In this issue...
Land Swaps: A Closer Look, Bertie Weddell
Converting Turfgrass to Native Vegetation
in Moscow, John Byrne
Twenty Years after the Revolution: A
Glimpse at Iran, Valerie Geertson
Corydalis caseanaDont Look Too
Closely, Sarah Walker
Book Review--Flora of Steens
Mountain, Review by Carol
White Pine Chapter
News and Notes
Columbia Basin shrub
steppe habitat lost to fire
Biological control agent attacks native thistles
Ecologists taken by surprise at Mt. St.
Mr. Yuk Take Note--notes on the Euphorbiaceae
Traveling exhibits available!
Associate editors needed. Working on
the Sage Notes editorial board is a wonderful opportunity to learn more
about native plant conservation and newsletter production. The board works as a team to
plan, solicit articles, proofread, and produce the newsletter. Members also contribute
articles whenever possible. Over the years Sage Notes has come out about four times
a year, sometimes along with Sage Briefs, a shorter newsletter about upcoming field
trips or other alerts. This year we have started posting on the INPS website
If you know of an INPS member who would be interested in working on Sage Notes,
please send suggestions to Editor Sarah Walker (address on back page).
A while back (its longer than we care to admit, the spring issue of 1999), we
promised readers an article on land swaps. Well, the fact that the General Accounting
Office recently released a highly critical assessment of Forest Service and BLM land
exchanges makes this a good time to deliver the promised article. Here it is.
Land Swaps: A Closer Look
Bertie Weddell, White Pine Chapter
In the best of all possible worlds, society
would determine which lands and waters should be managed by public land management
agencies and which should be managed privately. This would result in efficient and
effective management of natural resources and at the same time would protect biological
diversity. Areas that contained significant biological resources would be managed by
public agencies dedicated to protecting those resources, while degraded areas would be
devoted to economic activities. Management agencies would control large blocks of land,
rather than dispersed fragments, so that impacts from resource extraction and development
could be minimized.
If mistakes were made in assigning lands to these categories, the system would be
fine-tuned. Public lands with relatively little biological importance would be transferred
to private ownership, and biologically significant private lands would be transferred to
public ownership. One way to do this would be through trades exchanging land in the first
category for land in the second category. Land swaps could meet the needs of agencies that
have limited funds for purchasing land or that are dealing with landowners who didnt
want to sell their land outright.
This is the rationale behind land exchanges. There is certainly no doubt that existing
patterns of land ownership are flawed. Historically, lands were allocated to federal
agencies for a variety of reasons. Economics and politics were high on the list of
considerations; biological uniqueness and integrity were not. To make matters worse, in
the 1860s Congress gave every other square mile of land within the right-of-way to the
Northern Pacific Railroad, to encourage westward development. This created a fragmented
checkerboard of ownerships that has plagued management efforts ever since.
Although the idea underlying land exchanges seems logical, the process of trading
public land for private creates a situation that is vulnerable to abuse. Any time private
parties gain control of publicly-owned resources, the public stands to lose unless
rigorous safeguards are in place to protect its interests. There are two potential
problems here: what is traded and for how much. If inappropriate decisions are made about
what is traded, the public loses valuable resources. If inappropriate decisions are made
about the value of the traded resources, the public loses money.
Critics have long charged that both kinds of abuses are rampant and that land exchanges
give away land to special interests and evade environmental laws. Furthermore, because
appraisals remain secret until after an exchange is completed, agency personnel can be
pressured by powerful constituents to make deals that serve special interests rather than
In 1998 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a series of articles detailing these
criticisms, and California Democratic Representative George Miller asked the General
Accounting Office (GAO) to review the land exchange programs of the Bureau of Land
Management and the Forest Service. Accordingly, the GAO audited the agencies land
exchanges since 1989. (Congress passed legislation facilitating exchanges in 1988.)
Their recently released report is very critical of existing practices, for both of the
reasons mentioned above: the highly questionable public benefits of many trades, and the
egregious losses to taxpayers that result from undervaluation of public land and
overvaluation of private land. (See accompanying box.)
Both the Forest Service and the BLM argue that land exchanges are an important tool
allowing them to augment habitat for sensitive species and habitats and to consolidate
their holdings by eliminating private inholdings. Both agencies have attempted to
institute some reforms. But the GAO concludes that the reforms do not go far enough, and
that land exchanges are so fraught with problems that they may not be fixable. It suggests
that straightforward land purchases are a far better way of accomplishing agency
Janine Blaeloch, director of the Western Land Exchange Project, agrees that land
purchases are preferable to land exchanges. She points out, however, that federal agencies
often rely on land swaps because they lack the funds necessary to buy lands outright.
Although "there are substantial funds earmarked for land acquisition through the Land
and Water Conservation Fund, . . . Congress appropriates those funds annually and most of
that money is directed toward unrelated programs and congressional pork."
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer July 25, 2000). (More information about the Western
Land Exchange Project can be obtained from http://www.westlx.org/.)
As is so often the case, when we look at one problem we find a more fundamental problem
behind it. In this case, agencies reliance on land exchanges stems from
Congress unwillingness to earmark Land and Water Conservation Funds for the purpose
for which they were intended.
The "Results in Brief" section of the GAOs
report is quoted in its entirety below. The full report is available at
United States General Accounting Office, June 2000. BLM and the Forest Service:
Land Exchanges Need to Reflect Appropriate Value and Serve the Public Interest, Report to
the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Resources, House of Representatives
Results in Brief
The [Forest] Service and the Bureau [of Land Management] used land exchanges to acquire
about 1,500 total square miles of land during fiscal years 1989 through 1999. The Service
completed about 1,265 exchanges during this period, which were valued at over $1 billion.
Through these exchanges, the Service acquired a net total of about 950 square miles and
generally acquired land that had lower per-acre values than the land it conveyed. The
Bureau does not centrally track the number of exchanges it completes or their total dollar
value; instead, the agency tracks transactionstwo or more of which can occur in each
exchange. The Bureau completed about 2,600 transactions in fiscal years 1989 through 1999,
which resulted in the Bureaus acquiring a net total of about 550 square miles.
The agencies did not ensure that the land being exchanged was appropriately valued or
that exchanges served the public interest or met certain other exchange requirements. We
found numerous problems with the exchanges we examined. In particular:
The agencies have given more than fair market value for nonfederal land they
acquired and accepted less than fair market value for federal land they conveyed because
the appraisals used to estimate the lands values did not always meet federal
The agencies did not follow their requirements that help show that the public
benefits of acquiring the nonfederal land in an exchange matched or exceeded the public
benefits of retaining the federal land, raising doubts about whether these exchanges
served the public interest. Furthermore, the Bureau did not always follow its regulations
in preparing exchange initiation agreements.
The Bureauunder the umbrella of its land exchange authoritysold
federal land, deposited the sales proceeds into interest-bearing escrow accounts, and used
these funds to acquire nonfederal land (or arranged with others to do so). Current law
does not authorize the Bureau to retain or use proceeds from selling federal land; it
instead requires the Bureau to deposit sale proceeds into the Treasury and to use
appropriations to acquire nonfederal land. In using these funds and the interest earned on
them to purchase land, the Bureau augmented its appropriations. The Bureau also did not
comply with its sale authority when it sold the land, and none of the funds retained in
escrow accounts or used in this manner were tracked in the Bureaus financial
Both agencies recently increased their management oversight of exchanges by (1)
creating review teams composed of headquarters and field staff to examine proposed
exchanges that are valued at $500,000 or more and are considered to be controversial; (2)
revising their policies and procedures that address exchanges; and (3) creating additional
training for agency personnel involved in land exchanges. These efforts, if properly
implemented, should improve how these programs are conducted. However, they do not address
all land exchangesincluding those valued at less than $500,000, those not identified
as being controversial, and those considered to be too close to completion to be stopped
or altered. In addition, the Bureaus review team has not addressed the unauthorized
selling and buying of land under its exchange program or the financial management of these
funds. Furthermore, handbook revisions and enhanced training can clarify the
agencies land exchange policies and procedures, but they do not ensure that those
policies or procedures are appropriate or followed.
At least some of the agencies continuing problems may reflect inherent underlying
difficulties associated with exchanging land compared with the more common buying and
selling of land for cash. In land exchanges, a landowner must first find another landowner
who is willing to trade, who owns a desirable parcel of land that can be valued at about
the same amount as his/her parcel, and who wants to acquire the parcel being offered. More
commonly, both landowners would simply sell the parcels they no longer want and use the
cash to buy other parcels that they prefer. In this way, the value of both parcels is more
easily established when they are sold in a competitive market, both parties have more
flexibility in meeting their needs, and there is no requirement to equalize the values of
the parcels. Difficulties in land exchanges are exacerbated when the properties are
difficult to valuefor example, because they have characteristics that make them
unique or because the real-estate market is rapidly developingas was the case in
several exchanges we reviewed. Both agencies want to retain land exchanges as a means to
acquire land, but in most circumstances, cash-based transactions would be simpler and less
In view of the many problems in both agencies land exchange programs and given
the fundamental difficulties that underlie land exchanges when compared with cash-based
transactions, we believe that the Congress may wish to consider directing the Service and
the Bureau to discontinue their land exchange programs. Until such a fundamental action is
taken and while the agencies continue to operate land exchange programs, we recommend that
both agencies review and approve all proposed exchanges to ensure that they meet key
statutory and regulatory requirements for land exchanges; that is, that they are
appropriately valued, serve the public interest well, and meet other exchange
requirements. We also recommend that the Bureau immediately discontinue selling and buying
land under its land exchange programa practice that is not authorized under current
lawand conduct an audit of financial records associated with these sales and
In their comments on a draft of this report, both agencies concurred with the
recommendations that were addressed to them and have taken steps to respond to them.
However, both agencies disagreed with our suggestion for congressional consideration,
believing that land exchanges are an essential and irreplaceable tool for adjusting
federal land ownership. We believe that the agencies program improvements cannot
address the inherent difficulties associated with land-for-land exchanges and that the
agencies desire to continue exchanges is more than offset by their programs
continuing problems and exchanges fundamental inefficiencies. We continue to believe
that the Congress should consider directing the agencies to discontinue their land
exchange programs because of the many problems identified and their inherent difficulties.
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Converting Turfgrass to Native
Vegetation in Moscow
John Byrne, Forester, Rocky Mountain Research
Station, USDA Forest Service, Moscow
The landscaping around the Moscow Forestry
Sciences Laboratory (of the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station)
isnt that different from most commercial city properties. Except for a few native
plants in beds near the front of the building (initiated by Ray Boyd, a retired employee
who is active in the White Pine Chapter), the lot is dominated by wide expanses of
turfgrass with occasional trees, many of which are not nativesuch as Scotch pine (Pinus
sylvestris) and crab apple (Malus spp.). The grass is watered intensively with
a sprinkler system throughout the summer.
For several years I commented to any sympathetic listener about the waste of mining
deep groundwater (the water source for Moscow) to keep our turfgrass green when the
surrounding hills were browning up from lack of water. It seemed like a poor example to
the public and additionally there had been a presidential directive (Clinton 1994) on
using native vegetation on federal properties. Native plants could provide a more diverse
habitat for birds and insects and might be more aesthetically pleasing than a sterile
lawn. I wondered whether it would be possible to stop watering and create a landscape,
like a piece of prairie, that was natural to our area.
I must admit that even though I work as a forester, and know the common vegetation of
the local forests, I knew little about grasslands. Doing a little research on the
pre-settlement vegetation, I found that the Moscow area was predominately a
grassland-shrub plant community (Daubenmire 1942, 1980; Franklin and Dyrness 1988). The
dominant vegetation was probably short bunchgrasses, like Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis)
and bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum), with scattered perennial flowering
forbs. Small shrubs, such as snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Woods rose (Rosa
woodsii), and creeping Oregon grape (Berberis repens), either occurred as
scattered individuals within the predominant grassland or as thickets. Tall shrubs, such
as hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) and willow (Salix spp.) were the main
vegetation along stream courses. There were also examples of isolated forest-shrub plant
communities growing as extensions of the main forest cover of the nearby mountains. The
dominant tree cover was probably ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), with an
understory of shrubssnowberry, ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus), ocean spray
(Holodiscus discolor), and serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia).
After my initial research, I felt we could convert part of our lawn area to native
vegetation. I talked to a few others at the lab who might be supportive of the idea,
including Jonalea Tonn and Dennis Ferguson, from the local White Pine Chapter of the
Native Plant Society, and Bill Wykoff, who I knew had established some native plants in
his garden. They all thought it was a good idea and suggested I present it at an all-staff
meeting in February 1999. With some trepidation, I made the presentation and those present
overwhelmingly supported the idea. A subsequent survey of the staff verified that most
people favored the idea. Though a majority of folks thought lab personnel could plan the
project, there were enough in favor of outside help that I arranged for two University of
Idaho landscape architecture students to plan the project, as part of a project assignment
for one of their classes. And finally, best of all, most employees expressed a willingness
to work on a volunteer (non-pay) basis on the project.
We gave the two students some general guidelines including (1) there should be no
watering, except for initial establishment, (2) there should be native vegetation only,
(3) turfgrass should be retained next to the buildings for fire safety, (4) a walking path
should be a possibility, (5) removal of existing trees/shrubs should be minimized, and (6)
work should be done by lab personnel in phases (we did not have a big budget). The two
students, Katie Wilde and Toby Hagerott, presented their plans to lab personnel in early
May 1999. We felt they gave us some good design concepts, and we helped them learn about
native vegetation, a topic only minimally covered in their classes. In the end, we chose
Katies plan, with some modifications.
By June 1999, we had discussed costs with the lab administrative officer and secured
funding for materials (about $500 per phase), received approval from station management to
proceed, and proposed a plan of work. We decided to start near the main building to avoid
any conflict with a pending redesign of US Highway 95. This first phase included removing
about 300 sq. ft. of turfgrass sod with a sod cutter, creating a path and patio area, and
then planting a few ponderosa pines, Woods roses, and two kinds of bunchgrass, Idaho
fescue and bluebunch wheatgrass. We used lawn edging to separate the native vegetation
from the turfgrass area next to the building and landscape fabric under the path and patio
to reduce encroachment from unwanted plants.
The initial plan called for a simple path and patio made from wood chips, but we
decided to make the area handicap accessible. To create the path and patio, we mixed
gravel and dry cement, then tamped and watered it, letting it set up to a hard surface.
Fortunately, we had use of a Bobcat for moving much of the dirt and gravel, and an
operator, Ben Kopyscianski, who was supportive of the project. Others loaned their own
trucks and rototillers. Many helped at various work parties, mostly done on their own time
after work. I was glad to see this, not only because I couldnt have done the work by
myself, but because their participation made it everybodys project.
We have greenhouse facilities and often grow trees from seed for various research
projects. The four ponderosa pine trees initially planted were leftovers from such a
project. We had never tried to grow grass before. We obtained a few ounces of grass seed
from Loring Jones, a member of the White Pine chapter, and planted the seed in plastic
tubes designed for growing tree seedlings. Within two weeks, there was excellent
germination, and with regular watering and fertilizing, grass plugs were ready to outplant
by mid-September. The plugs were planted about 8 inches apart, as per the recommendation
of Kas Dumroese, University of Idaho research scientist and editor of the Native Plants
Journal. We didnt expect much top growth that fall, only some root growth in
preparation for good growth the next spring. We also planted three Woods rose
Early the next spring, we knew we had a weed problem. Kas Dumroese had recommended the
use of a pre-emergent herbicide to keep weeds down. In a rush to get things done in the
fall, I forgot Kas recommendation, and we ended up with a rather persistent crop of
annual bluegrass (Poa sp.). We couldnt spray it with herbicide for fear of
killing the native grasses, so we pulled it by hand, several times on a bi-weekly basis,
until it was under control and the native grasses provided competition. The bluegrass
persisted at the base of the native grass clumps.
The bunchgrasses had excellent growth for the first year. We had some grazing by
resident rabbits, but mostly they seemed to enjoy the cover provided by the grass, which
reached 2-3 feet in height after sending up seed stalks. We augmented the grasses by
interplanting several native forbs, including arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza
sagittata), prairie smoke (Geum triflorum), roundleaf alumroot (Heuchera
cylindrica), and silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus). Weve watered these
forbs through the summer months. None have put on much growth, but hopefully they will
come on stronger next year.
We began Phase 2 of the project in April 2000. The major effort for this phase was to
connect the path and patio created in 1999 to the main building access doors and in the
process vegetate a short, steep slope with native plants. We again started by removing sod
from the area with a sod cutter. We dug into the hillside and created a series of steps
with railroad ties and another path with slate stepping stones that were recycled from our
Priest River Experimental Forest. The exposed cut faces of the slope were covered with
basalt rock obtained from several local sources. In addition, we planted another small
area of the lawn with a clump of ponderosa pine trees, Idaho fescue, and bluebunch
wheatgrass. We first killed the turfgrass with herbicide and after the grass died,
rototilled the sod in preparation for planting.
The main plant we used for the steep slope near the steps was kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos
sp.). It is native in dry to mesic forests in the area, and will create a dense cover for
erosion control on steep slopes. We made cuttings of kinnikinnick found around Moscow,
dipped them in rooting hormone, and poked them into moist potting mix in plastic tubes.
They were put in a box covered with clear plastic in the greenhouse, with heat tape to
keep the roots warm, and misted twice a day for about six weeks. Then I moved them to a
protected shelterhouse. About 60% of the cuttings rooted. I also dug some creeping Oregon
grape from a roadside east of Moscow and potted them in potting mix. About 80% of them
rooted well and put on new top growth, although it took several months. I started silky
lupine plants in tubes from seed. In June, after all of the step and rock work was
completed, we outplanted the kinnikinnick, interplanting with the creeping Oregon grape
and silky lupine. Before planting, we applied a granular pre-emergent herbicide to help in
the control of weeds. We are using the lawn sprinkler system for watering during the
summer to help with establishment. Three ocean spray plants were planted on the slope near
the building to help screen some air-conditioning units from the patio area.
We have heard two concerns from a few employees. First, they wonder who is going to
take care of the area when the main supporters of the project leave. Second, they are
concerned that the area will turn into a weed patch. My answer to both of these concerns
is that if we establish the plantings properly and maintain them for a few years, there
should be minimal weeds and less care required than an expanse of turfgrass that requires
regular watering (and constant repair of the sprinkler system), mowing, fertilizing, and
Future plans will include covering a greater area of the hillside with prairie plants
and shrubs. Instead of planting grass and forb plugs, we may attempt a larger planting by
hydroseeding, after preparing the site by killing the grass with herbicide and
rototilling. Also, when the highway project is completed, we may plant some wet area
shrubs, like hawthorn and willow, in the ditch at the edge of the property. We will
continue to add other native prairie forbs to the existing plantings and possibly add some
species like longleaf phlox (Phlox longifolia) that would typically grow around
basalt outcroppings. Additional paths will also be added.
Since the initial bed of native grass and forbs is located just off the main entrance
to the Forestry Sciences Lab, we hope to erect signs in the near future to describe the
project to the public. Besides use by employees, we feel that in time it could be used for
environmental education. Please feel free to stop by the lab and view the project if you
are in the Moscow area. We are located at 1221 South Main Street, just off Highway 95 in
the southern part of town. Any comments on the project or ideas you might have about
converting lawns to native vegetation would be appreciated; I can be contacted by email at
Clinton, W.J. 1994. Presidential memorandum for the heads of executive departments and
agencies on environmentally and economically beneficial practices on federal landscaped
grounds. Federal Register 59:161.
Daubenmire, R.F. 1942. An ecological study of the vegetation of southeastern Washington
and adjacent Idaho. Ecological Monographs 12:53-79.
Daubenmire, R. 1980. Mountain topography and vegetation patterns. Northwest Science
Franklin, J.F. and C.T. Dyrness. 1988. Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington.
Oregon State University Press, Corvallis. 452 pp.
Sources for native plants that we used
Northplan Mountain Seed, Moscow, ID; recently sold to Sun Mountain Native Seed,
Prairie Bloom Nursery, Pullman, WA (I believe they get most of their native plants from
Plants of the Wild, Tekoa, WA, a wholesaler of native plants.)
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Twenty Years after the Revolution: A Glimpse at
the Biogeography, Botanical Science, and Land Use Practices in the Islamic Republic of
IranA Lecture by Barbara Ertter
Valerie Geertson, Pahove ChapterI recently had the pleasure of hearing Dr.
Barbara Ertter speak at her alma mater, the College of Idaho, about her three-week tour of
northern Iran last May. As you may know, Dr. Ertter is Curator of Western North American
Flora at the University of California and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley and a native
Idahoan. She had the opportunity to visit Iran with a colleague as part of a scientific
exchange. Or, as she put it, she was one of the "harmless botanists" invited to
begin to re-establish a relationship between Iran and the United States.
What an adventure! She was asked to wear the "modest dress" stylethe
loose-fitting, long black robe, pants, and scarf that most of us typically think of
showing only the face and handsand sometimes she had to wear "the tent" as
well (another long robe in addition to the modest dress). But, this didnt bother
her. She pointed out that even in the west, women have only recently been wearing less
She could travel freely and visited four universities. She went on as many field
excursions as possible. And, of course, being a botanist, that was where she really wanted
to beoutside, looking at plants.
And what interesting, beautiful plants! My favorite was a lovely Delphinium with
white flowers; they looked like dolphins, which is the derivation of the genus name. I had
certainly never noticed any of our western species looking like dolphins.
Another thing I learned is that Iran is home to the ancestors of some of our important
horticultural and agricultural plants, such as the tulip, gladiolus, pistachio, peach,
pear, and many kinds of apples. The wild stocks of these plants should therefore have
value to us.
Dr. Ertter pointed out that Iran has been visited by transcontinental travelers for a
long time, and the length and time of intense human occupation is obviously much greater
there. They have had introduced species for hundreds of years. In such an area, how does
one realistically discuss the values of native or introduced species? It is a different
concept there and one that I have been twisting around since I heard her speak.
Some plants native to Iran have become weeds here. One example she discussed is Bromus
tectorum (cheatgrass) which, of course, is a serious pest. It does not form dense
monocultures there even in overgrazed areas, but it is common in somewhat disturbed areas.
She also saw Alyssum and Lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce). Her Iranian
colleagues on the field trip were somewhat fascinated by a mustard, and they were trying
to identify the genus. Dr. Ertter told them with confidence which genus and species they
were looking at: Lepidium perfoliatum (clasping pepperweed). This must have been
impressive. Unfortunately, Iran has some western species that have become weedy there, for
example, the California poppy.
Dr. Ertter showed a series of landscape slidesalternating between Iran and the
intermountain west, particularly the Great Basin. The resemblance was simply uncanny. The
Great Basin slides looked like those in Intermountain Florawide, open valleys with
meandering streams or flat playas ringed with rounded hills or steep mountains. The
landscapes of Iran were very similar; the valleys were filled by low shrubs and an
abundance of herbaceous species. I could not tell which was which until she gave the
location. Biogeographic similarities explain the landscape similarities.
However, there is something missing from northern Iran as compared to southern Idaho.
There are no coniferous forests. There is some evidence of conifer trees on ancient
artworks, but, without archeological studies, it is unknown if any forests have existed in
the area in recent history. This was rather chilling. The Iranian government is beginning
"reforestation" projects with non-native species for industrial purposes.
Dr. Ertter learned and shared all of this and more from the three-week whirlwind trip.
Certainly the right person made the journey.
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Corydalis caseanaDont Look
Sarah Walker, White Pine Chapter
"I saw this huge, weird plant down by
the creek," the boy scout told me, holding up a limp leaf hed collected near
our campsite along Huckleberry Creek in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness."What is
it?" Abandoning my role as low-impact camping teacher (which includes "leave the
flora alone") to take advantage of the "teachable moment," I explained that
it was an unusually large plant called Corydalis, that it was related to bleeding
hearts and Dutchmans breeches, and that it produced huge, tender, hollow shoots
along the edges of mountain streams right in the froth of spring high water. I dont
know how much of this he took in, but corydalis, or "fitweed," is indeed an
Every spring I marvel at this incredible plant along the edges of Huckleberry and Rock
Lake Creeks, where it grows in partial shade under alder, maple, cedar, and ferns. It also
occurs in the middle of wide creeks like Boulder Creek, on rock bars. First come the pale
clumps of hefty celery-like stalks, standing fast in the roar and madness of mountain
currents. By the time high water has subsided enough so that I can safely cross the creeks
(usually after July fourth), the stalks have started to produce delicate lacy leaves, each
made up of hundreds of small, oval leaflets. The plants are glabrous and appear
blue-green. Several plants in a group shade the rocks along the stream edge, providing
damp, cool habitat for the mosses beneath. These plants are enormous! A single plant can
be 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. By the third week in July the plants are in full bloom,
with a dozen spikes showing above the mass of foliage, each with 50-60 white, spurred
flowers an inch long and arranged sideways on the stem. As I watched, the flowers were
visited one after the other by bumblebees. As the flowers mature, they turn slightly pink.
By the end of July, there are just a few flowers left at the top of the spike, with
ripening fruits on the bottom. The fruits are explosive! Karen Gray recalls taking a close
look at them, only to have seeds fly out and stick to her eyeglasses. With the first fall
frosts, the tender leaves wilt and succumblike lettuce, when the refrigerator is too
I remember once on a Selway field trip when leaders Fred Johnson and Steve Brunsfeld
brought our caravan to a halt to appreciate the sheer biomass of this remarkable plant,
towering over a small seep along the edge of the road.
There are two subspecies of Corydalis caseana in Idaho. C. caseana subsp.
hastata occurs in northern Idaho, where it is endemic to the St. Joe and Clearwater
River basins. It is considered globally rare, and its status is G3. C. caseana
subsp. cusickii occurs in central Idaho, and is not considered rare.
Dr. Joan Maloof of Salisbury State University in Maryland has studied how Corydalis
reproduces. She found that Corydalis caseana subsp. brandegei (found in
Colorado) has two methods: "outcrossing" (the male pollen of one flower combines
with the female part of a different flower) and also "pollinator mediated
self-fertilization" (male and female parts of the same flower combine, but only after
the flower is first visited by a pollinator). She concluded that Corydalis caseana
subsp. brandegei depends on the long-tongued bumblebee (Bombus appositus)
for reproduction, and that conservation plans for the plant must include the pollinator as
well. She also observed that chipmunks and white-crowned sparrows eat Corydalis
seeds, and thus they too depend on the long-tongued bumblebee. Dr. Maloof has written
about the effect of "nectar robbers" on Corydalis. The robbers are
short-tongued bumblebees who acquire nectar without pollinating the flower: they make
holes in the spur of the flower instead of landing on the front of the flower and
interacting with the flowers reproductive parts. She proposed that the robbers may
have a beneficial effect by causing the "legitimate" pollinator, the
long-tongued bumblebee, to cover more ground to obtain nectarand as a result
possibly increase gene flow distances.
I doubt the boy scouts would have found Corydalis "reproductive
strategy" as interesting as I did, but I bet they would have gotten a kick out of the
back to top
Book Review--Flora of Steens
Flora of Steens Mountain. Donald
Mansfield. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, 1999.
Review by Carol Prentice, Pahove Chapter.
Don Mansfields "Flora of Steens Mountain" is a welcome addition to
floras of the Intermountain Region. The Steens Mountain area isnt really near
anywhere, unless you are familiar with Frenchglen or Fields, Oregon. The area lies south
of Burns and north of, well, north of Nevada. Steens Mountain is a single 30-mile long
fault-block mountain with an abrupt east face, rising one vertical mile above the Alvord
Desert. It is the largest and tallest fault-block mountain in the northern Great Basin.
This distinctive landform creates an island of alpine flora surrounded at the lowest
elevations by the "deserts" of the Harney Basin and creates a rain shadow for
the salt flats of the Alvord Desert. The resulting flora is a complex assemblage of plant
communities that can be divided into no fewer than five vegetation zones. Once you find
the Steens, you can drive the 66-mile Steens Mountain Loop Road and visit the alpine flora
at the top, the highest point that one can drive to in Oregon.
This one-volume flora, sized to carry in the field, will save you a lot of luggage as
the Steens are the meeting place of three regional floras, the "Flora of the Pacific
Northwest," the "Intermountain Flora" (not all volumes are published), and
the "Flora of California." The first clue that the Steens flora is really
unusual is on the cover. What looks like a common bull thistle is really a unique narrow
endemic thistle. The Steens have six endemic species and numerous disjuncts; 5% of the
flora is considered rare. Other than juniper there is only one other conifer, Sierran
white fir, which is found in only two isolated sites. Steens Mountain is one of the few
places in North America where firs and pines are not the timber at timberline.
The book has three parts: the introduction, the key to the flora, and the appendices.
The introduction is a must-read. It provides historic and biogeographic information and
explains how to use the key. For the novice, proper plant collection, preservation, and
label preparation are explained. The plant families are arranged alphabetically, a good
idea for a field flora and for new students. Color photographs are found in the center
section and referenced to the key. Within the species descriptions is a wealth of
knowledge: key identification characters, specific habitats, geographic range of species
and specific locations, and more. Native American uses are given, but a word of
cautiondont experiment unless you have a thorough knowledge of edible plants.
Important appendix sections include a glossary, a wonderful group of illustrations of
selected species referenced in the key, illustrations of scientific terms, and indices to
scientific and common names. You may wish to tab some of these for easy reference (I have
also learned to use a couple of book marks so I dont keep losing my page). I have
put this valuable paperback volume in a protective book bag for extended service.
Prior to this thorough study, the flora of the area was not well documented and
insufficiently published. You could say Dr. Mansfield did his work from the ground
upthe vouchers for this flora now stuff the shelves of the Harold M. Tucker
Herbarium at the Albertson College of Idaho. As Dr. Mansfield mentions, this flora (like
most floras) is perhaps 90% finished. He continues to find new additions to the flora each
year. Take him at his word, visit this spectacular desert to alpine country and you too
will be able to contribute to the "Flora of Steens Mountain."
"Flora of Steens Mountain" is available for $29.95 from OSU Press
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Chapter News--Pahove Chapter
Monthly chapter meetings were held in
March, April, and May with presentations on the vegetation of the Owyhee Plateau, the
ecology of exotic plant species, and endemic plants of Idaho by (respectively) Chris
Murphy, Roger Rosentreter, and Michael Mancuso. At the May meeting Chris Murphy was
elected to serve as chapter president. Steve Rust was re-elected to the post of
secretary/treasurer. Our June field trip to the South Fork Salmon River was a success,
with much botanizing and good old socializing. Both the kids and adults learned new
plants! On Saturday we hiked a mountain ridge through Douglas and grand fir forests. Then
we zipped down to the Warm Lake area where we visited Tule Lake wetlands and its rare Carex
buxbaumii population. We documented many beautiful sedges . . . and even saw wolf
tracks! We had a nice campsite at Penny Springs and on Sunday hiked to an unbotanized hot
spring through a burned mountain slope complete with many wildflower species. The hot
spring was a warm and muddy elk wallow but interesting nonetheless. On July 21-23 the
chapter botanized Idahos Basin and Rangethe Pahsimeroi Valley and Lost River
Range. In the evening shadow of Idahos highest peak, Mount Borah, lies a
little-known and intriguing basin of contrasting spring-fed wetlands and drought-prone
high desert. This environment of extreme temperatures and low moisturefrom the hot
and dry low sagebrush and shadscale of basins to windswept subalpine and alpine
mountainsprovided great opportunities for botanizing, as well as some challenging
hiking. Rewards for all the traveling were plentiful: splendid views of adjacent peaks and
vegetation patterning, the cool mountain breeze, and meadows of blooming wildflowers. A
trip to the Owyhee Mountains took place on August 12-13. This outing was co-sponsored by
the Sierra Club as part of their campaign to protect the Owyhee region. We tried to beat
the heat in southwest Idahos high desert, "sky island" Owyhee Mountains.
On Saturday we hiked in the mountains around Silver City, looking at native plants, birds,
and their habitats. On Sunday we hiked Hayden Peaks wind-swept subalpine shrub
steppe (a 3-4 mile one-way climb gaining over 2,000 feet to the 8,300 ft. summit, both on
old jeep trails and off-trail). This trip occurred in part of the Cinnabar Mountain
proposed Research Natural Area. Regular monthly meetings are anticipated for the fall.
Members are encouraged to attend. Please watch the mail for specific times and locations.
Chapter News--Calypso Chapter
This summer the chapter helped build an
information kiosk and a viewing platform at Huff Lake, a delicate fen in northeastern
Washington whose rare plants and floating mats are being trampled by travelers who stop to
fish, look around, or take a break from the nearby highway. A group has formed to build
raised walkways and develop educational materials to reduce foot traffic on the peat mats.
INPS Calypso Chapter, the Northeast Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society, and
the Selkirk-Priest Basin Association, a conservation group, has contributed workers.
Priest Lake Ranger District botanist Diane Penny has helped with planning and interpretive
materials. The next job is to build more walkways, which will be wheelchair accessible.
Huff Lake is home to rare species like round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).
Hats off to this collaborative effort! For more information, or to lend a hand, contact
Diane Penny at (208) 443-6847 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Chapter News--Kinnikinnick Chapter
The chapter planned three field trips for
the summer: to Gold Hill, Myrtle Creek, and Ross Creek Cedars.
North Idahos three chaptersKinnikinnick, Calypso, and White
Pinecoordinated their field trips for joint adventures to Huff Lake, Roman Nose
Lakes, and a visit to the new arboretum in Sandpoint.
Chapter News--White Pine Chapter
The chapter organized field trips to
Fields Spring State Park, Freezeout Ridge, and an overnight to the Clark Fork Campus
near Sandpoint (and rendezvous with Kinnikinnick and Calypso Chapters.). Secretary Karen
Adams reports that the chapter hosts a native plants information table at the Moscow
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News and Notes
Tremendous loss to Columbia Basin shrub
Tremendous loss to Columbia Basin shrub
steppe habitat. On June 27 a fire caused by a fatal car accident swept across the
Hanford Nuclear Reservation, burning up most of the 77,000 acre Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid
Lands Ecology Reserve (ALE) within its borders. The ALE was established in 1967 as a
research natural area under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect one of the
largest ungrazed remnants of big sagebrush habitat left in the U.S. (see Sage Notes
19:3, pp. 9-10, "Life Amid Toxins, Tombs, and Bombs: Military Lands and Cemeteries as
Refuges for Biodiversity"). The ALE and the surrounding nuclear reservation have been
off-limits to grazing and agricultural practices since the 1940s and have been called a
"biological treasure." Recent surveys conducted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
discovered three plant species new to science: a bright yellow desert buckwheat (Eriogonum
sp.), a milk-vetch (Astragalus sp.), and a bladderpod (Lesquerella sp.), as
well as new populations of several rare plant species. TNCs report calls the Hanford
site "a rich natural mosaic, including many relatively unaltered and increasingly
uncommon native habitats. . . . the quality, diversity and extent of these habitats is
unequaled in the Columbia Basin. . . .significant numbers of plant, bird, amphibian,
reptile and insect species, many of which are rare or in decline, were found to be
associated with or dependent on these habitats. From a conservation standpoint, the
Hanford Site is a vitaland perhaps the single most importantlink in preserving
and sustaining the biodiversity of the Columbia Basins shrub-steppe region."
Most of the sagebrush, bunchgrass, and rare plants burned up. Recovery is expected to
be slow for sage because its small seeds depend on specific conditions to germinate.
Grasses are expected to return from unburned root crowns and seeds in the soil bank.
Little is known about recovery potential for the rare plants. There is concern for the
microbiotic crust communities, and for the long-term impacts to the shrub-steppe
ecosystem. Another threat is from hungry elk concentrating in the unburned riparian areas
and trampling recovering native plants. In addition, 41 miles of new roads were created as
part of the suppression efforts. The sad story is detailed in the Burned Area Emergency
Rehabilitation (BAER) plan prepared by the Department of Interior
(http://www.hanford.gov/envmon/24-command-plan/app-1.pdf). The BAER team hopes to allot
nearly half of its $600,000 budget to planting sage seedlings, controlling weeds,
protecting rare plant habitat, and monitoring. Researchers want to study the disaster to
learn about rare plant recovery after fire.
The ALE is included within the new Hanford Reach National Monument, established by
President Clinton in June.
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Biological control agent attacks native thistles. A seed-head weevil, Rhinocyllus
conicus, was introduced as a biological control agent against musk thistle in
the 1960s. It has since been discovered on many native thistles. In the Snake River
Canyon, it was found infesting heads of the endemic Palouse thistle, Cirsium
brevifolium (see Sage Notes 20:3, p. 10, "Plant Protection Gone
Awry"). This summer it was found near Headquarters, Idaho, on elk thistle, Cirsium
scariosum. The weevil lays eggs in the unopened flower head.
Ecologists taken by surprise at Mt. St. Helens. After Mt. St. Helens erupted 20
years ago, ecologists like Jerry Franklin at the University of Washington predicted a
textbook recovery: pioneering species like mosses and lichens would set the stage for
subsequent forbs and trees, and disturbed areas like the "pyroclastic zone"
would become recolonized from the outside edges in. Now, Franklin is quoted in a New York
Times article (May 16, 2000) as saying "We knew very clearly what was going to happen
afterward, and we were very clearly wrong."
Scientists are saying that instead of succession, the significant factors in ecosystem
recovery are chance and random survivors. In some places, vegetation was totally
obliterated by events associated with the eruption. Flows of volcanic material, debris and
mud obliterated all plants, and by the end of the first growing season after the eruption,
hardly any plants had returned to these areas. In areas where plants survived, however,
recovery was surprisingly rapid.
Biological legacies (organic materials and surviving organisms left behind after a
disturbance) allowed recovery to proceed much more rapidly than scientists had expected.
For instance, moles, pocket gophers, and ants lived through the blast in some areas
because they were underground. Where snowpack afforded protection, plants were able to
resprout after the eruption and emerge through deposits of several inches. Individual
trees or clumps of vegetation acted as foci for regeneration. Roots of lupines that
somehow floated on top of the 14-mile debris avalanche helped revegetate their
destinations. Airborne lupine seeds that took hold and sprouted contributed carbon and
nitrogen to areas sterilized by the blast. Grass seeds are being transported by elk herds.
The new ponds that formed in the debris avalanche are providing habitat for large
populations of salamanders. When these amphibians need to travel overland, they avoid
desiccation by using gopher tunnels, which they access through holes left from elk
footprints. Dr. Charlie Crisafulli, of the Forest Service Pacific NW Research Station,
reported finding salamanders in most of the gopher tunnels they looked at.
Insights from Mount St. Helens about the role of biological legacies in ecosystem
recovery can be used to develop practices that promote rather than impede regeneration
after disturbance in highly modified lands. Vegetation that is left on a site enhances the
potential for revegetation because it provides shade, moderates temperatures, and offers a
source of animals and seeds to repopulate the disturbed patch. By leaving a few trees
standing in the center of a cleared area, recovery can be speeded up considerably, because
birds visit these trees and deposit seeds beneath them. Green trees left on cutover sites
act as refuges for forest invertebrates. Many of these have poor dispersal abilities, so
if they are eliminated from a cutover patch, their chances of recolonizing it at a later
date are low. If green trees are left, however, they can maintain populations in these
biological legacies until the forest has returned. Thus the green trees that remain after
a disturbance help to promote recovery. Forest cuts can be designed so that they maximize
the potential for the regeneration of a harvested area by leaving standing green trees.
As scientists study the results of just 20 years of change within the impact zone of
the eruption, they are constantly surprised. There are unanticipated large populations of
rare species, like red-legged frogs, and species found in unexpected places, like rosy
finches at low elevations. The lessons of Mt. St. Helens will change the way biologists
look at how landscapes recover. - Eds.
Franklin, J. F. (1990). Biological legacies: a critical management concept from Mount
St. Helens. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference
del Moral, R. and L. C. Bliss (1987). Initial vegetation recovery on subalpine slopes
of Mount St. Helens, Washington. In Mount St. Helens 1980: Botanical Consequences of the
Explosive Eruptions, ed. D. E. Bilderback. pp. 148-167. Berkeley, CA: University of
McKee, A., J. E. Means, W. H. Moir, and J. F. Franklin (1987). First-year recovery of
upland and riparian vegetation in the devastated area around Mount St. Helens. In, Mount
St. Helens 1980: Botanical Consequences of the Explosive Eruptions. ed. D. E. Bilderback,
pp. 168-187. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
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Mr. Yuk Take Note. The Euphorbiaceae, or spurge family, is a fascinating group
of plants. With around 8,000 species widely distributed throughout tropical and temperate
regions, this large family includes many economically important herbs, shrubs, and trees.
Cassava (which furnishes the food manioc as well as tapioca and arrowroot), rubber, and
castor oil are produced by members of this family. Two genera of wild euphorbs occur in
the Pacific Northwest: Eremocarpus, doveweed or turkey-mullein, and Euphorbia,
the spurges. The Euphorbiaceae also includes some popular houseplants, such as
poinsettias, crotons, and crown-of-thorns.
Many members of this family are toxic. The South African genus Toxicodendron
includes some of the worlds most poisonous plants. Furthermore, many members of the
Euphorbiaceae contain a highly allergenic milky latex that oozes from cut leaves or stems
and penetrates skin readily. Recent studies by German biochemists have demonstrated that
the sap of some euphorbs contains ingenol, a potent carcinogen. When they screened 22
houseplant cultivars for tumor-inducing activity, these scientists found that 20 of the
cultivars did not exhibit cancer-promoting activity, but two of the less common cultivars
did. So it would be prudent to handle both wild and cultivated members of this family with
Traveling exhibits available! The Natural Heritage Project, an educational
outreach program of the Idaho Museum of Natural History, provides educational tools to
teachers and citizens of Idaho about the nature, diversity, and conservation of
Idahos natural heritage. These are stand-alone installations suitable for public
buildings, public libraries, community centers, museums, visitor centers, bank lobbies,
and other places where people come and go. Each exhibit presents lively stories and
colorful graphics along with an interactive computer kiosk and sectional bench seating.
The exhibits have a flexible design to fit a variety of spaces, though they do need to be
inside and have electricity. A staff member delivers and sets up the exhibit in each host
facility. This interpreter is then available to orient the host about the exhibit, answer
questions during an open house, or present an educational program. For information on
scheduling a Natural Heritage Project traveling exhibit, call (208)-282-5842 or e-mail: