Archives for 2022

Aug
16
The summer is almost over for the Rare Plant Rescue Search Crew

For the rare plant search crew the summer is already almost over, seemingly as fast as it had begun. Our latest outing had us in the Frenchman River Valley on the trail of Tiny Cryptantha (Cryptantha minima), a small, hairy feature on the steep and crumbling hills that in the heat would likely be no more than a grey, heat-desiccated husk only identifiable by its miniscule nutlets. As you can imagine this had us hunkering down whenever we found a dry hairy plant and intensely trying to remove its nutlets for inspection without them being taken away by the wind. In the end we did find some relatives of Tiny Cryptantha and some other rare plants, but ultimately the remarkable beauty of the Frenchman River Valley was the most rewarding.

 

 

Photo: J. Patterson

 

Being so arid, cloudless and hot, it was hard for me to picture the insane storm of the mid-nineties that was described to us by a local landowner. Imagery of dark enveloping clouds, rain in sheets and a tornado that could twist steel pipes into a curly fry-looking objects. Part of me feels jealous of the stories, to see such a tremendous storm. However, the more reasonable part of me feels lucky we didn’t run into that kind of weather. In fact, even modest head-on winds were enough to whip a barrage of airborne grasshoppers at my face and that proved to be enough to frustrate me. Even if it was kind of funny as they bounced off my torso, sunglasses and teeth at high speed acceleration.

 

Up and down the hills we went, my feet bursting out in the first blisters I’ve gotten this summer, lucky that it took me this long. Every step was drawing us closer to the end of our plant searching journey in a bitter-sweet, ‘oh how time goes by so fast when you’re hiking around looking for plants’ kind of way. Some moments I greatly appreciated were hearing the eagles shriek above. What is a beautiful and unique sound to us must be the most terrifying imaginable to a gopher or vole. I also enjoyed coming across a full-body rattlesnake shed. An extra-long skin sleeping bag that looks like it must’ve felt so good to have emerged from, all intact in one piece. It made me wonder how good it would feel to come slipping out of all my dead skin at once. Lastly, I enjoyed encountering a real-life minotaur when leaving the valley at night. Illuminated in the darkness was a set of glowing eyes, and as our headlights drew closer the giant frame of a long horned bull emerged, imposing and mysterious in the pitch black. Turns out that coming from the city I may have an irrational fear of cattle that was only revealed to me when this giant bull surprised us on our nocturnal drive home.

 

South Saskatchewan is filled with so many gorgeous vistas, special plants, interesting creatures, and memorable moments that has made being a part of the rare plant search crew a real pleasure.

 

 

Jesse with transect pole. Photo: T. Dubbin-McCrea

 

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