utahfieldoffice Blog

This just in ...

Matt Lewis, Utah State graduate student, just sent me a report from the field that Schoenocrambe suffrutescens (or Hesperidanthus suffrutescens or shrubby reed-mustard, or whatever you want to call it this week) is just starting to flower!  We don't have photos yet, but here's what it looked like just a week ago out near Big Pack Mountain, with the flowering stalks just starting to emerge:

Schoenocrambe suffrutescens

Those are last years' dried-up flowering stalks sticking out from the plant.  Maybe Matt will send us another report soon and flower photos?

In the meantime, here's another cool plant that's flowering right now, which I believe is Cryptantha paradoxa but may well be C. flavoculata.  Either way, it's a catseye and it's adorable.  This was taken near the Pariette wetlands.

Cryptantha paradoxa

If anyone out there reading has a suggestion, correction, or even photos to share, please let me know! 

Forensic Botany

Here's a photo of twinpod I promised you last week.  I love the stellate, or "star-shaped" hairs on the leaves.  There are quite a few mustards that have stellate hairs, not to mention many other plants.  Globemallow may be one of the more famous stellate-haired plants out there.

By the way, the Vernal Express had a nice article about the Uinta Basin rare plant forum about 2 weeks ago.  I meant to get it posted sooner, my apologies.  Here's a link to the article.

While we wait for things to bloom, it's still a prime time of year for forensic botany.  What I and other botanists like to call "forensic botany," is really just trying to ID plants from the dried up dead parts from last year.  Nothing to do with crime scenes.  Forensic botany is only possible if you are quite familiar with the local flora.  So for me, it's still a challenge here!  While out and about last week, we saw lots of nodding buckwheat (Eriogonum cernuum) "skeletons" left over from last season, forming a burnt-red overstory around ant mounds and across the saltbush flats.  This stuff is pretty common throughout the basin, but it's good to get refamiliarized with it this season. 

Keep your eyes open and let me know if you see anything amazing this week!


Rare Plant Workshop has highest attendance ever!

Last week the Uinta Basin rare plant workshop in Vernal had over 150 participants!  I love seeing new faces in the crowd, both those who come simply because they have an interest in our natural heritage, and those who attend as training to be a qualified surveyor or contractor.

We may be developing a new format next year to handle the crowd.  Maybe hands-on stations for each species?  We'll keep you posted.

With all the activities at work last week, I couldn't make it out of the office.  That's okay for now--there's not too much to see yet, botanically speaking, but it won't be this way for too much longer.  While I was out today, I saw common twinpod (a cute little mustard) sending up its basal leaves in a lovely, light green rosette.  I didn't have my camera with me, but soon I'll post a photo of the same plant from Asphalt Ridge, taken last april. 

Happy spring equinox, everyone, from Vernal!

Coming soon to a landscape near you ...

Cymopterus purpurascens, or spring parsely!  It's one of our first bloomers in the basin and across the state.  For a sneak peek, click here.

The entire Wasatch front just got hammered with lots of the fluffy white stuff this week.  Vernal has stayed relatively snow-free, and temps continue to warm.  Bring it on, I say!  

Welcome to "What's blooming in the Basin"!

Spring is just around the corner.  Can you feel it?  Yes, it may still be just above freezing here in the Uinta Basin, but it only takes one sunny day to turn everyone's thoughts toward spring.  And spring = wildflowers! 

There's no better time to start up our "what's blooming in the basin" blog, which you are reading right now.  Welcome!  This blog will be a place where we can share our observations of plants both while at work and at play.  We'll start with my observations, but I don't want to spend the whole spring and summer blathering on, so please share your stories and sightings of Uinta Basin plants with us!  Contact me at jbrunson@blm.gov or jessi_brunson@fws.gov if you have photos and stories to share.  We're still working on getting our photo link up and running, but in the meantime there will be plenty to talk about.

For me, as for most of us biologists working in the Basin, our interest in biology is part of our at-home lives just as much as it is a part of our at-work lives. For example: I work for FWS, but I'm also a mountain biker.  I spend almost every spring and summer afternoon outdoors (not to mention the weekends), botanizing as I bike along the local basin trails.  Last year, on a particularly dazzling wildflower afternoon, I was zipping up and down my favorite local trail.  I came around a tight left-hand corner and was startled by a burst of wildflower colors: pink, blue, yellow, white, and magenta, crowded along a 20-foot section of trail.  I gawked at the sea of color, mentally naming the source of each as I rolled along--that's a phlox, there's a lupine, and look at that dinosaur milkvetch!--momentarily forgetting to pedal my bike.  That second of hesitation caused just enough momentum loss that I was completely unprepared for the sharp uphill straight ahead.  My focus snapped back to the trail and I pedalled like mad.  My speed carried me uphill, just a few feet short of the apex.  I stalled out and tipped over sideways.  Simultaneously my right foot slipped off the pedal, slamming the bike chainring into my calf.  OUCH!  I still have a scar on my right calf. 

All snowy winter long, whenever I saw that scar, I was reminded of that day and the stunning wildflowers.  And now spring is almost here, and I cannot wait for the first flower.

Where and how will you be botanizing this year?