July 1, 2011
By Sabrina Lawrence-Gomez
We had a visit from Sarah Ratay, the Senior Plant Ecologist for the Conservancy today. Since this is the first time the anyone has done major work in the Deer Valley area, the Conservancy wanted to get an idea of what plants exist in this territory. So, we are completing a plant species survey much like what we did in Descanso Canyon, Avalon, except this time we are creating an entire Herbarium collection for our trail. This will be a great opportunity for us to practice our plant species identification skills and learn even more about plant and Herbarium work.
The last time we visited Sarah she gave us a field plant press, a contraption with sheets of cardboard and blotting paper sandwiched between two wooden boards strapped held together by two belts. The idea is to collect plants including their roots and flowers, place them between sheets of newspaper, then between two pieces of cardboard, and stack them inside the press and squeeze the sides together using the belts to stabilize. The goal is to squeeze the water out of the plants and have it absorbed by the newspaper so they don’t rot, essentially preserving the plants in a dried form For plants that contain a lot of water, like invasive ice plant, we add blotting paper to the mix to help absorb the excess liquid.
We started the day at the bottom of the trail and worked our way up to the first control point, off-roading and scouting around for plants. While the others started searching for plants, I worked with Sarah in determining the plant community, slope and aspect, and tracking our GPS location. We then worked together to determine the plant species associated with the community. Alex took charge of labeling all of the newspapers with the collection name and sample number. As Dan, Miller, and Sarah came back with plants we placed them in the newspaper and recorded the number of samples and the species name. Sarah would help us identify each plant and I would attempt to write the Latin species name. I had such a difficult time spelling them! But Sarah knew each plant, its common and scientific name and all of the spellings. After we finished the first site, we continued past the toyon grove to the waterfall collecting plants and recording them. By the end of the day, we had collected 20 species!
We headed home with our full plant press with instructions to keep it in a cool dry place, away from food which could encourage bacterial growth. It was a really successful day and I can’t wait to see how our specimens turn out. More on plant collection next week…