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

Maguire Primrose – A True Utahn Species

Maguire Primrose
Photo Courtesy US FWS
Larry England, Photographer

Hi, I’m Ru Mahoney with Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon. Utah is home to several iconic species – as indelible to our state’s identity as the craggy mountain landscapes and red rock deserts we call home. Gnarled bristlecone pines stand like abstract architecture for multiple millennia. Elusive mountain lions roam our alpine meadows in the north, all the way to our red rock canyons in the south. And curious coyotes – as resourceful as our native and pioneer ancestors – are truly wily wayfarers, as adaptable to suburban environments as to open range. But however pervasive iconic species may be to perceptions about our state, there are lesser known residents that are the true Utahns – species found absolutely nowhere else in the world.

The word “endemic” refers to a plant or animal whose distribution is restricted to a specific region. Utah ranks 6th in the nation for endemic species, with 247 endemic plant species alone. One of these is Primula cusickiana maguirei, or Maguire Primrose. This unassuming reddish violet-blossomed wildflower, standing just 2-4 inches high, makes a living in the cracks and depressions of limestone and quartzite outcrops along a 10 mile corridor through Logan Canyon in northern Utah. And that’s it! You won’t find it anywhere else on the planet. Of that narrow home range, Maguire Primrose is further isolated into two distinct populations within the canyon. Subtle differences in spring temperatures between the canyon walls often lead to one population blooming before the other. And while some species of primrose can survive by occasionally self-pollinating, Maguire Primrose is entirely dependent upon pollinators like bees, moths and the occasional hummingbird for reproduction. Therefore the success of Maguire Primrose requires a precise balance between cool temperatures for development and blooming, warmer temperatures to encourage pollinator activity, and a sufficient number of compatible mates blooming at the right time in the right place. In addition to these natural challenges, the US Forest Service reports that Maguire Primrose is increasingly impacted by recreational rock climbers, who clear cracks and crevices to accommodate permanent anchors along popular routes. Stokes Nature Center, and our forest service partners in the Logan Canyon Children’s Forest, hope to increase community awareness about Maguire Primrose to recruit our fellow nature lovers, including rock climbers and other canyon visitors, to become informed stewards of this rare and vulnerable wildflower.

Wildflower enthusiasts can find Maguire Primrose blooming from mid-April to mid-May at elevations of 4,800 to 6,000 feet. Flowers are more prevalent on north-facing cliffs where moisture from spring snowmelt is abundant and cooler temperatures nurture bud development. Stokes Nature Center, in partnership with the Logan Canyon Children’s Forest, offers seasonal guided field tours where canyon visitors can learn more about natural and human threats to Maguire Primrose, and enjoy a chance to see a true Utahn species found nowhere else in the world.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Ru Mahoney.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy US FWS, Larry England, Photographer
Text:     Ru Mahoney, Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon.


Additional Reading:

Natural History of Maguire Primrose, Primula cusickiana var. Maguirei (Primulaceae)
Jacob B. Davidson and Paul G. Wolf
Western North American Naturalist Nov 2011 : Vol. 71, Issue 3, pg(s) 327-337 doi: 10.3398/064.071.0301

Maguire Primrose Fact Sheet, US Fish & Wildlife Service(FWS), http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/factsheets/MaguirePrimroseFactSheet.pdf

Maguire Primrose, Primula cusickiana maguirei, Utah Rare Plant Guide, Utah Native Plant Society, www.UtahRarePlants.org

Climb Grand Teton…Virtually

Grand Teton virtual climb

Click to view larger image of Grand Teton virtual climb, Photo Courtesy NPS Photo Courtesy NPS, K Kanes, Photographer
.

Photo Courtesy NPS
K Kanes, Photographer
 
Begin Tour
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Scaling “the Grand,” that picturesque mountain that hangs over Jackson, Wyoming, along with its battleship-gray sisters in the Teton Range, was a ridiculous thought that found harbor in the back of my mind in the spring of 1985 when I first glanced up at the peak.

Along with a dozen or so other neighboring peaks that rise above 10,000 feet, the Tetons form a ponderous, jagged stretch of rock that is the Lower 48’s most arresting mountain range. The soul of Grand Teton National Park, the Grand as it’s known harbors world-class climbs.

Some climbers tackle the mountain on their own, while neophytes such as myself are herded ever upward under the watchful guidance of one of Jackson’s two resident climbing outfitters, Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

To me, an Easterner by birth, the 13,770-foot tall Grand Teton is a breathtaking, and incredibly tall, mountain. But climb it? Not only am I usually most comfortable with both feet firmly planted flat on the ground, but the thought of only a thin rope and a precarious hand- or toe-hold between me and an incredible long way down scared the hell out of me, quite frankly.

The view from atop the Grand Teton is incredible. To the west, the Jedediah Smith Wilderness stands. To the north, Yellowstone National Park. To the east, Jackson Hole, with the moraine that is Timbered Island so very well defined.

Now, if you haven’t climbed to the roof of Grand Teton National Park, or can’t, you can still enjoy the view.

A new virtual tour produced by the park staff takes you from the Jackson Hole Valley to the summit from the comfort of your living room or office. No cold or pelting rain, no thunder claps or lightning strikes, just a nice mix of interactive still photos and video cuts that take you to the top.

This virtual mountaineering excursion—or eClimb, as the park dubs it—provides an introduction to the features, geology, history, and excitement of scaling the granite ledges and spires that form the Grand Teton massif: the highest peak in the Teton Range and second highest mountain in Wyoming. This web-based tour introduces viewers to the various elements (rocky terrain, plants and wildlife) that exist in Grand Teton’s forest and alpine communities.

As an eClimber you can control images and sounds at each stop along your virtual tour, and you can activate videos to explore the human and natural history related to each location along the climbing route. By hovering your mouse over a photograph, hidden images will be revealed through the click of a button.

eClimbers can also use videos to imagine scrambling over boulder fields and wedging through rocky alcoves as they experience the thrill of climbing and drama of a mountain rescue in a virtual landscape.

To find this virtual climb, go to Grand Teton’s website (www.nps.gov/grte) and click on  “Grand Teton eClimb” near the bottom of the home page.

For Wild About Utah, this is Kurt Repanshek with National Parks Traveler

Credits:
Image: Courtesy USGS, www.usgs.gov
Image: Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, www.nationalparkstraveler.com
Text:     Kurt Repanshek, NationalParksTraveler.com.

 
Additional Reading:

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton eClimb

NationalParksTraveler.com

National Parks Traveler: Climb The Grand Teton…Virtually!