Today I had the pleasure of going out in the field with Virginia, a botanist from the research branch of the Forest Service. We had many missions in mind for the day, some of which were accomplished. The main reason that we went to High Peak (near Mt. Ida, Arkansas) was to get a good picture of the woodland sunflowers in bloom, which grow almost in a monoculture in some areas of the open forest there.
Virginia has been monitoring the vegetation in areas of High Peak since 2011 when a lightning strike started a wildfire there, and the FS decided to let it burn instead of sending out the fire suppression team. Some people worried that the overstory trees would all die, but it turned out that one year later 95% had survived, as well as 33% of the understory trees less than 15 cm. This research has had real-life management implications, as the FS has let a few more low-intensity natural fires burn since then. The sunflowers were just starting to bloom at that elevation, so we didn’t get the majestic photo we had hoped for.
Woodland sunflowers (Helianthus divaricatus) beginning to bloom. Photo by Virginia McDaniel
We bushwacked around recording what species were present. We also found a fair number of crystals, which the Hot Springs area is famous for. We dragged a white piece of cloth to collect ticks for a researcher in Texas. Somehow no ticks ended up on the cloth, but at least 10 ended up on us! We were finding them the whole way home.
Tomorrow Virginia, my mentor Susan and I are heading to the Ozarks FS office to give another invasive species workshop, so V and I collected invasive plant specimens while we were out like kudzu, stiltgrass, sorecia lespedeza and autumn olive, as well as their native lookalikes. Luckily we didn’t find many out in the field– we had to go over by the Dollar General to find kudzu and I will be walking around my neighborhood tonight to find mimosa and nodding thistle.
Me with kudzu (Pueraria spp.) taking over trees by the Dollar General. Photo by Virginia McDaniel.
Until next time! Take care! -G