After two months of monitoring rare cacti, my fellow botanists and I have moved on to collecting native seeds for the Seeds of Success program. We began collecting in Great Basin of Western Utah, where we captured a few species of Penstemon just in time before the heat of the sun dried up all of the forbs and turned them into a crisp. Now, it is hard to come by a target species in the low elevations due to the high temperature and dry climate, so, fortunately for us, this means we get to trek through the higher elevations in search for more collections. This has been a bonus for multiple reasons, but mainly because there are trees! When driving on the backroads of the Great Basin the only trees you’ll find were brought there by humans, you know miles ahead when you are about to approach a town because of the random patches of Populous fremontii. Lonely ranchers have expanded the range of P. fremontii into the west desert by providing them with ample water around their homes and agricultural fields. Up in the mountains, it has been refreshing to see trees in their natural habitat and also to have the luxury of keying out plants and eating lunch in the shade.
Every time I work in the field I see a plant that I have never seen before. This week, one of the plants that I fell in love with was Corallorhiza maculata. While collecting Packera multilobata seeds in the Dixie National Forest this Orchid luckily caught the corner of my eye. This plant is easy to miss because it blends in nicely with the dried leaves on the forest floor but it’s hard not to give it your full attention once you have found it. Its red stems and purple-spotted labellum make this plant very unique and adorable. C. maculata also has a special way of obtaining its nutrients, it is mycoheterotrophic. It’s clear that this plant does not photosynthesize because of the lack of chlorophyll in the stems and scale-like leaves. Instead, it parasitizes mycorrhizal fungi. The fungus in a situation like this end up being the middle man in the transfer of carbon from one plant (the host tree) to another plant (C. maculata).
Now it’s time for me to hit the field and collect some more seeds! Thanks for stopping by.
All the best,