With the senescence of most of our rangeland plants for the fall, our internship experiences have become more varied. Between working on smaller projects we were able to cross agencies for a week and complete sensitive species surveys with the Forest Service Botany team.

We were able to see tons of amazing plants in an entirely new (to us) ecosystem, but the biggest excitement was finding the tiniest plant: botrychium.

The botanists warned us about “botrychium headache” our first day in the field. Apparently, crawling around through dense meadows and timber searching for a fern that ranges from 5-15cm makes you see cross-eyed after a while. Botrychium is a “moonwort,” a type of tiny fern found all over the United States. Its sporophyte generally consists of two leaves, a non-fertile one with simple to pinnate leaves, and a fertile leaf that contains a grape-like cluster of spores. Since they are so incredibly tiny and hard to find, little else is known about them. When looking for them we were told they didn’t grow with vaccinium species, and other than that “good luck.”

The botrychium in this picture is next to the strawberry leaves.

This plant is tiny! Those are spruce needles it’s growing through.

We were incredibly lucky, and on our first lunch break happened to spy some under a tree near our lunch spot. It was exciting discovering a new place where this sensitive species grow, and neat seeing such a tiny, elusive plant in real life!


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