From April to October, I and two other botanists, Daniel Bradley and Lysa DuCharme, traveled around the state on a seed-collecting mission. Armed with a list of over 100 native plant species and a well-worn road atlas, our goal was to search for large populations of these species, monitor their development throughout the summer and collect seeds when the time was ripe.
We were contributing to Seeds of Success (SOS), a national native seed collecting program led by the Bureau of Land Management. The 34+ million seeds collected over the course of the 2019 season will be cleaned and sorted at the U.S. Forest Service's Bend Seed Extractory in Bend, Oregon. Ultimately, they will be used for research, conservation and ecosystem restoration in support of the BLM's Native Plant Materials Development Program.
We traversed much of the 8.3 million acres of BLM land in Colorado and made collections across 10 western slope counties. Our travels extended from Walden to Cortez, bringing us to the wild horses of the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area, the lush orchards of Palisade and the red sandstone alcoves of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
We collected seeds from 16 native species, including the dust-sized seeds of basin big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata), the twirled pipe cleaner seeds of mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus) and the fluffy tufted seeds of Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides). Given the wet spring this year, many species around the state were abundant with flowers, which meant plenty of seeds to be collected during late summer and into the fall.
Denver Botanic Gardens will continue collecting seeds for the SOS program next summer, when a new trio of botanists will roam the state, searching for seeds.
This blog post was written by Audrey Dignan, seasonal botanist in the Research & Conservation Department.