When I set out for the Tule River Indian Res on April 4th with fellow botanist Erika Gardner, I had no idea of the crazy adventures that awaited us. The plan was to stay up at Tule for 2 days, coming back Sunday morning so we had time to study for our big plant systematics exam that we were going to have the following tuesday. It would be the best of both worlds: being able to hike all day and collect plants, and still be studious and study at night. Be careful what you wish for…
When we arrived on the Reservation we were pleasently surprised to see so much in bloom!
We started our first collecting day mainly exploring and planning where we were going to go the next day, but we were able to get out and get a lot of hiking and collecting done, including this monster poppy that Erika caught 🙂
We ended the day with pizza and beer in the nearby town of Porterville, where we also stopped and got supplies.
The next day we headed out early with plans to collect plants in the moring sun, but the hils were shrouded in fog, giving it an errie, other worldly feel.
But soon the sun came out and we were able to get a good amount of collecting done. We roamed the hills and were enthralled by the beautiful flowers that were in bloom, even in this drought year, including this beauty, thuriel’s spear, Triteleia laxa.
This plant has a bulb that was cooked and eaten my the Native Peoples of California. I remember when we collected it, that the bulb was very big and kind of mucilaginous (sticky). It was a pretty good sized one, and had little bulblets coming off, which I buried. When the Native people would gather bulbs and other reproductive parts, such as seeds, they would always leave some behind, as well as disperse them in other places, directly effected their distribution and population dynamics.
We were able to get a lot of good collections, including some new taxa that I had not gotten from last year. And then this happened:
Let me try to explain: I had thought it would be a good idea to try this road I had never taken, which required 4WD, which my car is capable of (even though I haven’t really used it much). So after a few attempts, we swithched my car into 4WD, but somehow it ended up getting stuck in 4Hi mode. The jeep wouldn’t switch back to 2WD, which is needed in order to drive on regular streets. Apparently, the cable became disconnected, which wouldn’t allow it to go back into 2WD. I had to get it towed to the dealership, whose service department wasn’t open until Monday. No vehicle=no fieldwork 😦
But Erika and I made the best of it, by studying for our Plant systematics exam ALL day sunday. It was like Botany bootcamp, but with beer 🙂
We even had some friends come and visit us while we were studying, including this bobcat, who sat outside our window with us 🙂
In the end, we were able to make it home safely, and we even saw a golden eagle flying on the ride home. The next day, which was the exam, I felt a lot more confident about my answers, because we had studies so much, but I’m still waiting to get my grade, so we will wait and see 😉 Until next time, stay green!