Snow-capped mountains, rare plants, and free cake

Through September, our team at the Colorado State Office has worked to wrap up our rare plant monitoring with a few last trips and has continued to collect seeds, with as many collections as possible on BLM lands. We traveled to Garfield County to monitor Penstemon debilis, a low-growing forb that only occurs on the steep shale slopes of the Roan Plateau. This was one of our trickier macroplot sites and we were working on what can best be described as “Satan’s ball pit” (in which the brightly colored plastic balls are replaced with loose rocks on a 45° angle). The view from the top of the ball pit, however, was really spectacular (for as long as you could stand still before sliding down the slope) and made the tough work worth it in the end.

We elected for some edaphic contrast and spent the following week on adobe clay, monitoring Eriogonum pelinophilum, or clay-loving buckwheat. We had the lottery-odds luck to be in Montrose the week is rained nearly every day, causing the clay to glue itself to our boots, making us all three inches taller and considerably slower than usual. We may also have lost a few friends at the hotel as we casually tracked in a few acres’ worth of muck.

After these trips (which I believe to be the last of our monitoring for the season), we’ve spent most of our time collecting lots of seed from BLM land near Fraser, Leadville, and Fairplay, CO. Snow has recently materialized at our alpine and subalpine sites, which the Okie in me finds completely mystifying. While collecting Pyrola asarifolia near Mosquito Pass, I bent over to poke a pile of snow hiding under some willows (definitely not a mirage) and giggled like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Last Friday we attended the Colorado Rare Plant Symposium hosted by the Colorado Native Plant Society. This was a great opportunity to learn about more of Colorado’s rare plants, as well as to hear about the listed plants I’ve helped monitor in a larger context. Plus, we got cake and a free mug. So, yeah, things are going pretty well.

The view from our Penstemon debilis monitoring site on the Roan Plateau

Snow sighting at Mosquito Pass

Pyrola asarifolia

Pedicularis groenlandica, or Elephants Head

Katherine Wenzell

BLM Colorado State Office

Lakewood, CO

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