June 29, 2016
NESD16, June 29
Joint Expedition to the Great Plains
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden & Chicago Botanic Garden
Our second full day of collecting began north of Custer, SD on a tip from a colleague who recently did some research in the area. The road, a busy gravel connector between various rural housing developments and the tourist town of 1,500 residents, proved a veritable cache of plants on our search list. The soils at various points glittered with fool’s gold, more than a false analogy for the treasures we found. Amazingly, many of the collections from the morning were made within a few hundred feet of the road, often in pine barrens atop granite cliffs. The diversity called for our attention. We collected Zigadenus elegans (mountain death camas—ominous common name for a very pretty plant), several grasses including native fescues (modeled by Kelly Norris), observed countless Penstemon glaber (sawsepal penstemon) in rich shades of cerulean blue and many Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum (wood lily). We ended the day with a full hike of Hell’s Canyon, home of the largest recorded wildlife in Black Hills history. In August, 2000, a wildlife raged for 16 days, burning the entire valley and almost 83,000 acres. The vegetation has since recovered revealing a post-fire ecology and remarkable species diversity both along the steep ridges and the valley they form. We hiked through half a dozen distinct environments on our 5-mile trek, ranging from lowland foothills to subalpine conditions with plants growing in rock crevices like Tetraneuris acaulis (stemless four-nerve daisy). Today was extremely productive and yielded many new potential accessions for the the collections at Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and Chicago Botanic Garden.