Celebrating Wildflowers News 2011
Global Warming in Western Mountains
More than 50 years of records in the western mountains of the United States show that while it is now significantly warmer, total annual precipitation has not changed. But a system that was once dominated by winter snowfall now experiences a mix of rain and snow, with more streamflow in winter and less in spring. As a result, there is less water for ecosystems and agriculture during the spring and summer growing season. These changes make forecasting and managing western water resources more difficult and present a serious challenge to agriculture in the region.
Botrychium Treasure Hunts - November 2011
On August 6 and August 20, 2011, members of the Nevada Native Plant Society visited two spring sites in the Spring Mountains, Clark County, Nevada, to search for and, hopefully, learn how to identify Botrychium species. Botrychiums, also known as moonworts, belong to the Ophioglossaceae, an ancient family of plants distantly related to modern ferns.
Peruvian Cacao Collection Trip Yields Treasures - September 2011
In the chocolate world, the fastest growing segment of the industry is fine-flavor, high-end chocolates. Until now, the source of these specialized confections has been largely limited to small regions of Venezuela and Ecuador. Collection expeditions in 2008 and 2009 through the Amazon Basin of Peru uncovered the exceptional find, along with other distinctive new populations of cacao. Agricultural Research Service researchers at the Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory (SPCL) and the Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory (SMML) in Beltsville, Maryland, and Peruvian collaborators came away with hundreds of new cacao tree samples from these trips.
Rescuing a Rare Plant Population
In Illinois, Quarterman’s Hedge-hyssop is very rare, with only three sites known – and one of these sites has long vanished - as evidenced by a long overlooked herbarium specimen from the early 1900s. Extant populations were first discovered by Steve Hill, a botanist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, while conducting botanical surveys on and around Midewin. Here Quarterman’s Hedge-hyssop is found in dolomite prairie, one of the rarest types of tallgrass prairie, itself ranked as ‘imperiled’ by NatureServe. Attempts to locate Quarterman’s Hedge-hyssop on other protected remnants of dolomite prairie in northeastern Illinois have been unsuccessful, perhaps because so much of this prairie type has been lost to limestone quarries and industrial development. In 2009, Quarterman’s Hedge-hyssop was located on the Durkee Road Dolomite Prairie, a privately owned remnant of dolomite prairie. The landowner was not interested in selling or preserving this remnant. Since 2005, the landowner gave permission to the Midewin staff to collect seed and salvage plant material from this site. Over the years, these seeds and plants have been used to restore native plants on appropriate sites at Midewin.
Orchids and Hummingbirds: Sex in the Fast Lane
PART BULLY, ALL SWAGGER; hummingbirds are tiny bundles of ego and attitude with no humility or fear. The smallest warm-blooded avian creatures, they hover like a helicopter, consume energy like a jet plane, and glitter in the sunlight like a precious jewel. It is fitting that this most magnificent evolutionary miracle that is the orchid. Hummingbirds are thought to have started their evolutionary path toward orchids after gobbling insects in mid-air. In the course of searching for insects and spiders inside flowers as well, they stumbled upon the delicious nectar set out to lure insect pollinators and so began their life as nectar feeders. Never looking back, they evolved the ability to hover efficiently to access the nectar bounty while the orchids evolved characteristics to make them even more irresistible to their new pollinators. A series of interlocking adaptations resulted in an incredibly fast, remarkably tiny little metabolic dynamo and some very distinctive-looking flowers locked together in a mutually beneficial dance.
NCEAS Working Group Produces Study Showing How Vitamins and Minerals in Fruits and Vegetables Depend on Pollinators
Fruits and vegetables that provide the highest levels of some key vitamins and minerals to the human diet globally depend heavily on bees and other pollinating animals, according to a new study published in the international online journal PLoS ONE.
Biting Bugs and Plants to Avoid
Visiting the Ottawa National Forest is a fun and exciting way to experience the great outdoors. However, being in a wooded environment brings its own challenges. Here are a few of the "pests" and "plants" you should try to avoid. Read about Biting Bugs and Plants to Avoid (PDF, 245 KB)…
National Wildflower Week - May 15-21, 2011!
USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack proclaimed May 15-21, 2011, "National Wildflower Week" (PDF, 2.8 MB)! National Wildflower Week will kick off a season-long festival of events highlighting wildflower appreciation, education, interpretation, and restoration activities. The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service, along with all of our partners who participate in the Federal Interagency Plant Conservation Alliance, will join together to celebrate the diversity of plants and plant habitats found on the Nation's public lands.
Exciting Discovery in the Alpine - Spring 2011
Half the fun of doing sensitive and rare plant surveys is actually finding some. Even more rewarding is finding something that has never been reported in Alaska before. That is exactly what happened during summer 2009 when I joined botanist Brad Krieckhaus (Sitka and Hoonah Ranger Districts) to conduct surveys on the alpine ridge north of Hecla Greens Creek Mine, north Admiralty Island. Read more about the alpine discovery (PDF, 1.3 MB)…