Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Joy of Sampling

By noon on Tuesday, the sweat poured so freely from my entire body that I had to skip entire columns on my sampling pages because they were soaked from where my arm rested while writing in the column before. Every day that passes, more sedge fruits shatter, making them harder to key out. Sampling season only lasts for a couple of months, so everyday this week (despite the 105 degree temperature reading from the Kestral) I was on a glade, in a woodland, or in a fen squatting down recording plants along 50 m and 100 m transects. It's such an invigorating time of year that I don't even notice the heat. The joy and delight of combing through a quadrat is simply unmatched.

Among my sampling sites is a woodland and glade restoration project; cedars and 80 year old black oaks were cut and burned on site. As I've noted several times about the same 3,000 acre area, forb diversity is extremely high throughout. Just as I was finishing the woodland transects, I discovered a population of 20 Hexalectris spicata outside of my plots. A truly gorgeous orchid, this was the first I've ever seen.

I met a beautiful new sedge this week in a wet mesic bottomland woodland: Carex muskingumensis, an enormous, classy member of the Ovales, a Carex tribuloides on steroids (not pictured). A few of the fen plants stumped me, including a totally blasted out eleocharis; I spent almost 5 hours on deer exclosure transects in a virtually treeless fen. It was so much fun I could have stayed out there for the rest of the day, but I had to go to the equally awesome (and treeless) glade.

If I've learned anything this week besides the natural integrity of some high quality native ecosystems, I've seen that the Ozarks have a serious deer problem and I have amassed quite a collection of really nice refillable mechanical pencils that I have inadvertently jacked from the field.

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