Unusual Inhabitants

I’ve had a lot of interesting adventures over the past month. Guess what? I’m finished with Fritillaria surveys! I’ve gotta say, I do miss the thrill of trying to hunt down the species, but the fact that more often than not Fritillaria gentneri was not in the survey areas was starting to make me sad. It’s a rare species, which makes it unlikely that there would be any new populations, but still–I had this sort of fallacious mindset that I’d be finding rare plants every day. These surveys did have their cool moments though, despite the lack of rare plants. For instance, a few weeks ago I was surveying for F. gentneri and stumbled on a huge population of F. affinis!

On a survey after that I saw a Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) decked out in stunning turqouise hues. He got pretty angry when he saw me and did some pushups (which, as I’ve learned, is what lizards sometimes do to express male dominance) before scurrying off.

Later that week, I saw a gorgeous northwestern ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus occidentalis). The poor little critter was startled, but not enough to coil up and show off its characteristic orange underbelly.

On a different day, I was helping out with some flora site revisits in a different resource area and we got to meet an elephant (true story).

Over the past week, I’ve started up with a new task: invasive plant surveys. Out in the middle of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area is the Box O Ranch, which was a ranch founded in the 80s and later abandoned in 2003. Due to its previous use the area is now a hotspot for invasive species, primarily yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Despite that, it remains to be one of the most beautiful views I’ve experienced during my time as an intern in Medford.

One of the weirdest things I saw out there was this–

At first glance, I was thoroughly confused. To me those brightly-colored, hairy dots looked like some sort of fruit or reproductive organ of a plant. Around me were about 30 other individual plants, each of which were covered in the things. But it was fairly obvious that the plants growing it was a Rosa species, and the mysterious thing attached to the plant looked nothing like an achene. On closer inspection, I saw that the dots were growing out of the leaves, and that almost all of the Rosa in the area had the thing growing off of it. I stared at them for a long time; I had never seen anything that looked like this.

Later on I had the chance to do some research. As it turns out, the thing growing off the plants is a gall created by Diplolepis bicolor, or the spiny rose gall wasp. As the name implies, the wasp specifically targets Rosa species, laying its eggs on the underside of the leaves. The larva then hatch and begin to eat the plant, stimulating the plant to create outgrowths in the form of red galls. The larva live in and are nourished by the spiny structures. More often than not, other insects take advantage of these galls by laying their own eggs inside and allowing their larva to eat the spiny rose gall wasp larva. Cool, right?

Until next time,


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