Satisfying Tasks and a Real Life Scavenger Hunt

This past month (this is from July-but August has been similar) has just been a large hodgepodge of different things from collecting seeds, searching for milkweed, counting Harperella (Ptilimnium nodosum) plants, helping with vegetation surveys, and doing lots of herbarium work.

Herbarium work is really relaxing and satisfying because you have a tangible product at the end. I’ve already finished a couple audible books while gluing plants. One that was particularly relevant to read was Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. I would highly recommend reading this book, especially as you are working with plants! The whole concept is whether we really domesticated plants or if they domesticated us….

Just a beautiful botany sheet

As for seed collecting, I’ve been collecting seeds at the seed orchard that is part of the Ouachita National Forest (I talked about this place in my last blog post). It’s a great place for wildflowers because the sun can reach the ground unlike most of the rest of the forest that, due to past human manipulation, has a closed canopy. I’ve collected, with the help of Corey, the intern with the Ozark National Forest, a lot of pale purple cone flower ‘cones’ that I have been slowly working the seeds out of. My desk is covered in seeds by this point.



This was my first monarch sighting. And it was on milkweed! Ascelpias tuberosa

Searching for milkweed has been a big task too because there isn’t much information about where it actually grows in the forest, and even when it is found there is a low chance that it will actually have seed pods. (See below for one that I found with two pods that had no insect damage!) For this I’ve been  wrestling with GIS. I’m trying to use information on known locations of milkweed to make some predictions of where they may be found. I’m trying to use soil type, species composition, and slope. The only issue with my method is that there is a low chance that all the information is up to date. I’ll let you know if I find any using this technique! I’m excited to see if I can find plants this way.

Asclepias variegata in the forest. Aren’t milkweed pods so strange looking?

One day I was able to go out scouting for possible flowers to collect seed from later in the year. I was able to snap these two pictures below.

See the spider?

Pollination at work at the seed orchard

That’s all for now! Look out for my August update soon.

Rachel Froehlich

Ouachita National Forest

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