Saturday, June 18, 2016

Bike ride botanizing

I am on my way to go identify plants at some of our research sites around Crested Butte, but I thought I would put up a few photos. The wildflowers change quickly around here, and recently the Wyethia arizonica (mule ears) and Lupinus argenteus (silvery lupine) have started flowering along the roadside. This is a beautiful place to be!

Spotting Lupinus argenteus on my bike ride 
Beautiful hillside in bloom

Thursday, June 9, 2016

First weeks in Colorado

I arrived at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, or RMBL, in Gothic, Colorado exactly two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve settled into my cozy cabin for the summer, started fieldwork, and seen the end of the snowfall and the start of the spring bloom.

One of the most interesting species I’ve encountered is one that the casual wildflower observer may easily miss. Equisetum arvense, or field horsetail, is one species in a long lineage dating back approximately 370 million years. Long before flowering plants appeared, horsetails were a diverse and dominant component of Carboniferous forests. Some species, such as those in the genus Calamites, grew as tall as trees. Today, however, that is hard to imagine as there are only 20, mostly small species of horsetails remaining throughout the world.

One characteristic that sets horsetails apart from flowering plants is that they do not reproduce by seeds, but instead produce spores. E. arvense produces spores on the cone-like strobilus pictured below. Like some flowering plants, they can also reproduce asexually by sprouting clones from horizontal, underground stems known as rhizomes.

Millions of years ago, horsetails preferred to grow in moist habitats along lakes or rivers. Not much has changed, as I found this E. arvense growing in a marshy area by the East River. I often wish that I could go back in time and walk through ancient forests and landscapes, and photographing this plant gave me a small peak into the past.

Equisetum arvense
Strobilus of Equisetum arvense

One of the more striking plants blooming this time of year is Erythronium grandiflorum, or Glacier lily, which grows in abundance around Gothic. They are completely edible, though I have yet to taste one! If you would like to see some other plants I’ve spotted recently, check out my flora!

Erythronium grandiflorum
Darrow, K. (2006). Wild about Wildflowers: Extreme Botanizing in Crested Butte, Wildflower Capital of Colorado. Glendale, AZ: WildKat Publishing Co.

Speer, B.R. (1997). Introduction to the Sphenophyta. Retrieved from:

Willis, K.J. and J.C. McElwain. (2014). The Evolution of Plants. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.