Archives for 2019

Jun
27
Hello from the Rare Plant Rescue field crew!

Hello from the Rare Plant Rescue field crew! We have been out in the field for nearly a month, and are bursting with stories to share.

After such a long, cold winter, we couldn’t wait to jump in with both feet and hit the road towards the Southwest, in search of our first target plant of the season. Slender Mouse-eared Cress is classified as threatened, and finds its home in stabilized sand dunes. This unique terrain is characterized by creeping juniper (ground cedar) covering the sandy hills, with sagebrush growing in the well-drained areas and willows growing around the spring wetlands. All around us, yellow and purple flowers dotted the ground – yellow meadow violets, golden bean, locoweeds, saline shooting stars, and purple pea flowers. On day two of our search we thought we hit a stroke of good luck – a slighting of Slender mouse-eared cress! We cheered into the wind, but alas, our celebration was short lived. Further search proved that this was just a very deceiving lookalike. We continued to be plagued by lookalikes for the rest of the week, but the visits with our dedicated land stewards kept our spirits up. At the end of our trip, the manager from our motel in Burstall pointed out a good luck sign to us. Since then, many things have crossed our path that we’ve attributed to this good luck omen.

On our next trip, we welcomed the change of scenery as we drove towards the banks of the South Saskatchewan river. With the arrival of June comes a time of higher visibility for the endangered Small-flowered Sand-verbena, so we searched high and low on loose sandy slopes for their white flower clusters and large orange seeds. Once again we were thwarted by lookalikes galore! We did, however, spot a different rare plant; Small Lupine, classified as uncommon in Saskatchewan. These blue-flowered, silvery-haired pea plants are often found in areas where other rare plants grow, making them exciting to come across as we search.

The river proved to be full of entertainment; our days were filled with sights of birds of prey soaring the skies, washed up bone discoveries, and playful river critters frolicking through the water currents. It’s hard to decide what was more comical – when we startled a beaver at the top of an eroded bank and it ran, tripped, fell, plopped, and rolled into the water to get away from us; or the unceasing efforts of killdeer parents to lure us away from their tiny scampering chicks by throwing themselves on the ground in front of us and performing their dramatic ‘broken wing’ act. We also had many moments of surprise and wonder – nearly stepping on a young rattlesnake that was stretched out on our path, spying on a Ferruginous Hawk (threatened and a target species of our Stewards of Saskatchewan Banner program) and watching it hover-hunt and dive from an impossibly high distance to catch a meal.

 

Photo credit: Levi Boutin

 

Everywhere we have been, the ground looks parched from the drought. As hard as these times are to get through, it is a reminder that our native plants are well-equipped with adaptations for these conditions. We kept admiring sunny cactus flowers, bright pink rose blossoms and the cheery patches of scarlet mallow along the ground.

Along the way, we’ve gotten to stay in some of the most welcoming and interesting towns and campgrounds. Almost every night, Common Nighthawks (threatened and another target species of our Stewards of Saskatchewan Banner program) sang us to sleep with their short nasally calls as they soared overheads catching bugs. So far though, our favourite wildlife encounter has been our surprising neighbour - a long-eared owlet trying out its wings and hopping from tree branch to tree branch right next to our campsite. Once he caught site of us, he stuck around and watched us cook supper for 3 nights and posed for countless photos.

 

Photo credit: Levi Boutin

 

We are happy to head home for a few days to rest our sore feet and let some sunburns fade, but we can’t wait to get back out. There is so much diversity in our corner of the world, and we can’t wait to take it all in.

 

By: Levi Boutin

 

Photo credit: Natanis Kuster

 

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