Arrived in Boise -- another update on the first half of our field expedition

Lab Note #12
Jul 27, 2014
As the title suggests, we have arrived in Boise, Idaho, and are preparing to give presentations on our research at the 2014 Botany Conference. For those that are interested and/or will be in attendance, you can view Tommy's abstract here, and Ingrid's abstracts here and here -- we hope to see you out there!

What a week it has been. We last left off with some remarks regarding the mosquito, which at first glance doesn't appear to provide any ecosystem services whatsoever. Turns out these are food for a lot of other creatures, but we're still not fans: Montana has been seriously buggy! We were unapologetically mauled by a swarm (scourge?) of wild mosquitoes while collecting on Mount Marston in the Kootenai National Forest, Montana. Despite the unpleasant distraction, Tommy was able to collect more Claytonia lanceolata sensu stricto (first picture below), and Ingrid picked up another new unidentified (by Ingrid) species of Draba (second picture below). Tommy was more than excited about this find, considering this population of Claytonia lanceolatawas on yet another substrate (sedimentary rock, likely a mudrock) -- Tommy is incredibly interested in an apparent correlation between substrate differences and genetic diversity in Claytonia (elaborated upon here).

After Mount Marston, we headed south for the Bitterroot Range in Montana -- we climbed to the top of St. Mary Peak the next day in search of a historically collected population of Draba oligosperma. Yet again we turned in after a long hike and successful day were completed, this time with Ingrid finding two Draba species. Not only did we find an abundant population of Draba oligosperma near the summit area (first picture below of habitat), but we also found a number of other alpine plants in the Ericaceae, including Cassiope mertensiana (second picture below), Phyllodoce empetriformis (third picture below), and Phyllodoce glanduliflora (fourth picture below, with a buzzing Bombus for scale) -- these are beautiful mountain heathers! The view of the Bitterroot Range from the top of St. Mary Peak (fifth picture below) was also quite spectacular, although the impending rainstorm was a bit unnerving.

After collecting on St. Mary Peak, we headed further south and hit another area in the Bitterroot Range adjacent the border between Idaho and Montana -- this was an area where Claytonia lanceolata had been historically collected by Albert Hitchcock. What did we find on the north slope of Blue Nose Peak ? You guessed it: more Claytonia lanceolata, putatively on yet another substrate (metamorphic rock). The habitat (pictured below) was more like that of a species Tommy knows very well from southern California, previously treated as Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii. This area on the Continental Divide sees A LOT more rain and snow from year to year, and it has recently been burned in a large fire only a few years ago -- a bit different from the mountains of southern California where Claytonia grows.

After our success on Blue Nose Peak, we headed a bit south and west to the Lemhi Range on the Salmon National Forest in Idaho. There we took a hike onto the ridgeline above Meadow Lake, another place where Draba oligosperma has been historically collected. We did find Draba there, although there was no D. oligosperma in the areas we searched. In addition to the Draba we found Silene parryi (first picture below), white and pink morphs of Lewisia pygmaea growing together (second picture below), Androsace septentrionalis, multiple operational taxonomic units of Boechera, and much much more. The kicker was a spectacular view from the higher elevations above the lake (third picture below), and Tommy's discovery of Claytonia lanceolata on what is surely milky Quartz (another population, another substrate). This place is AWESOME!

After visiting the Lemhi Range, we headed back into the Bitterroot Range on the border of Montana and Idaho, hiking around in the alpine areas of the Red Conglomerate Peaks along the Continental Divide (first and second pictures below). This was a spectacular spot with many wildflowers blooming -- Ingrid nabbed more Draba oligosperma from a massive population, Tommy collected multiple Silene and Boechera species, Ian found a delicious Shaggy mane mushroom (third picture below), many pictures were taken, and the group was very satisfied -- not a bad day after a close call with a flat tire in transit between sites.

After hiking around in the area of the Red Conglomerate Peaks, and getting the flat tire replaced, we headed back into Idaho -- we'd 'officially' begun working our way back to Boise in order to make it to the 2014 Botany Conference on schedule. Our next hike was in an area Tommy had selected where there was a report of an alpine Claytonia he had not yet seen before that had also been historically collected by Albert Hitchcock . Tommy was disappointed in not finding Claytonia megarhiza in the Lost River Range, but he did find even more Claytonia lanceolata (quite unexpectedly) and Ingrid found what seems like the largest Draba oligosperma population she has ever visited, possibly millions of individuals! Throughout the entire valley of this range, the sage brush marbled the flat areas with D. oligosperma being associated with the pebbly, rocky soil on the wind-blown ridges nearby (first picture below) -- this is pretty typical habitat for D. oligosperma. You can actually see the line of pebble, rocky soil where the D. oligosperma would stop, only to reappear where the sage brush does not thrive (first picture below). The only other population visited by Ingrid that she remembers as being larger is in the Laramie Plains of Wyoming. More fantastic viewsheds were soaked in (second picture below) as a hungry squirrel waived us goodbye (third picture below), but we all felt a bit beaten when we got wind of another tire that was rapidly losing air -- thank goodness we had gotten a new spare!

After collecting in the Lost River Range, we headed to the Sawtooth Range (first and second picture below) where Tommy had one final chance to find and observe the alpine Claytonia megarhiza. Draba oligosperma had also been collected in the area, so we knew this was going to be a good site to visit. After nearly 3000' elevation gain, a bit of off-trail navigation, and a quick snapshot of a foraging American Pika (third picture below), we were not disappointed with what we found. Ingrid collected quite a few Draba, including D. oligosperma sprawled out on an exposed alpine ridge, and Tommy found his coveted Claytonia megarhiza (fourth picture below) nestled into some boulder cracks on a steep granitic talus... a successful first half of this 'experiment' in the field!

Next stop, Yukon Territory, Canada... after the 2014 Botany Conference, that is.
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