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The Big Sit & International Migratory Bird Day

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 05/07/2016 - 5:30am

All day long at all six of our Nature Centers we will be counting how many birds we can spot or hear without leaving a 17-foot circle. This ‘citizen science’ can help us make better decisions about the conservation of bird habitat. We need birders of any experience to help us for part or all of the day. Stop by anytime, grab a seat and join in.

You can also experience the perils of migration in our Migration Obstacle Course or make (toilet paper tube) binoculars.

The post The Big Sit & International Migratory Bird Day appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The Big Sit

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 05/07/2016 - 5:30am

All day long at all six of our Nature Centers we will be counting how many birds we can spot or hear without leaving a 17-foot circle. This ‘citizen science’ can help us make better decisions about the conservation of bird habitat. We need birders of any experience to help us for part or all of the day. Stop by anytime, grab a seat and join in.

Additional activities include:

  • Morning Bird Walk program — 7am
  • University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners: Gardening for birds – 8am – 4pm
  • Birds of prey talk — 10am & 2pm
  • Bird-related crafts and art for kids — 11am – 3pm

The post The Big Sit appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The Big Sit

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 05/07/2016 - 5:30am

All day long at all six of our Nature Centers we will be counting how many birds we can spot or hear without leaving a 17-foot circle. This ‘citizen science’ can help us make better decisions about the conservation of bird habitat. We need birders of any experience to help us for part or all of the day. Stop by anytime, grab a seat and join in.

Additional activities:

  • Birds of prey presentations — 10:30am & 1:30pm
  • Animal encounters
  • Children’s crafts
  • iPads to enter Ebird information
  • Binoculars to borrow
  • Birds of prey presentations — 10:30am & 1:30pm
  • What’s on the Menu? program. Watch staff feed resident animals and learn more about them — 3pm

The post The Big Sit appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The Big Sit

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 05/07/2016 - 5:30am

All day long at all six of our Nature Centers we will be counting how many birds we can spot or hear without leaving a 17-foot circle. This ‘citizen science’ can help us make better decisions about the conservation of bird habitat. We need birders of any experience to help us for part or all of the day. Stop by anytime, grab a seat and join in.

Additional activities:

  • Sagawau Bird Hikes program — 7:30am
  • Bird banding (capturing birds in mist nets and placing metal ID bands on their legs)

The post The Big Sit appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

ExperiMINTing! with mint

Garden Blog - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 11:06am

With the Kentucky Derby—and mint julep season—approaching, it’s time to consider mint, a fast-growing, almost wonderfully invasive plant.

 Spearmint in bloom.

A refreshing digestive, mint can be harvested more than once in a season; use it fresh in your mojito, or dried as tea.

Mint survives Chicago winters and comes back hardier than ever. Cuttings easily take root and begin propagating anywhere they touch soil. For these reasons, grow mint in a plastic pot, so it doesn’t take over your yard. (The roots are so strong they can crack clay pots.) Mint needs at least four hours of sunlight per day, so pick a sunny spot. It is tolerant of most soils and weather conditions—just be sure it gets some water every week to keep it from becoming bitter.

Maintaining flavor

Mints spread in two ways: by runners and by seed. However, many plants are hybrids, which means the sprouts that shoot up from the broadcast seed will probably not be the same as the plant you bought. To keep that lovely flavor you brought home, trim the plants down when they have flowered, but before they drop seed. This causes the plant to bush out and spread from the roots only.

Choosing your flavor

 Mint julep by Bill Bishoff.

Mmm-Mmm mint julep—a Kentucy Derby favorite! Photo by Bill Bishoff

There are more than 600 types of mint on the market. Here are a few that work best in the kitchen:

Kentucky Colonel spearmint (Mentha spicata ‘Kentucky Colonel’) got its fame from being the leaf of the classic mint julep, but it’s also perfect for any mint sauce or jelly.

Banana mint (Mentha arvensis) is part of the spearmint family, but grown mostly for its incredible smell. It still maintains a good flavor in cooking, though.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is most often used for its peppermint oil. Peppermint family plants are strong flavored and best used dried or in small quantities because they contain menthol (think Vicks). They soothe stomachs, but are difficult to cook with fresh.

Variegated pineapple mint is a lovely, sweet-scented peppermint hybrid that makes a great tea. To keep it variegated, you need to cut off any green stems.

Orange mint is the most invasive of all mints, so plant accordingly. It smells sharply of orange peel and can turn a nice burgundy color during winter It also works beautifully in baking recipes.

Easy Mint Simple Syrup

 Mint simple syrup.Making simple syrup is a great way to put your mint to good use.

What you need:
½ cup mint of your choice (washed leaves; lightly chopped pieces packed down)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Rinse and drain mint leaves. Bring water to boil in a small pot on the stove. Add mint leaves and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, and then turn off heat. Let mixture cool (approximately 30 minutes). Strain off leaves.

Store the syrup in the refrigerator for use within two weeks, or freeze for later use.

To use:
Add this simple syrup in place of sugar in your favorite ice cream, sorbet, lemonade, soda, or cocktail to add balanced mint flavor to any recipe. Even better, add to a dry wine or prosecco for an easy happy hour treat.

Want to take it higher? Freeze the syrups in ice cube trays with a few small leaves and use as a sweetener for tea or cocktails. A glass of bourbon becomes a Mint Julep when you add Mint Syrup ice cubes.

Peppermint Extract

 Peppermint extract.Peppermint oil is often used for cleaning, pest control or aromatherapy. What you produce is not the professional essential oil (that takes more time and effort than most of us can muster), it will do the jobs needed.

What you need:
A sealable/airtight jar or glass container
Enough chopped peppermint or peppermint family leaves to fill the jar
Vegetable oil, olive oil or nut oil 

Place washed chopped mint leaves in the container (no need to pack; they need to breathe a bit). Heat the oil of your choice (use enough to fill the jar) on the stove in a small pan until it is too hot to touch. Pour the oil over the leaves and seal the container. Let the mixture sit on the counter until it has cooled, then move it to a dark place or cupboard for a week and a half to two weeks. Once it has set, strain out the liquid into a spray bottle.

Peppermint oil sprays are said to prevent mold and can be mixed with vinegar to create a simple disinfectant cleaner. They also create a great air freshener, massage oil, or natural control against ants, mosquitos and even rodents.

 Tarragon simple syrup and fresh peaches enliven a sparkling wine cocktail.

Add simple syrup to Prosecco and peaches: lovely.

Want to save more of the amazing herbal flavors in your yard this year? Check out our post on Herbal Mixology for ideas.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and

Birding in Your Preserves – Cherry Hill

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 10:00am

Some birds are specific to habitat type. Join us as we highlight different habitats by visiting a new preserve each week. Adults and interested teens. Registration required.

The post Birding in Your Preserves – Cherry Hill appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Morning Bird Walks

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 9:30am

Enjoy a casual guided walk to look for birds. All levels welcome. A limited number of binoculars are available to loan. No groups, please.

Bird the Preserves

Each month during our 2016 Bird the Preserves initiative, we’re giving you the opportunity to see some of the most interesting birds in the preserves. Learn more about the Baltimore oriole.

The post Morning Bird Walks appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Skokie Lagoons Birding Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 7:30am

These Friday trips with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club pack a great list of warbler species. Visit for updates and contact information.

The post Skokie Lagoons Birding Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Big Year Birding at Paul Douglas

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 7:30am

Enjoy waterfowl, herons, and grassland birds as we explore this large preserve. Walk leader and contact: Judy Pollock,

Learn more about the 2016 Big Year.

The post Big Year Birding at Paul Douglas appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Perkins Woods Birding Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Thu, 05/05/2016 - 7:30am

Look for warblers and other migrants (also spring wildflowers) with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. Street Parking. Meet at the corner of Ewing Ave and Grant St. Visit for updates and contact information.

Learn more about the 2016 Big Year.

The post Perkins Woods Birding Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Spring It On—Spring Annuals for 2016

Garden Blog - Mon, 05/02/2016 - 3:18pm

Did the striking Silver Fox foxglove make it into “the show” this spring? Who decides which flowers make the cut anyway for the unfurling of 75,000 annuals at the Chicago Botanic Garden?

We’ll show you a few of our spring favorites that made it through the multi-level review process.

Digitalis purpurea ssp. heywoodii ‘Silver Fox’

Digitalis purpurea ssp. heywoodii ‘Silver Fox’ (Sensory Garden)

“Behind all of these beautiful displays, there is a lot more happening than what you may think,” said Tim Johnson, the Garden’s senior director of horticulture. “It can be very complex—different plants have different production times.” Besides considering how long it takes for a plant to grow in our greenhouses, the Garden’s experts also consider the desired size and bloom time.

Every season, each horticulturist proposes a color scheme and submits plans to Johnson. About ten months before spring or the start of the other seasons, the proposals are reviewed by experts, including Kris Jarantoski, executive vice president and director; Tim Pollak, outdoor floriculturist; Brian Clark, manager of plant production; Andrew Bunting, assistant director of the Garden and director of plant collections, and Johnson. The team also considers how each proposed plant fits into a garden’s design and color scheme, along with its habit, culture, and cost. “They all need to be looked at globally to make sure there are different plants, varieties, and color schemes throughout the entire Garden,” Johnson said. “Each garden should have a unique look to it.”

Viola 'Fizzy Grape' by Ball Seed

Viola × wittrockiana ‘Fizzy Grape’ (Lake Cook Road entrance and gatehouse)

Primula vulgaris ‘Primlet Golden Shade' by Panam Seed

Primula vulgaris ‘Primlet Golden Shade’ (Heritage Garden troughs)

Hyacinthoides hispanica 'Excelsior' by Brent & Becky's Bulbs

Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Excelsior’ (Heritage Garden troughs)

Ranunculus asiaticus Maché 'Purple' by Ball Seed

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Maché Purple’ (Green Roof)

Linaria maroccana 'Licilia Peach'

Linaria maroccana ‘Licilia Peach’ (Circle Garden)

Calendula officinalis 'Neon'

Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’ (Sensory Garden)

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sweet Purple’ by Panam Seed

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sweet Purple’ (Sensory Garden)

Tulipa 'Amazone'

Tulipa ‘Amazone’ (Crescent Garden)

Before spring slips away, come see what’s in bloom at the Garden and look for the annuals that made the final cut, including—you guessed it—an unusual foxglove known as ‘Silver Fox’. Before you visit, download our free GardenGuide app to help you find plants.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and

So Classy: Spring Wreaths Made from Flowering Branches

Garden Blog - Thu, 04/28/2016 - 9:34am

Budding and flowering trees and shrubs—redbud, plum, spirea, almond—are among the great joys of spring. Under the calm and creative eye of Field & Florist’s Heidi Joynt, we learned to turn those branches into lovely, living wreaths in a perfectly timed class at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Heidi Joynt demonstrated how to layer in curly willow cuttings and delicate flowering branches like bridal veil and bridal wreath spirea.

Sterling Range heather (Ciliatum 'Sterling Range') Flowering plum (Prunus cerasifera) Redbud (Cercis canadensis) Pussy willow varieties Flowering almond (Prunus triloba)

Spring blooming wreaths included “delicate” branches like those shown here.

A finished wreath incorporates many of the more delicate flowering shrubs with a central focal point of redbud and plum branches.

The finished wreath is an exuberant combination of the more delicate flowering shrubs with a dramatic central focal point of redbud and plum branches.

Most Chicago-area yards have a flowering shrub or tree, much admired when it bursts into bloom in spring. While some intrepid gardeners know to cut early branches to force bloom indoors, Joynt takes the idea in a different direction—in a circle, with living branches forming a perfect-for-the-front-door wreath.

Imagine walking out into your yard, pruning a cluster of branch tips—plus a large branch or two—then starting to fill in an 8- to 12-inch grapevine or curly willow wreath (purchased or handmade). That’s how surprisingly simple the process is.

As everyone clipped and pondered and designed, Joynt offered helpful wreath-making and wreath-tending tips:

  • Larger branches of redbud, crabapple, forsythia, double almond, or plum can be strategically wired onto the wreath to create a focal point. 
  • Add delicate curly willow or birch catkins at the center and the outer edges of your wreath. Bouncing and waving in the breeze, they add movement and interest to your design.
  • Hung on your front door, the living wreath can be spritzed with water once or twice a day to keep flowers fresh. 
  • As flowers drop off or brown, pull the branches out of your wreath and replace them with the next blooming items in your yard. Fresh flowers like tulips and roses can also be inserted by placing them in flower tubes (available at florists and craft shops) and tucking them into the wreath. 
  • Yes, silk flowers are an option. Joynt recommends for extremely realistic flowering branches. 

Field & Florist’s Spring Arrangements from Rabbit Hole Magazine on Vimeo.

Classmates begin framing their wreaths with pussy willow tips.

Joynt’s next class, Spring Centerpiece Workshop, is just before Mother’s Day, on Thursday, May 5—create the perfect gift for mom. Can’t make it? Try Floral Techniques on June 21.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and

This Amazing Plant Changes Gender from Year to Year

Garden Blog - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 3:06pm

Amorphophallus remains a unique occupant in the world of plants, and visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden recently experienced the fascinating bloom cycle with the titan arum Sprout. However, there is an additional denizen of the Araceae (a.k.a. Aroid, a.k.a. Arum) family with rare and exceptional attributes, which can be seen blooming this very moment at the Garden.

Japanese cobra lily (Arisaema ringens) has an uncanny, serpent-shaped, flower and possesses a remarkable ability to do something which few other plants can do: change its gender from year to year.

 Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Almost anyone who grew up in an Eastern or Central time zone will recognize our native jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Arisaema species (jacks), are paradioecious, meaning the blooms of an individual plant can be male one year and female the next. Young plants will produce male flowers with pollen until they are mature enough to produce fruit. When they have accumulated enough energy to fruit, they will produce a female flower that will hopefully become pollinated.

However, after an exhausting round of fruit set, the plant may take a break and produce male flowers the next year. Producing pollen, rather than fruit, saves energy. Unhealthy conditions or damage to a female flowering plant can also cause it to produce male flowers the next time around.

Basically, Japanese cobra lilies change sex for a period of time to save energy and allow themselves time to recover. 

Like all species of Arisaema, the flowers of Japanese cobra lily have a spathe (pulpit) with a spadix (jack) inside. The pulpit is striped purple with white on the outside while the interior is a dark, shiny chocolate color. What is different about the blossom of Japanese cobra lily is that the hood of the spathe is curved and helmet-like, with the tip covering the front of the opening where which jack resides. This formation produces the startling look of snake eyes.

One of the first jacks to emerge in spring, cobra lily flowers can last eons in the cool spring weather.

 Japanese cobra lily (Arisaema ringens).

Japanese cobra lily (Arisaema ringens) appears early in the spring each year; the flowers will remain until the large leaves have fully extended, shading the bloom.

Fortunately, the blossom does not have the noticeable unpleasant odor that a corpse flower has, but it still manages to attract the flies and beetles that do their bidding. In physical appearance, Arisaema ringens is similar to our native jack-in-the-pulpit; however, the entire plant is more robust with a pair of giant, polished trifoliate leaves, creating an almost tropical appearance for a Midwest garden. The overall height is two feet tall. Female plants can produce bright reddish-orange berries in late summer and early fall, extending the show. 

As with most Arisaema species, Japanese cobra lily hails from China, Japan, and Korea. It is one of the easiest to grow, and perhaps the best garden subject for the Chicago area. They are pricey to buy; however, the flying saucer-shaped tubers will bulk up quickly in a rich woodsy soil.

There are warnings against growing them in heavy clay, but the Garden has terribly dense soils and our planting has performed nicely. Keeping conditions moist and shady in the summer will prevent an early dormancy. Another bonus is that Arisaema ringens are deer resistant because the leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals, which make them smelly, poisonous, and irritating to chew.

If you would like to see Japanese cobra lilies during your visit, just head down the lower woodland path of the Sensory Garden. You can also search for them via the Garden’s Plant Finder.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and

Back at it Again

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:27pm

Hello everyone,

Since my last CLM blog this past October, the site’s traffic has plummeted and the servers have been gathering dust. I have decided to take on the CLM Internship once again so that I may blog about my experiences and appease my horde of botanically-inclined fans. In short, I am back by popular demand.

This year, I have decided to take my talents to the Prineville BLM in Central Oregon. The drive out from Chicago was tiring, as usual. I brought my dad (who hasn’t been on vacation for nearly 10 years) with me to witness the beauty of the West again. During each tank-up, he windexed bug splatter off my windshield so that he could take clear pictures of the land along the way. Fortunately for us, we got to stop and explore too. After unpacking my belongings in Prineville, we visited Crater Lake National Park, drove down to California and saw the redwoods, then took the 101 all the way up the coast
to Cannon Beach before going to Portland. I explained to my dad, who is very much still a Polish immigrant, what a hipster is. It was such a culture shock for him to see skinny, bearded, flannel-shirted, beanie-donning guys riding around on unicycles, double-decker bikes, or using an antique typewriter at a cafe – although I’ll admit that last one was a shock for me too. He called them “hippos”.

The views were beautiful, the beer was good, and the Subarus were plenty, but now it was time to drop dad off at the airport and head back to Prineville to get some work done. I’ve been working for about two weeks now. There were a lot of formalities during the first few days: paperwork, necessary vehicle training, getting my workstation set up, and meeting many of the fine folks that I’ll share this space with. I am helping my mentor, Anna, prepare for our monitoring plan this season. To do this, I have been ordering equipment, testing sensors to make sure they are calibrated correctly, and using GIS to identify candidate sites for field visits and ultimately selection as part of a permanent monitoring program. The protocols we’ll be employing are called AIM (Assessment Inventory and Monitoring) and MIM (Multiple Indicator Monitoring) of streamside channels and streamside vegetation. They are used to collect data to determine ecosystem health. From there, the BLM adjusts its land management and resource allocation to make sure short- and long-term objectives are being met.

We’ll be in Utah for two weeks in mid-May for AIM training and then for one week in Prineville for MIM. That’s a lot of learning right there – but I’m excited for it. So far I haven’t had the chance to actually get out into the field. I’m at a standing desk in front of dual computer monitors in a cubicle right now :( And I’m tall so I see a sea of cubicles just like it :( :( :( but when Jessica (my fellow CLM-er and roomie) gets here next Monday, things will pick up and we’ll actually be outside so much that I hope we get sick of it. And I’ll be identifying everything as I usually do. And I’ll have beeee-autiful pictures to share with all of you, my devoted fans.

Thank you CLM for another awesome opportunity to learn and grow. I’m excited to work hard this summer and hopefully make some friends along the way!

Best identifications,


Recreation Training Opportunity

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:24pm

This past week I had the opportunity to attend a Recreation Management Conference for the state of Wyoming Outdoor Rec Planners. I attended this instead of the training at Chicago Botanic Garden, as I had previously attended it. Also, since my internship is not botany based, this gave me an opportunity to attend a related training.

The conference had speakers from within the BLM as well as outside speakers. The BLM speakers talked about a variety of subjects including cave management, wilderness study areas (WSAs), law enforcement, recreation management information system (RMIS), and other recreation practices. The outside speakers spoke about subjects such as the Tread Lightly program, off-highway vehicle use and trail design, as well as the socioeconomic effect recreation has on the surrounding community. It was great to see how people from within the government as well as outside sources come together to improve recreation for everyone.

Another part of the conference that was beneficial was when all of the field offices had a chance to share some of their accomplishments as well as some of their challenges. This gave me an opportunity to see some of the real-life things affecting rec planners. As a person not having a lot of recreation experience, this was a way for me to understand more of what a rec planner does. Many of the rec planners in the state of Wyoming are fairly new at their position, so many of their questions were the same questions that I had and it was a great way to learn from the rec planners who have been in their position a lot longer.

Overall, this was also a great way to get a crash-course education in many of the tools I will be working with this coming summer. It will help me be able to do my job more efficiently as I will not have to have so much time training. It also gave me a great way to network with other rec planners that I can connect with if I have questions or need help with anything. I also got to explore a part of the state that I had never been to before, which is a neat experience.

That’s all for now, hoping to get out and do some field work soon, but that might be difficult as they are forecasting 7 inches of snow for today!


BLM Rawlins Field Office


Learning the Recreation Way

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:22pm

I had the opportunity to visit a new part of Wyoming last week. It is with great honor to present to you one the most cherished recreational spots in Lander.

johnny behind the rocks

Johnny Behind the Rocks (area view)

johnny behind the rocks

Johnny Behind the Rocks (trail view)

Johnny Behind the Rocks is a mountain bike trail system on BLM land that finally got well established about 3 years ago. Last week I had the pleasure of running on this trail with recreation planners around the state. This was after a full day of learning the hardships and struggles that come with being a recreation planner at the Recreation/NLCS workshop.

Recreation planners have several different jobs to take on including outreach, inventories, permits, as well as maintaining recreational sites just to name a few. It can be a heavy load for one person. That’s were my co-intern and I come in. We are supposed to help relieve some of the work load by doing some WSA (wilderness study area) assessments. Only thing holding us back is the weather.

Since I’ve been here (Rawlins, WY) it has snowed more than it has been sunny. Every weekend has not had even the slightest amount of sun. I dream of sun when I go to bed. I long for the days in the office to grow smaller just to be able to go into the field and learn new areas, wildlife, plants, and hike on some trails. The season is a slow start, but my hopes run high that the weather will give us a break and we can go out, show our potential and make an impression on the BLM we work for.

Sunny days

Hoping for sunny days

BLM (Rawlins Field Office)

A Break in the Clouds: Striding the North Coast

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 12:05pm

A month gone — and I am gratefully sunburned and flower saturated, as any naturalist living another unfolding California Spring hopes to be! My internship, at the BLM Field Office in Arcata, CA is off to a diverse and rolling start! The rain fell strong and the sun shone bright during these past weeks, taking me from the coast to the upland oak woodlands — from North Spit to South Spit, around Humboldt Bay and back again!

As I outlined in my last blog post, a recurrent and rather large project we have going here is vegetation monitoring, at five different sites across BLM properties on dune habitats in Humboldt County. I have completed 12/14 30.5-meter transects, each with approximately 200 individual quadrats aligned along 20 benchmarks. Within each quadrat, I quantify the amount of vegetation, identify and record the occurrence of every species, and count the number of Layia carnosa, a federally endangered annual dune plant. This week I will finish dune monitoring!

This all said, one of the most exciting logistical things about my position (many reading this know how and what truly excites me — those living/flying/blooming multitudes!) has been the diversity of my work. A whirling selection to prove it:

I have visited many of the prominent Arcata BLM lands. This is a remarkable task because one unique aspect of the BLM in Humboldt County as compared to other BLM offices in the nation is that our office has very few large tracts of land, and hundreds of smaller parcels. In these visits I am swept by the magic of blooming coastal dunes, struck by sun shining on wide rivers, listening for sparrow songs or watching the Norther Harrier glide low, pulling non-native pines high above the roiling northern oceans on coastal prairie, or lost in a wind-waving sea of European beach grass!

I am working on a project to teach 7th graders from Freshwater Charter School about the epic adaptations of the dune-forest plants, while they film me and create public service announcements on Ipads! I had my first scoping meeting at the site with local filmmaker Barbara Domanchuk and in the next month will lead the field trip and make a classroom visit! Gulp!

I also had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Interpretation Regional Conference! This weekend I will help lead two field trips for the Arcata’s Godwit Days Birding Festival!

The next large project at the office is our contribution to Seeds of Success, a national native wild seed collection program. Our office intends to contribute collections from 7-9 species, which is quite involved! First, we scout out locations and possible target species and in my office, where the program has been running for several years, it takes some creativity and work to keep it fresh! For each species, we collect, press, mount and accession 2-3 voucher specimens in Spring. In summer, we generally begin collecting seed, making sure to collect AT LEAST 10,000-20,000 seeds from 50 or more individuals. In Fall, we groom the data collection and send our seed collections to be processed and cleaned in Bend, Oregon. For now, I am happily emulating Willis Lynn Jepson and easily fantasizing that I am an important rare plant explorer! Too much fun!

Throughout all of this, the plants have led the way, and I have expanded my botanical knowledge widely — I won’t bore you with the big list of new plants I have seen recently, but see below for several lovely pictures of my favorite recent sightings. I am also adding several of my new sightings to: my inaturalist account!. This is the gracious and heartful ground of our naturalist path, the pure enchantment of coming to know parts of our world, beautiful parts, that we never knew were in existence prior to that moment of revelatory discovery.

Beyond the work frame, I have been spending every possible moment in the field, exploring and delighting on a fresh and personally unexplored region of California. I made a quick backpacking trip to the King Range, remembering the value of even the shortest backpacking trips and delighting in the thickest Iris douglasiana blooms I have ever seen. The most notable creature was a moth…a very, very notable moth, Saturnia mendocino, (get the close up) which I took a very sloppy and overly excited photo of:

Saturnia mendocino -- note that it had landed (incredibly breifly, let me assure you) on a burned and recently resprouting Manzanita burl.

Saturnia mendocino — note that it had landed (incredibly briefly, let me assure you) on a burned and recently re-sprouting Manzanita burl.

This moth, part of the impressive silk moth family, is an elusive creature, flies in the day on the edge of chaparral and madrone/mixed forests. Some professional lepidopterists in California have never even seen it! In addition this this little trek, I also made my way north to see the serpentine bogs home to the California Pitcherplant, Darlingtonia californica! What a world!

That’s all for now! Enjoy every second of Spring from where ever you are reading this from!

image1 (1)

Dune monitoring, Mattole Beach, Humboldt County, CA.

image2 (1)

My first Calochortus of Spring! Calochortus tolmiei.


Calypso bulbosa!


Freaking out about my flower find


Erythronium oregonum


One of our field sites in classic form — South Spit, Humboldt Bay.


A field site, Ma-le’l Dunes, another wonderful day at the office!








Kaleb A. Goff

Arcata, CA BLM Field Office


First collection – blues and snafus

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:59am

The last two days were a double-feature in the John Day Fossil Beds. First, it was finally time for our first SOS collection of the year! We set off to collect Lithophragma glabrum (bulbous woodland star), a little annual that had shot from flower to seed with the help of two hot weeks. Secondly, we were to pull 3-7 ft tall sweet clover carcasses (Melilotus I think officinalis) from a BLM enclosure surrounding a Prineville district sensitive species (Thelypodium eucosmum; not pictured here as they weren’t yet in flower, but imagine little basal leaves with a tint of red down their midribs in the Brassicaceae family).


The view from our L. glabrum site.

20160421_0920452I knew coming in that our L. glabrum site was also populated by L. parviflora (smallflower woodland star), but I was pretty confident about telling them apart – the bulbous woodland star, after all, has bulbs stuffed into the nooks of its inflated petioles and just below the flowers (pictured to the left). I also remembered that our site, when we made our pre-collection visit two weeks ago, was by far more populated by L. glabrum. So come collection day, when I looked at little stems that had blown petioles that looked large enough to have once held little bulbets, I thought winner winner chicken dinner. They probably had just fallen off, my addled field-brain rationalized. But then I came across many, many fried plants that were all stalk and bulbs and realized that L. glabrum loses its flowers and fruit capsules before it loses its bulbs… which meant the first 300 capsules I collected were irrevocably contaminated with L. parviflora. L. parviflora‘s life cycle was apparently just a week behind L. glabrum‘s, meaning it was now the more populous and visible of the two.

Oh well, 300 down. Starting again.

Just around then the blue-gray skies cracked open and let down sparse but fat rain drops, a mollifying gesture of amnesty for my trespasses. My SOS partner and I sat in the rain for a while, enjoying the reprieve from the heat while looking to the skies to see if the rain would let up. When it did, we got back to work. (A nice thing about the high desert is that things dry up almost alarmingly fast.)

On the second day of collection, after I had squatted up and down our north-facing hills to tease off the little capsules off these 5 inch stalks, my partner reminded me (with a cocked brow, or so I imagine, though she was across a hill so I can’t be sure) that our mentor had told us that we could pull the entire plant since they were annuals and the Bend Seed Extractory would do the rest. I vaguely, vaguely remembered the part of that AM conversation the day before but it hadn’t stuck. Whoops.

3570 capsules later between the two of us and we called it a collection. It feels great to finally have one of 40 down. My glutes are going to be rock hard after this summer.


Beautiful Lewisia


My SOS pard’na showing that clover the business.

– Vi Nguyen, Prineville BLM

Treasure Hunts and Plant Safaris

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:49am
Early morning sun illuminating the Eastern Sierra Nevadas

Early morning sun illuminating the Eastern Sierra Nevadas

Nearly a month and a half into my internship at the Ridgecrest Field Office and I am beginning to settle in. I still marvel at the view of the Argus Range whenever I step out my front door and pause in admiration of the sun setting over eastern Sierra Nevada’s to the west. By no means has day to day life become ordinary – each day in the field has its own surprises. So far, we have suffered a flat tire at the hands of a rough route (nothing like that foreboding hissing sound of all the air leaving your tire at once) and made acquaintances on two occasions with desert tortoises bravely journeying across the perilous road. We also saw our first adorable wild burros and experienced a brief sprinkling of rain. I had previously written off rain as a myth belonging to distant, non-desert lands, but discovered that it does indeed rain here!

A desert tortoise poses with my "tortoise awareness" sticker.

A desert tortoise poses with my “tortoise awareness” sticker.

Our seed collections are up and running, as we have completed two collections and are working on the third. Our first collection was of Plantago ovata. At first glance, desert indianwheat reminds me of its rather weedy plantain relatives abundant in un-mowed Midwestern lawns. Looking more closely reveals delicate and nearly translucent flowers set against deep purple seed cases, actually quite beautiful! This observation led me to wonder how often I have overlooked simple beauty, even in urban settings. The seeds themselves are tiny and the collection took several days to complete. Our second collection was of Descurainia pinnata, a tansy mustard with the habit of growing around the base of large shrubs, particularly Lycium cooperi, a very thorny fellow. Our latest collection endeavor has been Stipa hymenoides, an interesting plant historically because the Indian rice grass was a main food staple for indigenous tribes living in the area.

Plantago ovata

Plantago ovata, Desert Indianwheat

In addition to seed collections, we have also been conducting rare plant species monitoring. This involves visiting locations of known rare plant populations and recording damage or threats to its habitat. Our first plant safari, as we have deemed them, had us on the hunt for a tiny flower endemic to Kelso Valley in the Bright Star Wilderness of the Eastern Sierra Nevada’s. There are only nine known populations of the Kelso Valley Monkey Flower (Mimulus shevoccki), all in and around Kelso Valley. The flower itself is miniscule, often less than an inch tall, and proved challenging to find. Our first day, we spent several hours searching unsuccessfully. Just as we were about to try another site, we finally found the population. As I approached the population, at first I saw just one, then two, then they seemed to materialize out of nowhere in front of me. It was a fulfilling end to our day!

Mimulus shevoccki, the elusive Kelso Valley Monkey Flower

Mimulus shevocckii, the elusive Kelso Valley Monkey Flower

We also surveyed for Phacelia nashiana, a brilliant blue phacelia. Charlotte’s phacelia certainly has a knack for finding hard to reach places. Its preferred habit is impossibly course granite soil on rocky outcroppings, often near the top of steep slopes. Thus our search in each valley began with looking up and locating the nearest high rocky outcropping. Unfortunately, we were monitoring at the end of its bloom period. Summer is rushing in quickly here and the landscape has already begun to turn crispy and brown. After scaling several phacelia-less, dried-up slopes, we came upon a slope alive with flowers. The geography of the slope had kept it shaded from the relentless sun and it was as though we stepped back in time to the height of spring. Sure enough, over two hundred Charlotte’s phacelia were in full bloom at the top!

Phacelia nashiana, Charlotte's phacelia

Phacelia nashiana, Charlotte’s Phacelia

Sometime finding these plant populations is a bit like going on a treasure hunt. We head off into an unfamiliar maze of roads and routes armed with a GPS “X” marking the spot where the population was previously recorded. A successful search yields a view of a rare species or a seed collection, treasures invaluable to plant conservation and research.

E. O’Connell

Ridgecrest BLM Office

Bottomlands and bluffs on the Potomac

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:46am

I’ve almost completed the first week of my internship with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  As a botany intern I am responsible for updating plant records for all the rare and threatened flora within the parks borders.  The park runs approximately 130 miles along a narrow corridor from the mountains of western Maryland to Washington, D.C.  I’ve spent most of my time here so far getting acquainted with the rich cultural history of the canal and the friendly staff at the park.  I’m immersing myself in the many publications on the natural resources of the area that sits on four massive shelves at the park headquarters.  In particular one publication has caught my fancy and I can’t put it down.  Some of the taxonomic names are out of date but the information it holds on the specialized habitats of the state and the plants within them is invaluable.  Shale barrens and limestone bluffs are especially interesting because this is where many of the plants I’m tasked with surveying for are located.


The first few days here involved various orientation tasks and I’ve only been in the field for a couple hours.  However, in that short time I got to see an impressive display of spring ephemerals and two state listed plants.


Delphinium tricorne, Dwarf Larkspur


Dodecatheon meadia, Shooting Star


I look forward to getting into the field more and more in the coming weeks.  The towpath that runs alongside the entirety of the canal offers great access to the entire park.


Moving forward I plan to schedule my surveying with the goal of focusing on the plants that are flowering currently or will be soon.  I also am tasked with getting the parks “Weed Warrior” program up and running. While the canal has its share of rarities and beautiful habitat, it also faces challenges including a fairly healthy crop of invasive plant species.

“Death is one thing…  an end to birth is something else…”

-M.E. Soule and B.A. Wilcox

Protecting rare and threatened plants has been a passion of mine for a while but the quotation above made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  After reading it I felt a renewed sense of urgency for the protection of our nations endangered species. It feels good to be in a position to make a positive contribution towards that end.


Coleman Minney
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Hagerstown, Maryland



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