Notes from the Field

A man kneeling in an alpine fellfield
Brenda Cunningham
Rare Plant Monitor, Tim Manns, in the preferred alpine habitat of snow cinquefoil, Potentilla nivea.

Despite unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rare Plant Care and Conservation program’s (Rare Care) volunteers successfully completed another busy field season of monitoring rare plant populations all across Washington State. The start of field work was delayed by the closure of most public lands, which gave us time to develop a Health and Safety plan for staff and volunteers. Our volunteers have been superb as they adapted to the new protocols and made the most of their time!

Blue flowers in a field
Brenda Cunningham
Glaucous gentian, Gentiana glauca, in an alpine meadow.

Some of the first public lands to allow volunteers were the Bureau of Land Management and Little Pend Oreille NWR. This put eastside monitors Carol Mack (pictured below), John Stuart, and Bill Fouts back to work monitoring four populations: Washington polemonium (Polemonium pectinatum), northern blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium septentrionale), and two sites of Spalding’s catchfly (Silene spaldingii). Not all populations were relocated, but in mid-June Mack and Stuart were rewarded with a field of dainty lavender blooms of Washington polemonium.After naming snow cinquefoil (Potentilla nivea) a focus species in 2019, volunteers continued revisiting historic locations this year. Brenda Cunningham, Tim Manns, Samuel Lee, Chelsea Gudgeon, and Kathleen Learned explored the Okanogan highlands, visiting four sites between them and relocating three populations. Their efforts are helping us better understand the current population trends of this species.

Yellow flowers blooming against a lichen covered rock
Samuel Lee
Snow cinquefoil, Potentilla nivea.

Snow cinquefoil, Potentilla nivea, a species Rare Care is focusing it’s efforts on in order to update old sighting records.High in the alpine scree and rocky outcrops of Mt Baker-Snoqualmie NF two seed collections were made by Sam Wershow: twin sisters sandwort (Sabulina sororia) and glaucous gentian (Gentiana glauca). Cunningham and Manns also found themselves well above the clouds in the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF to collect seeds of pygmy saxifrage (Saxifraga hyperborea). All three of these species are new to the Miller Seed Vault!

These is just a snapshot of the work our dedicated volunteers achieved this summer; demonstrating their resiliency and commitment to plant conservation. We are forever grateful for them!

Woman sitting in a field of lavendar flowers and sagebrush
John Stuart
Rare Plant Monitor, Carol Mack, in a field of blooming Washington polemonium, Polemonium pectinatum.