Thunder and Lightning = our first update from the field: success thus far!

Lab Note #10
Jul 14, 2014
We started our trip by picking up our Bucknell undergraduate extraordinare, Ian Gilman, from the University of Idaho field school (MOSS), where he was taking a two-week field botany course from Dr. Dave Tank. His first time in the great western U.S.A. as a budding botanist and he is doing excellent!! The field school collected over 200 specimens of plants for floristic analysis around the Payette River area in Idaho. Below is a picture of the hut where they keyed out their collections and made plans for each day in the field (second picture). 

This set up is much different than the road-side and campground keying that we will be doing on our trip (below picture).

On Saturday, we headed back down to Boise to catch the interstate to the eastern portion of Idaho and camp at Targhee National Forest. Before reaching Boise, we made a pitstop at a little site along Warm Lake Road, where we had been informed there was easily accessible Draba growing along the road. This was a new species for Ingrid, Draba sphareoides (see below). In the morning, we headed up to Sawtill Peak (pictured below).

(Pictured above) Sawtell Peak, Idaho -- with a scenic drive to the top of a peak at ~9800 feet elevation, this was a good place to visit during our fieldwork in Idaho and Montana prior to presenting our research at Botany 2014. We were not disappointed by the alpine flora we found there, which included several target genera and species of plants.

(Pictured above) Lewisia pygmaea is one of two 'favorite' plants that Tommy found on the top of the summit area at Sawtell Peak -- it is a widespread alpine plant in North America that has been proposed by previous researchers to be of ancient hybrid origin.

(Pictured above) Androsace septentrionalis is the other 'favorite' of Tommy's that we found atop Sawtell Peak. You may remember a previous post that included information about this extremely variable, widespread species (click here for post). The species is a circumpolar annual (maybe biennial) that appears to exclusively self-pollinate -- how cool is that?! All one species? Good question... we hope to find out!

Let's not forget the views from atop Sawtell Peak, absolutely breathtaking sights in all directions. Pictured below are two quick pictures snapped from the summit, the first of Henry's Lake to the north (type locality of Claytonia lanceolata var. flava ), and the second a picture of Mt. Jefferson to the west. This is not a bad place to put in a day's work!

There were plenty of members of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) atop Sawtell Peak as well -- Ingrid was able to find her coveted Draba oligosperma, and she found a Draba albertina to boot. Tommy, on the other hand, collected approximately seven operational taxonomic units of Boechera all immediately around the summit area and just over the north face of the peak. All but two of the Boechera appeared to be asexual hybrids involving Boechera lemmonii, a widespread alpine species which Tommy also found and collected from the summit area.

Before reaching Sawtell Peak, we made a stop over near Warm Lake, Idaho, to sneak in a quick collection of Draba and possibly some Claytonia. Tommy didn't find any Claytonia, which were likely long gone (above ground) at this slightly lower elevation site, but Ingrid was able to locate a population of Draba sphaerocarpa (first picture below) that was worthy of collection. In addition to the Draba near Warm Lake, we found and collected some Pyrola dentata (second picture below), which is a member of the Pyrola picta species complex.

So where are we now? Holed up in a coffee shop in Big Sky, Montana, trying to figure out how to beat this weather... It isn't exactly something you can plan for, but climbing an 11,000+ foot elevation peak isn't the most intelligent idea when lightning is striking down with any sort of frequency -- it just isn't worth the risk!

Stay tuned for more posts as we continue to forge northward for more alpine plant research!

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