August slipped away…

August was a time of changing weather, new plant species to scout for, and a newfound independence for the seed girls of Moab. The weather cooled off quite a bit here in Moab over the past month, going from being in the upper 100s everyday to only being in the 90s, and some days we were even fortunate enough to see temperatures in the 80s! On our trips up into the mountains, we were met with daily thunderstorms and the occasional hail instead of the normal dry heat we had become too familiar with. Overall, we became more independent in our seed scouting and collecting and got to take part in many different projects this past month.

We began scouting for our third target species, Heliomeris multiflora, or showy goldeneye! This beautiful member of the Aster family that can be found at a wide variety of elevations ranging from foothills all the way to subalpine. So far, we have found the most Heliomeris at elevations around 10,000 feet. We have identified quite a few large populations, so now we wait for the seeds to mature and get ready for collection!

Heliomeris multiflora spotted in the La Sals on 8/18/23
Field full of Heliomeris multiflora spotted in the La Sals on 8/30/23. Scouting for Heliomeris comes with some amazing views!

We have continued to collect seeds from Heterotheca villosa, or hairy false goldenaster, and we seem to stumble upon more populations of it everyday we are out in the field. Although it appears that the seeds of Heterotheca are beginning to pass their prime in most spots as we now enter into September, we are planning on making a few more collections before all the seeds drop. Heterotheca has been my favorite species to collect so far because I find harvesting these little puffballs to be highly satisfying. Is it just me, or do they remind anyone else of Horton Hears a Who? The only downside to collecting these puffs is that you have to be very mindful of the weather. We learned that wind is public enemy number one while trying to collect this species on a particularly windy day. One big gust of wind at the wrong moment and you could lose a lot of progress!

In other exciting news, we got to spend some time up in the alpine with the Botany Crew here in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. Hiking into the alpine was like visiting another planet. I found myself wearing three layers and still a bit chilly and hiking across snow in August! Our goal was to assist with alpine vegetation surveys and get some hands-on experience with vegetation plots and transects. I learned so much, though my favorite part was getting to see mountain goats for the first time as they ran up and down peaks and made it look so easy.

I have really enjoyed getting the opportunity to be involved with the different departments of the Forest Service here and can’t wait to see what new experiences come in September!