A lull in the season

Regarding seed collection, these last two weeks haven’t been very successful. It seems that other than Tetradymia glabrata, just days past its prime at the time of writing, we are at a point where early season plants have dispersed their seed and late season plants still aren’t ready for collecting. We’ve been hitting the field almost every day hoping to come across populations ready for picking. Instead we come home with a long list of coordinates, a press full of vouchers, and the hope that next time we see these populations won’t be too late.

Cleome lutea. Not quite ready to collect.

Cleome lutea. Not quite ready to collect.

Last Wednesday, August 24th we took off to Pyramid Lake to collect seed for two days. Arriving early, we would collect seed until 7 pm and then camp. The next day we would rise and immediately get to seed collecting. Our main target was Eriogonum heermannii. We thought we’d be swimming in seed. We did find plenty of it, but only 2 distinct populations that were ready to collect. We did what we we could, called it a day, and pitched our tents by a beach. 2 collections in 8 hours. I went to sleep feeling disappointed. At around 3 in the morning, in a dreamlike haze, I pried an eye open to see what I thought was a coyote sniffing around and looking at me through the mesh of my tent. “Go away, coyote…”, I mumbled and let my single eye close again.

Next morning I woke as the sun peered out from the mountains. 6:20 am. The coyote was back. Except she was just a dog from the campsite over. I opened my tent and let her stick her two front legs inside my tent so I could scratch her head and a call her a good dog. She was an old dog with graying fur and eyes and she demanded some attention. After a few minutes, my co-worker caught her attention by going on a morning run. She sped up after her and left me to pack up my tent and belongings.

Pyramid Lake shore

Pyramid Lake shore

An hour later we met with 3 environmental interns from the Paiute who wanted to see what all the seed collecting business was about. We hit up the E. heermannii sites again to provide them with a sure demonstrations of seed cut tests and collecting techniques.

“Okay, now we’ll actually collect seed.” we promised them.

We couldn’t waste another day collecting the same thing so we invited them to scout with us. We scoured sandhills, beaches, canyons. All of them filled with plants too old, not ready, or in such small numbers that made collection an impossibility. We tried to impart on them as much botanical knowledge as we could, as to not make them feel robbed of a day. The names of plants and their uses, fruit types, anatomy. Around 4:00 pm we shook hands and waved goodbye. We left Pyramid lake as well and headed to Bedell flats in hope of something better. We drove for a couple of hours, stopping here and there to take vouchers of something that wasn’t quite yet and curse this phenological lull. At last we headed home, presses looking like broken accordions.

Asclepias fascicularis. Not ready either.

“Maybe next week?”

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