Symbols of resilience for a new year

If you’re looking for a symbol of resilience and survival for the new year – perhaps, even, a symbol of the ability to endure trial by fire with beauty and grace – consider Whited’s penstemon, pauper milk-vetch, yellow lady’s slipper or the dwarf evening-primrose.

Penstemon eriantherus var. whitedii
Rare Care
Whited’s penstemon (photo by Julie Sanderson)

During the 2016 monitoring season, several agency partners asked Rare Care to devote monitoring efforts to populations affected by 2014 and 2015 wildfires that burned approximately 1 1/2 million acres. US Bureau of Land Management Botanist Molly Boyter targeted six rare plant populations. Rare Care’s monitoring volunteers found no significant impact from the fires on Whited’s penstemon (Penstemon eriantherus var. whitedii) or pauper milk-vetch (Astragalus misellus var. pauper). But they could not relocate a population of Snake River cryptantha (Cryptantha spiculifera).

Astragalus misellus var. pauper
Rare Care
pauper milk-vetch (photo by Julia Bent)

On the Yakima Firing Range, volunteers monitored a Columbia milk-vetch (Astragalus columbianus) population affected by the 2014 Saddle Mountain Fire; they found just two plants in a sea of cheatgrass. Nearby on the Hanford Reach National Monument, Refuge Biologist Heidi Newsome’s requests centered around populations of dwarf evening-primrose (Eremothera pygmaea) and gray cryptantha (Cryptantha leucophaea) that burned in the 2015 Saddle Lake Fire. Although C. leucophaea could not be relocated, E. pygmaea populations appear to have survived the fire in good shape.

Cypripedium parviflorum
Rare Care
yellow lady’s slipper (photo by David Boose)

During Rare Care’s annual monitoring weekend campout, Forest Service Botanist Kathy Ahlenslager sought data from an area burned by the 2015 Renner Fire. Black snake-root (Sanicula marilandica) and yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) appear to be thriving, except in severely burned areas. However, the shallowly rooted kidney-leaf white violet (Viola renifolia) did not fare well.

Eremothera pygmaea
Rare Care
dwarf evening-primrose (photo by Markus Rook)

Rare Care will continue to monitor rare plants in recently burned and other areas in 2017. If you’d like to join this statewide effort, please submit a volunteer application by February 15. Rare Care will offer two rare plant monitoring trainings in 2017: February 25 in Seattle, and March 4 in the Tri-Cities.


Adapted from an article in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Rare Plant Press

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