…when I’m absolutely atwitter about being out here, and there are days when I want to scream.
In regards to the latter, I’m sure that many of you out there are going through the Seeds of Success program. I’m going to posit that this thing is both one of the most enjoyable and most infuriating things I’m doing out here in Ridgecrest. I started back in March, so I had a long time to spend in the office before I was made aware of the SOS program, let alone that I was essentially in charge of it. Now, I deeply enjoy the actual process of going out to collect. What I don’t enjoy is trying to pound the square peg of harsh biological reality into the star shaped hole of the protocol. Out here, a lot of our species are either very
widely dispersed over vast areas, or form little island pockets. In the latter case, getting the prescribed 10,000+ seeds from a single population of over 50 plants can be nearly impossible. I’ve had days where I’ve been out all day long, and scoured the population of over 100 individuals for barely more than 1,000 seeds. Thats the harsh truth about the Mojave. When it blooms, it blooms like crazy, but for the most part, things are not doing a whole heck of a lot. Often, your timing has to be just right to get anything out of these plants.
Case and point. One of my favorite places to collect is one of our canyons known as Surprise canyon, in Panamint Valley.Its one of our few perennially wet canyons, and it boasts a glorious plant assemblage, including some very spectacular special status species, and some endemics to the Death Valley region, to which Panamint Valley is adjacent. From cliff growing cacti and phacelias to the gigantic Panamint daisies (the flower heads are about 5-7 inches
across), Surprise is one of my favorite locals. And you never know what you’ll find. Case and point, when I was out in lower Surprise, collecting capsules from Eucnide urens, (my gloves did nothing to stop the sting) I found a plant that completely baffled me. It took me a few days to figure it out, and what it turned out to be was Anulocaulis annulatus, an endemic to the area. As I was observing the plant, I saw something on the flowers that I thought was so interesting that I needed to photograph it.
Instead of trying to explain what I saw, I’ll show you (left), and see if you can tell what’s going on. If you can, I’ll be very impressed, because thus far, nobody I’ve shown this to (including several biologists at the office) have figured it out without me giving hints. Let’s see what those young brains’ve got!
Now, I’d love to collect this plant, but seeing as the only population I’ve found has only 10 plants, and they aren’t pumping out seeds like an orchid, its just not going to happen. Its the conundrum of this place. Can’t collect many of the species, because the populations are just not big enough, or they’re special status. We’ve got over 700 species of plant out here, including 32 special status ones, but most of them can’t be collected, because they’re so spread out that they don’t fit the criteria for a continuous population, or they just don’t make enough seeds. But, what’cha `gona do?
Forrest Fruend, BLM Ridgecrest, CA