Wednesday, May 28, 2008

April Showers Bring May Flowers (and more showers)

I've just returned from a marathon 8 days in the field, taking data and collecting samples for my consultancy job. We are studying the pollination biology of 11 rare plants at a wildlife refuge north of Las Vegas, NV.

We got to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and suffered through one day of 105 degree weather, and one day of 45 mph winds. Then, it rained. But oh, was it beautiful. Take a gander:

Here comes the rain, doo do doo doo. The little red flags identify plants in the subpopulation of Grindelia fraxino-pratensis, the Ash Meadows Gum Plant. What a flattering name. We just finished setting it up when these goregeous thunder clouds came in, whew!

Here's a neat little Asclepias species (milkweed). And a little entemological friend. I love my digital zoom.

Below is Mentzelia leucophylla, the Ash Meadows Blazing Star. A charming plant, it only blooms from 4 to 8pm. Not so charming after you have to do 50 hand pollinations on them in the field.

But look at how geometrically and aesthetically pleasing the flower is when it opens. There are only 5 petals, and the rest of the petal-like things in the picture are stamens (male parts), with filaments of varying width.

Another subpopulation, this one is a plant called Nitrophila mohavense. The plants are only about 10 cm tall, and they like to grow in these soggy, salty flats. The flags indicate a plant in our study.

And this was the pleasant surprise of the week. Centaurium namophilum, a tiny little annual plant. We only found one population blooming, but look at those anthers. They spiral! Only a fellow plant nerd can truly share in the joy, but I hope it comes across. This is just incredible. And again, loving the digital zoom.

Enjoy the short week!

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