Thursday, April 25, 2013

The best little botanist

April 20th 2013 was another fun day in the field. My tried and true field assistant, Chul, was unable to accompany me in the field this round. However, I was able to gather three amazing members of the Alba family. Phillip, Millie and Preston Alba joined me in one of the most memorable excursions yet. Phillip is an old friend of mine. This was my first time meeting his daughter Millie and younger brother Preston. I was very excited to hear that the three of them would be going to the Kiavah Wilderness with me.
Phillip and Millie at the county line
Millie is seven years old. The perfect age to be introduced to the botany world. I was a little scared that Mille would not be into the pulling plants business, but boy was I wrong. The moment we got our feet on the ground and found flowers, I promptly showed Millie how to collect. I must say, she is a natural! She made some of the best specimens I have ever seen. She also had a great eye for identifying each species. We collected Suncups (Camissonia sp.), Blazing Stars (Mentzelia veatchiana), Golden Linantus (Leptosiphon aureus) and Lupins (Lupinus sp.)! The best specimen of all was a single Wild Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum). The Dichelostemma was the first corm plant of my study.

Collecting 101 tutorial
Millie's first collections! Sun cups
A sea of Golden Linanthus with Millie and Preston
Up close and personal with a Sun Cup

After spending some time on the exposed dry hot desert floor, I figured it was time to reward my crew with some shade. We headed up Horse Canyon to the top of the ridge. As we drove up the switchbacks, Mille was pointing out flowers and asking if we could collect them. If it was a calm weekday I would have stopped the truck in a heartbeat. The only problem with the Kiavah Wilderness on the weekends is the off-roaders on their "too fast, too furious" OHV's. Mille spotted the Desert Dandelions (Malacothrix glabrata) and was very insistent that we make a collection of it. I was pretty sure we would see it at the top of the ridge, but when we reached the top and parked the truck we didn't see any. Millie did find a bunch of cute ittty-bitty Polemoniaceae plants and Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia parviflora spp. parviflora). After we collected those, we decided it was time to eat lunch under the Pinyons before embarking on a one mile downhill hike to Yellow Jacket Springs.

On our way to the springs
On our hike down to Yellow Jacket Springs, Preston kept pointing out awesome rocks to Millie. I quickly learned that Millie is quite the rockhound. If she could she would probably take every single rock we encountered home with her. Even though the wilderness is mostly granite, there are very pretty rocks all around. I should have followed suit in Millies collection of geologic specimens. I'm pretty sure we came across a metamorphic outcrop. Time to buy that rock-hammer and get collecting. 
As we descended the trail we finally found the spring. It was pretty interesting and very green. We made a collection of Alkali Buttercups (Ranunculus cymbalaria) and a sedge (Carex sp.). Then we decided it was time to turn back and hike back to the truck.

Yellow Jacket Spring
Doing what botanists do best

Did I mention the hike was one mile downhill? That means that the hike back was one mile uphill! Millie hiked a total of two miles. For some of us this expedition was a cakewalk (Preston!) for the rest of us it was a little tiresome. We made it back to the truck, turned on the air conditioner and let the car cool before heading to Hesperia for some In-N-Out.

I throughly enjoyed my time in the wilderness with the Alba crew. They really know how to have a good time and they were great sports in the field. Millie's identification and collecting skills were phenomenal!  Phillip's photographs really captured the moments and Preston's presence was a delight! I would be happy to venture back to the field with them! 

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