Shrubby-Reed Mustard: The Best Little Plant You’ve Never Heard of (Aug 2016)

Shrubby-Reed Mustard Bush, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Shrubby-Reed Mustard Bush
Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms
Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms Closeup, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms
Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

Tucked into isolated pockets of the Uintah Basin’s arid wildlands is the best little plant you’ve never heard of. Known to exist only in Duchesne and Uintah Counties, Shrubby-reed Mustard seems to occupy only the semi-barren “islands” of white shale in areas of the Green River Formation’s Evacuation Creek region. The endangered plant features thick, almost succulent, blue-green leaves and small yellow flowers.

“The habitat of Shrubby-reed Mustard is visually striking,” says USU alum Matt Lewis, a botanist with the Bureau of Land Management in Vernal, Utah. “It grows in very shallow, fine-textured soils and shale fragments that form narrow bands in the desert shrub community.”

Among the first plants to flower in spring, the perennial herb is visited by large number of insects, including many native bee species that forage for pollen. Scientists believe these bees may be critical in the plant’s reproduction and survival.

Lewis says the plant, also known as Toad-Flax Cress and Uintah Basin Waxfruit, offers an understated beauty to the stark landscape. With a shrub-like form and multiple stems, Shrubby-reed Mustard grows to about 20 centimeters in height. Its leaves, which feel almost like leather, change to a bright purple in the fall.

The plant is also enticingly fragrant, Lewis says. “Its scent reminds me of roses mixed with apples and pears.”

Despite its fragile status, Shrubby-reed Mustard is a long-lived plant. USU ecologist Geno Schupp says some individual plants may be one hundred years old.

The elusive species has outlived scientists’ attempts to classify it and has undergone several taxonomic changes. It currently boasts the scientific name Hesperidanthus suffrutescens, placing it solidly in the mustard family.

Lewis knows of no history of Shrubby-reed Mustard as a culinary or medicinal herb, though documented reports of such uses for mustard plants date back to ancient times. The plant appears to provide welcome forage for some four-legged creatures, he says, as he recently witnessed plants that had been grazed completely and ripped from the ground.

“Whether that was due to livestock or native ungulates, I’m not sure.”

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis
Text:     Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Utah State University College of Natural Resources
Credits:
Matt Lewis, botanist, Bureau of Land Management, Vernal, Utah.
Eugene “Geno” Schupp, professor, USU Department of Wildland Resources.

Additional Reading:

http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/factsheets/ShrubbyReed-mustardFactSheet.pdf

http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/plants/shrubbyreedmustard/5YearReview2010.pdf

Sacred Mountains

White Pine Lake hike., Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart
White Pine Lake hike., Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

Devil's Staircase, Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Devil’s Staircase, Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

False Hellebore/Corn lily (Veratrum californicum), Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart False Hellebore/Corn lily (Veratrum californicum), Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

Police Car Moth on Rob Garrett's thumb, White Pine Lake hike. Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Police Car Moth on Rob Garrett’s thumb, White Pine Lake hike.
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

Elephanthead Lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), White Pine Lake hike. Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Elephanthead Lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), White Pine Lake hike.
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

Rob & Jack & big tree, Limber Pine hike Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Rob & Jack & big tree, Limber Pine hike
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

Beaver Dam at USU Forestry Camp (LCFS hike) Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Beaver Dam at USU Forestry Camp (LCFS hike)
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

Jack in 560 year old Limber Pine tree 7/27/16 Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Jack in 560 year old Limber Pine tree 7/27/16
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

I just completed teaching a 5 day Utah Master Naturalist course through USU extension on Utah mountains. The course allowed me to revisit the immense influence these lofty lumps in the earth’s crust have had on my life, and the life of so many others.

It was mountains that drew me here from the flatlands of Michigan. They have become my main source of spiritual renewal, of aesthetic pleasure and recreation. I run, ski, and hike their trails, explore their hidden canyons and forests, revel in the rich tapestry of wildlife and wildflowers that adorns their slopes, and at present, need I say, seek relief from summer’s heat.

Having served 11 seasons as a seasonal Wilderness ranger for the USFS, I was able to explore much of the backcountry in the Bear River and Wellsville mountains of N. Utah. Beyond these, I’ve been atop Kings peak, the Lasals, Abajos, Cedar and Pine Valley Mountains, the Raft Rivers, and many of our high plateaus. But this is small potatoes considering Wikipedia lists 65 others yet to be explored in our state.

Mountains are what we are. Without them, Brigham Young and the Saints would have continued their exodus on to other parts of the west for the rich resources they bless us with.
Mountains = water. This liquid gift provides over 80% of Utah’s water as they do for most other western states. In the early years, they offered timber and rock for structures, including temples, tabernacles, and other historic buildings. Cool breezes followed canyons down to give relief from intense summer heat, and grew forage for cattle and sheep. The Oquirrh mountains on the west edge of Salt Lake valley are host to one of the world’s richest mines yielding approximately 25 percent of the country’s copper, 12 tons of gold, and 120 tons of silver each year.

Going beyond Utah and the west, it is water from mountain glaciers that support over 2 billion people in India, China and several middle east/Eurasian countries. With rapidly receding glaciers from a warming planet, this has become a grave concern.
On a lessor note, I recently accompanied a group of college students on a YNP pica inventory to follow their population trends as they are being impacted by a changing climate.
I’ll conclude with an 1877 quote from early American naturalist John Muir upon first entering the Salt Lake valley.

“The mountains rise grandly round about this curious city, the Zion of the new Saints, so grandly that the city itself is hardly visible. The Wasatch range, snow-laden and adorned with glacier-sculpted peaks, stretches continuously along the eastern horizon, forming the boundary of the Great Salt Lake basin; while across the valley of the Jordan southwestward from here, you behold the Oquirrh Range, about as snowy and lofty as the Wasatch.

The glacial developments of these superb ranges are sharply sculpted peaks and crests, with ample wombs between them where the ancient snows of the glacial period where collected and transformed into ice, and ranks of profound shadowy canyons, while moraines commensurate with the lofty fountains extend into the valleys, forming far the grandest series of glacial monuments I have yet seen this side of the Sierra.”

This is Jack Greene reading and writing for Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy and Copyright Hilary Shughart
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading:

Wasatch Mountains, History to Go, Utah.gov, http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/the_land/wasatchmountains.html

Geology of Utah, History to Go, Utah.gov, http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/the_land/geologyofutah.html

Logan Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/uwcnf/recarea/?recid=8985

Shrubby-Reed Mustard: The Best Little Plant You’ve Never Heard of

Shrubby-Reed Mustard Bush, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Shrubby-Reed Mustard Bush
Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms
Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms Closeup, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms
Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

Tucked into isolated pockets of the Uintah Basin’s arid wildlands is the best little plant you’ve never heard of. Known to exist only in Duchesne and Uintah Counties, Shrubby-reed Mustard seems to occupy only the semi-barren “islands” of white shale in areas of the Green River Formation’s Evacuation Creek region. The endangered plant features thick, almost succulent, blue-green leaves and small yellow flowers.

“The habitat of Shrubby-reed Mustard is visually striking,” says USU alum Matt Lewis, a botanist with the Bureau of Land Management in Vernal, Utah. “It grows in very shallow, fine-textured soils and shale fragments that form narrow bands in the desert shrub community.”

Among the first plants to flower in spring, the perennial herb is visited by large number of insects, including many native bee species that forage for pollen. Scientists believe these bees may be critical in the plant’s reproduction and survival.

Lewis says the plant, also known as Toad-Flax Cress and Uintah Basin Waxfruit, offers an understated beauty to the stark landscape. With a shrub-like form and multiple stems, Shrubby-reed Mustard grows to about 20 centimeters in height. Its leaves, which feel almost like leather, change to a bright purple in the fall.

The plant is also enticingly fragrant, Lewis says. “Its scent reminds me of roses mixed with apples and pears.”

Despite its fragile status, Shrubby-reed Mustard is a long-lived plant. USU ecologist Geno Schupp says some individual plants may be one hundred years old.

The elusive species has outlived scientists’ attempts to classify it and has undergone several taxonomic changes. It currently boasts the scientific name Hesperidanthus suffrutescens, placing it solidly in the mustard family.

Lewis knows of no history of Shrubby-reed Mustard as a culinary or medicinal herb, though documented reports of such uses for mustard plants date back to ancient times. The plant appears to provide welcome forage for some four-legged creatures, he says, as he recently witnessed plants that had been grazed completely and ripped from the ground.

“Whether that was due to livestock or native ungulates, I’m not sure.”

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis
Text:     Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Utah State University College of Natural Resources
Credits:
Matt Lewis, botanist, Bureau of Land Management, Vernal, Utah.
Eugene “Geno” Schupp, professor, USU Department of Wildland Resources.

Additional Reading:

http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/factsheets/ShrubbyReed-mustardFactSheet.pdf

http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/plants/shrubbyreedmustard/5YearReview2010.pdf

Utah’s Stunning Landscapes and America’s Celebration

National Park Service - Find Your Park
Find Your Park
Courtesy US NPS
Utah is arguably blessed with the most stunning landscapes on the planet. Many have been preserved for posterity in our National Parks & Monuments. This is the BIG YEAR- the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service! I’ve sampled and worked in many of them- from Alaska to Florida, from S. California to New England. As many would suggest- our National Parks are one of America’s greatest achievements which has gone global, now found on all continents except Antarctica (or am I missing one!).

Much of my work in the Parks has been assisting with the launch of the “Climate Friendly Parks” program which began in 2006. The program provides parks with the tools and resources to address climate change and ensure the most sustainable operations across the agency.

National parks, because of their location and unique, protected resources, are places where the effects of climate change are particularly noticeable. With the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916, responsibility was given to the Service to preserve and protect the significant resources within parks for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Today, as knowledge about climate change and its effects increase and potential impacts are better understood, the need to practice good stewardship and develop forward thinking resource management plans is more relevant than ever.

I began in Zion N.P. then moved on to several others including Mt. Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, and Denali in Alaska. Zion N.P. will always be at or near the top for its amazing landforms, shear grandeur, hidden canyons, and rich diversity of life- the highest in Utah.
It was here that I first met the ringtail cat and Mexican Spotted Owl- two illusive, iconic critters. Both appeared in broad daylight in Hidden Canyon on the west face of the Great White Throne. There is no season less than spectacular here. Perhaps the most dramatic accompanies the seasonal monster thunder storms amplified by massive sandstone cliffs which begin spouting 2000 foot blood red waterfalls. It’s all too surreal, too ethereal for one’s senses to fully grasp.
And yet another proposed stunning Utah landscape containing thousands of ancient ruins is receiving wide citizen support including many native tribes, that being the Bears Ears NationalMonument.

Find Your Park
Find Your Park
Courtesy US NPS
This area of South Eastern Utah offers a unique opportunity to include the “real Americans”, the people that have over 10,000 years of Utah history, who continue to honor and worship this ancient landscape of their ancestors. These tribes have been invited to participate in its planning and management to assure their rituals and subsistence ways may continue, and that its pristine nature would be preserved in perpetuity.

Designation of the Bears Ears NM would be a marvelous celebratory note for this epic year to honor America’s grandest idea!

This is Jack Greene for Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy National Park Service for Find Your Park
Courtesy BearsEarsCoalition.org for the map of the proposed Bears Ears National Monument.
Text:     Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society & USU Office of Sustainability

Additional Reading:

Utah National Parks, Google Search, Utah’s National Parks

Bears Ears National Monument, Google Search, Bears Ears National Monument

Secretaries Jewell, Vilsack Applaud President’s Designation of New National Monuments in Utah and Nevada, Dec 28, 2016, https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/secretaries-jewell-vilsack-applaud-presidents-designation-new-national-monuments-utah

Statement by the President on the Designation of Bears Ears National Monument and Gold Butte National Monument, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Dec 28, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/28/statement-president-designation-bears-ears-national-monument-and-gold

FACT SHEET: President Obama to Designate New National Monuments Protecting Significant Natural and Cultural Resources in Utah and Nevada, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Dec 28, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/28/fact-sheet-president-obama-designate-new-national-monuments-protecting

Gayle, Riana, Planning For The Future, A Bioregional Approach, UPR Utah Public Radio, Nov 19, 2018, https://www.upr.org/post/planning-future-bioregional-approach