Friday, April 18, 2014

Listen to the Desert Tortoise

Photo by: B. Eisenstein (4/17/2104)
The truck was parked on the side of a dirt road at the base of a slope in the middle of nowhere. Four of us - two botanists and two horticulturists - were walking back to the truck, eyes fixed on ground looking for some new flower we had missed on our way out. Just then I saw her. She looked like another dark gray rock, but right away I knew what it was. The desert tortoise was thoroughly unimpressed as the four of us gathered nearby - not too close - to admire her. A piece of vegetation dangled from her mouth as she took us in. Cameras snapped at the nonchalant, seemingly ageless sage (in the zoological sense). 

This was but one high point to a full day of desert exploration. Yesterday I was fortunate to be included in one of several teams of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden scientists, educators, and horticulturists who scour the surrounding wildlands in search of wildflowers for the annual Spring Wildflower Show. The Wildflower Show brings some of the discoveries made by researchers to the public. As noted on the Rancho website:
Loeseliastrum matthewsii
(Desert Calico)
Photo by: B. Eisenstein
A tradition since the early 1930s, the Wildflower Festival is Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's longest-running seasonal event and coincides with our state-recognized California Native Plant Week, (the third week of April each year). 
Over the years, the show has offered an opportunity for visitors to view flowers of species that they may not have otherwise been able to see. Flowers are gently prepared, carefully identified and exhibited indoors.
The week proceeding the show, teams of RSABG staff, volunteers and research associates undertake spring collecting trips to sites where studies to document the flora are underway, adding to scientific knowledge of these poorly known places and sharing the beauty of California wildflowers with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden visitors. The geographically-diverse approach offers a diverse variety of species gathered and creates a beautiful and educational display.
In true Rancho style, this event brings together scientists, environmentalists, and all of those who appreciate the beauty and significance of Nature, so we can share our knowledge and wisdom, most of which we gain from stopping to watch the tortoise.

Desert tortoise in collection site. Photo by: B. Eisenstein

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