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Jul
12
Voices from the Field July 12

Desirée here! I am very excited to be a part of the Nature Saskatchewan team this summer. It has been a great first couple months with the program and it is crazy how quickly the summer is flying by.

 

 

After spending the first couple weeks learning the ins and outs of plant identification and search and monitoring methods, I was eager to go on our first field work trip. Our first trip brought us out to the southwestern part of Saskatchewan looking for Slender Mouse-ear-cress (SMEC), a plant federally listed as threatened. Unfortunately, the infamous SMEC could not be found. However, what I did find was a great sense of appreciation for Saskatchewan native prairie. There is something magical about seeing all the different kinds of plants that the prairie encompasses, from two-grooved milk vetch to prairie cacti, we really do have it all.

Our second excursion brought us on the hunt for the Small White Lady’s-slipper in the southeastern part of Saskatchewan. What I find interesting about this orchid is that its cousin, the Yellow Lady’s-slipper, can be found in the marsh-like fens of Saskatchewan, and close-by in Manitoba. So it is strange that this plant has not been found in over 100 years in Saskatchewan! Another exciting aspect of this trip was the habitat that we were lucky to explore. Small White Lady’s-slipper likes habitat that allows for a lot of moisture. This had us walking in floating fens that bounced with every step we took. Although we did not find any Small White Lady’s-slipper, we spotted several other species at risk, including Bobolinks and Northern Leopard frogs!

On our most recent journey out of town, we found ourselves out on the sandy banks of the South Saskatchewan River looking for Small-flowered Sand-verbena. Small-flowered Sand-verbena is part of the 4-o’clock family, named because its flowers open in the afternoon. What makes the search for this plant so exciting is that it is federally listed as endangered, meaning it is one of the rarest of our target species this summer. After acknowledging this fact, and after having no luck with SMEC or Small White Lady’s-slipper, it was easy to feel doubtful about whether or not we would find any occurrences of Small-flowered Sand-verbena. However, as we set out with our GPS’ to monitor our first occurrence we managed to stumble upon (quite literally) the small, white flowered plant! The plant appeared to be in good health and we found others nearby as the plant likes to grow in patches.

 Later in the week our sunny day streak came to an end and we were out monitoring in the rain! As we were monitoring our last occurrence for the day, we came across our biggest patch of Sand-Verbena yet. Stretching down the shore for approximately 50m, were over 800 Small-flowered Sand-verbena plants! Along with Sand-verbena we also found occurrences of Small Lupine and another one of our target species this summer, Smooth Goosefoot!

This week’s monitoring highlighted that although a species may be at risk, if given the proper habitat it can be locally abundant. Therefore, this type of conservation work is important because some plants are at risk simply because no one knows what they look like or where to find them. The more land that is searched, the more plants we are likely to find! With higher population numbers and distributions hopefully certain plant species can be “down-listed” to a lesser risk category in the future.

I am looking forward to what the rest of the summer in Saskatchewan native prairie has to bring, and the exciting sights that come with it. The next couple months we will be monitoring and searching for occurrences of Tiny Cryptantha, Smooth Goosefoot, Hairy Prairie-clover and Buffalograss. Wish us luck!

 

Pincushion Cactus

 

 

Small-Flowered Sand-Verbena

 

 

The RPR Summer Crew jumping for joy

 

 

Two-Grooved Milk Vetch

 

 

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