Monday, July 29, 2013

Hot diggity!

On June 29th 2013, Kristen Forgrave, our Seeds of Success intern and I bravely endured a sizzling summer day in the field. I was a little hesitant to go out in the heat, but I had to. It was and currently is my mission to go every month in order to better understand the flora of the Kiavah Wilderness.

I was pretty sure we were not going to find anything green or in flower. Oh, how I was I wrong! Days before heading out to the Wilderness, I kept saying to Kristen, "Oh, you're going to hate your life for saying you would go to the field with me. It's going to be SO HOT!" She kept saying that she was used to the heat. Mind you, she is from Seattle and this is her first summer living in Southern California. But she was right.

Kristen has been collecting seeds for the Seeds of Success program. The mission of the Seeds of Success program at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is to send interns and a project coordinator into the hottest of hot deserts in California, in the summer, to collect seeds for seed banking. Kristen is like your favorite pair of hiking boots. She adapted fast to the extreme weather of Southern California and she hasn't complained about anything.

We headed out early, hoping to get to the Kiavah Wilderenss before the heat turned on, but the temperature spiked into the high 80s before 8:00 a.m. By the time we reached Sage Canyon (my favorite canyon), it was already 101 at the lower elevations! We drove to the back of the canyon and the temperature dropped a couple of degrees, like two. I wanted to revisit the canyon bottom of Sage Canyon to see if some perennials were blooming. These plants have been teasing me since April. Not quite ready to bloom but would someday. As we geared up and started to hike down I kept thinking how terrible this collecting event was going to be. I was already jaded from my last trip out with Caitlin. We spent so much time on the ground and came out almost empty handed. Two weeks ago the plants were toast. But low and behold, to my surprise, the plants were on fire! Ok, not literally on fire, but blooming on fire. There were some interesting things flowering and the pollinators were going crazy.

Nice large patch of Heliotropium and Asclepius
Beautiful Heliotropium sp. flowers
We collected the Heliotropium sp. and Ascelpius sp. and continued to find more and more in this general spot. I was excited because I was able to collect specimens that I had not yet documented in the Wilderness. I let Kristen know that I was glad we were finding new taxa for my list and that I took back my statement from the previous day, about not going to have a good time in the heat.

Tall stender and crazy Castilleja sp.

It was hot and we did have to stop every few feet to drink water, sit in the shade and snack. But for the most part we collected and collected and collected.

Kristen collecting Anemopsis californica, in full bloom
Does this look like it is 97 degrees?
Patch of Leymus triticoides to the right
Show stopper. Poppies!
After playing in the dry wash for a bit we decided to collect on the dry slopes because there was a big patch of Cucurbita fortidissima. As we are climbing up the steep decomposed granitic slope, we were surprised by a little patch of poppies in full flower. They were beautiful and the only poppies I have seen in the Wilderness this year!  We made a collection and ventured on over to the stinkiest of stinky plants on earth, Cucurbita fortidissima. Kristen was appalled by the smell and didn't want anything to do with it after we collected it. By this time we decided that it was way to warm to carry on up the canyon, we were running out of water and the plants were petering out. We turned around and went back to the truck to press our specimens. I couldn't believe it, we collected seven bags full of plants. Seven bags! It took us a while to press but it was totally worth it in the shade of the giant Pinus sabiniana. 
Seven bags of plants, ready and waiting to be pressed
After we pressed the specimens we continued to collect along Sage Canyon Road on our way out. We found a patch of Marrubium vulgare and a nice population of the Death Valley Sandmat, Euphorbia vallis-mortae. 
Kristin pulling up Marrubium vulgar
Great job!
All in all, it was another fabulous trip in the Kiavah Wilderenss, despite the heat, we got in and out and collected like bandits. For our hard earned work we went to Bernardino's restaurant for tacos and cold refreshing beverages (iced tea...mmmm...mmmmm).

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