Another week of my internship meant another listed plant species to familiarize myself with. This time I was looking for Zuni Fleabane, a rhizomatous, wind-pollinated plant that likes steep hillsides at high elevation. The habitat requirements tend to overlap with pinyon-juniper forests, and while the terrain was a bit more rugged here than in my previous excursions, the shade provided by the trees was a welcome change of pace from the open desert landscapes I’ve become used to.
The direction and schedule of my internship is highly dictated by the timelines of the plants from which I’m collecting. For leisure, I’m reading a book about a family living solely off the food they grow for a year, and much of the story revolves around waiting on crops to be ready. I can’t help but appreciate the serendipity of connecting my personal experiences with the ones I’m reading about, as in both cases, nature refuses to be rushed by human timetables.
Almost as a reward for patiently awaiting the readiness of Zuni Fleabane’s seeds, I got to see some plants still in their flowering stage, which is the best stage, in my opinion. The very nature of seed collection usually means observing plants as a different and ostensibly less glamorous version of the beautiful, flower-speckled photos one sees on Google Images. But this time, I was greeted by tiny, daisy-like flowers scattered throughout the population. Of course, this is not to diminish the spectacular puffs of seeds protruding from many of the plants or the importance they have on seed conservation projects such as this one.
A few bumps were hit on the way in the name of sandy roads that can swallow a truck’s tires and scattered thunderstorms, but I bought a tow strap and a poncho and hoped for the best as I continued on. Sometimes all you can do is adapt. And if these plants can adapt to a changing climate, I can certainly try to do the same.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)
Location: Southwest Regional Office