cat that we got to say hi to who was living at the nursery. After the tour, we gave them our collections of fruits, as well as some that Selah gave us to deliver from the Lolo NF. Finally, we picked up 9 large bags of seed that our supervisor ordered to be used at a superfund site and started the long journey back to Neihart, MT.

Picture depicts Rubus parviflorus growing in the Big Belts on 08/21.

Another fun day was in the second half of the month – spending an entire day keying out plants with two of the Helena botany techs. We had joined them on some rare plant surveys before and always came to them with any questions – so they decided to visit our station to help us on some difficult species. To prepare for their visit, we collected some samples from a mining site and a burn area that we were considering collecting seed from. These samples were mostly all asters of some kind – some Solidago (goldenrod) and some purple asters. They also helped us make a final decision about the geum that was growing outside of the station (which I wrote about in my blog post last month). 

Picture depicts the burn area with which some of the samples came from. 09/19

We used many different resources to accurately key out the samples. We had both the Montana Vascular Plant key as well as the Pacific Northwest key, the live samples, some pressed samples of geum and their seeds, and another key that was brought by the botany techs. We also referenced samples saved in an online herbarium. 

After a long day, we decided our collected samples were Eurybia merita, Solidago missouriensis, Solidago multiradiata, Solidago nemoralis, Symphyotrichum ciliolatum, and Geum aleppicum. Even then, many of these were a ‘best fit’ situation where they did not fully seem to fit in one species description – one would just match up better than the other possibilities. Plants can be tricky, so it was nice to have other people to discuss these samples with and multiple sources that we could use and compare to each other. 

Picture depicts a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake that we drove by in the Little Belts on 09/12.