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The Search for Dwarf Woolly-heads

Psilocarphus brevissimus var. brevissimus, or the Dwarf Woolly-heads, to me resembles a fuzzy little head of cabbage or cauliflower. About the size of a penny or less. All I can say is that after days of searching, finally seeing this miniscule fella was a different kind of exhilaration.

The road to that moment was paved with obstacles. From evasive driving caused by gophers that seem to be magnetically drawn towards your tires, to more skillful driving caused by slipping and slopping down the rain-soaked grids, resulting in all the windows being showered in mud and water. Luckily, we were able to avoid the gophers and make through the mud, at which point the real journey would begin. Hours and hours of slow pacing with head bent, looking for Dwarf Woolly-heads.

You really have to be patient when looking for plants, and as a typical young adult struggling with being patient it has been excellent practice. It’s led me to appreciate the small details of each day and the landscape around me that make being a part of the rare plant search crew so rewarding. The unoccupied houses of old alongside highway 13, slowly being reabsorbed into the prairie, serving as reminders of the lives that have been and are being lived in southern Saskatchewan. A nest of baby horned larks packed tight, huddled together like a tennis ball of fluff and beaks. A lonely cow we had met that spent the recent winter alone, which we were able to witness being reunited with its herd. 

Eventually, the weather turned harsh and the wind and rain chilled my partner and I to the bone. Soggy and disappointed from the lack of Dwarf Woolly-heads sightings, we decided to finish the area we were searching and then call it a day. Of course, this would be the place and time where we actually found the plant we had been searching for! Although that meant we had to spend a lot longer stewing in wet boots and having the rain beat against our cheeks, we now had the warm blood of the season’s first major find pumping through us. And, as it turns out, the following day we found many more! 

The wind subsided, allowing me to finally stop standing at a 45 degree angle again, and the clouds parted. I celebrated the trip's success by taking in the gorgeous sunset and playing my accordion on the railroad tracks. Thanks to Consul, Saskatchewan for letting us visit!


Top:Thomas and Jesse celebratory selfie after finding their first DWH, bottom left: the first DWH of the season, very small and very soggy but they found one!, bottom right: Jesse playing his accordion. All photo credits: T. Dubbin-McCrea


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