Voices from the field

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - CLASSIFIEDS - SUM­MER STU­DENT RE­PORT

for Saskatchewan na­tive prairie. There is some­thing mag­i­cal about see­ing all the dif­fer­ent kinds of plants that the prairie en­com­passes, from twogrooved milk vetch to prairie cacti, we re­ally do have it all.

Our sec­ond ex­cur­sion brought us on the hunt for the Small White Lady’s-slip­per in the south­east­ern part of Saskatchewan. What we found in­ter­est­ing about this orchid is that its cousin, the Yel­low Lady’s-slip­per, can be found in the marsh-like fens of Saskatchewan, and close-by in Man­i­toba. So it is strange that this plant has not been found in over 100 years in Saskatchewan! An­other ex­cit­ing as­pect of this trip was the habi­tat that we were lucky to ex­plore. Small White Lady’s-slip­per likes habi­tat that al­lows for a lot of mois­ture.

This had us walk­ing in float­ing fens that bounced with ev­ery step we took. Al­though we did not find any Small White Lady’s-slip­per, we spot­ted sev­eral other species at risk, in­clud­ing Bobolinks and North­ern Leop­ard frogs!

On our most re­cent jour­ney out of town, we found our­selves out on the sandy banks of the South Saskatchewan River look­ing for Small-flow­ered Sand-ver­bena. Smallflow­ered Sand-ver­bena is part of the 4-o’clock fam­ily, named be­cause its flow­ers open in the af­ter­noon. What makes the search for this plant so ex­cit­ing is that it is fed­er­ally listed as en­dan­gered, mean­ing it is one of the rarest of our tar­get species this sum­mer. Af­ter ac­knowl­edg­ing this fact, and af­ter hav­ing no luck with SMEC or Small White Lady’s-slip­per, it was easy to feel doubt­ful about whether or not we would find any oc­cur­rences of Small-flow­ered Sand-ver­bena. How­ever, as we set out with our GPS’ to mon­i­tor our first oc­cur­rence we man­aged to stum­ble upon (quite lit­er­ally) the small, white flow­ered plant! The plant ap­peared to be in good health and we found oth­ers nearby as the plant likes to grow in patches.

Later in the week our sunny day streak came to an end and we were out mon­i­tor­ing in the rain! As we were mon­i­tor­ing our last oc­cur­rence for the day, we came across our big­gest patch of Sand-Ver­bena yet. Stretch­ing down the shore for ap­prox­i­mately 50m, were over 800 Small-flow­ered Sand­ver­bena plants! Along with Sand-ver­bena we also found oc­cur­rences of Small Lupine and an­other one of our tar­get species this sum­mer, Smooth Goose­foot!

This week’s mon­i­tor­ing high­lighted that al­though a species may be at risk, if given the proper habi­tat it can be lo­cally abun­dant.

There­fore, this type of con­ser­va­tion work is im­por­tant be­cause some plants are at risk sim­ply be­cause no one knows what they look like or where to find them. The more land that is searched, the more plants we are likely to find! With higher pop­u­la­tion num­bers and dis­tri­bu­tions hope­fully cer­tain plant species can be “down­listed” to a lesser risk cat­e­gory in the fu­ture.

We are look­ing for­ward to what the rest of the sum­mer in Saskatchewan na­tive prairie has to bring, and the ex­cit­ing sights that come with it. The next cou­ple months we will be mon­i­tor­ing and search­ing for oc­cur­rences of Tiny Cryptan­tha, Smooth Goose­foot, Hairy Prairie-clover and Buf­falo­grass.

Wish us luck!

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