Friday, February 05, 2010

Winter Garb

"Winter Garb" unknown plant,
February 4, 2009 (last year)
Race Field, West Odessa, Texas

The weather forecast is mild weather the next few days, in the low 60s. I'll be visiting my two citizen science plots, Race Field and Morgan Marsh. Joy! I'm going to keep a lookout for this plant and bring some of its stems home. I want to take a look at its structure with my hand lens, and maybe try to get some extreme macro shots too.

I wonder what this plant is? It's impossible to look it up in my Texas plant books which only identify plants during their blooming season, not in their winter garb. In order to find out what plant this, I'll have to watch it until it grows again.

That's got me thinking about some kind of simple, ecologically sound staking system. What I want to do is to mark plants like this one so I can follow them throughout the seasons. This morning I remembered I have some dyed wool yarn which would be organic and visible. Rather than staking the plant itself — I don't want it showing up in photos — I'll look for long twigs lying on the ground to stake nearby, tying the wool on them.

Which brings me to my next question: Wonder how long before I begin to see my wool markers in the decoration of nearby pack rat nests?

In this Wikipedia article on pack rats, I learned some pack rat nests in the Southwest US have been carbon-dated to 1,000 years old, with recent research dating some to 40,000 years! Pack rats are a common desert mammal and their nests, called "middens," are interesting in their own right. Besides natural ingredients like mesquite, yucca, and cactus, it's not uncommon to see middens decorated with beer cans, bones, and scat.


Lucky Dip Lisa said...

What a beautiful plant, no doubt made to look it's best by your superb photography! I love how you considered the organicness of your ties...

Bobbie said...

I just love the way the dry desert air preserves plant material. I know, I've said it before...but I do! Amazing pack rat info.

jomamma said...

Let me know if you need left over yarn... I often see bits of my yarn in birds nests in the oak tree next door.