ארכיון יומן של יוני 2020

יוני 05, 2020

Plant highlights from the trip to Matador WMA and Gene Howe WMA

Recently, I went on a trip with some other iNaturalists to a couple of Wildlife Management Areas in the Rolling Plains of Texas: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/36928-texas-panhandle-gathering-inaturalist-is-a-tool-of-engagement. We had a lot of fun and saw many interesting organisms. At Gene Howe, in particular, there were many species that are more common out east that I was unfamiliar with. By the end, I wondered if I should have told the folks from the DFW area, "if it looks ordinary or boring to you, then it's probably a good record for out here". My goal was to observe 300 plant species on this trip and I am at 330! I may get a couple more once I get some of the others to species, but I'm pretty happy with that. Overall, I'm at about 980 observations and will probably be a little over 1,000 when I get my blacklighting observations up. Thanks to @sambiology for putting all this together!

All of my observations can be seen here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2020-05-29&d2=2020-06-01&place_id=any&subview=grid&user_id=nathantaylor&verifiable=any
The highlights are as follows:

Nama stevensii

A species usually considered a gypsum endemic was found in the gypsum outcrops at Matador WMA. I had doubts at first, but I managed to find N. hispida in the general area as well and compare both species.

Townsendia texana

Though remarkably common in areas of the northern High and Rolling Plains, the species has a very limited distribution and is a neat regional plant:

Mentzelia spp.

On the trip, I was able to see all of the High/Rolling Plains Mentzelia species: M. reverchonii, M. nuda, M. oligosperma, M. decapetala (not in bloom), and M. strictissima (in abundance when I got home). From this, I was able to get a good sense of how to distinguish them all. M. nuda and M. strictissima are by far the most difficult and the characteristics given in FNA are misleading. I'll try to put together a more accurate key in the near future. I still didn't get enough material to know whether the two intergrade, but I do know that, if they intergrade, it occurs between Matador WMA and Lamesa, TX. Any observations in the area with rulers showing petal length and sepal shape of flowers in bud would really help with this. Also of interest, M. decapetala lacks the hairs that grab onto clothing, unlike most stickleafs.

Rubus pascuus

It keys well here, but the range is so far west that I have a hard time believing it. Nonetheless, it's an odd area to find a Rubus regardless of the species.

Phacelia robusta

BONAP lists this species as occurring in the Rolling Plains but Powell and Worthington list it as a Trans-Pecos endemic. While I am always inclined to believe Powell and Worthington over BONAP, I think the plants speak for themselves here. The plants can be huge under good conditions, though most individuals are small and stunted. The only thing that bugs me a little is the black seeds. P. robusta seeds are listed as reddish-brown in Powell and Worthington. Overall, I need to study this species in relation to P. integrifolia and P. texana as there seems to be significant variability in flower color and morphology, both of which are used as key characteristics. Most significantly, the distinction between tubular and funnelform flowers seem to be simply a matter of how long the corolla limb is. If short, the flower is tubular to funnelform, if long, it is campanulate.

Epipactis gigantea

This is the first orchid I have ever seen in the region. Though it wasn't found at any of the WMA's, it was quite a sight to behold! I have obscured the location as I'd really rather not have a lot of people know where this is (increased risk of poaching or disturbance).

Astragalus gracilis and cleistogamous A. lotiflorus

Though not that novel, it was my first time seeing A. gracilis and the cleistogamous populations of A. lotiflorus. The cleistogamous populations of A. lotiflorus are quite puzzling, not because the taxonomy doesn't make sense, but because I've never met a plant that has cleistogamous and chasmogamous populations. Plenty of plants produce both, but usually on the same plant as a way of hedging the bets under bad conditions. I could even see a scenario where some generations are cleistogamous and some are chasmogamous, but that's not what is observed. I have not once seen the two growing together which begs the question as to whether they should be considered the same instead of separate species. Regardless, it was nice to see them. I also saw A. lindheimeri, A. missouriensis, A. nuttalianus var. austrinus, A. mollissimus, and A. plattensis. I could have caught some others I had seen before on the way back, but I've documented those species well. Also, a species that looks similar to A. praelongus: Glycyrrhiza lepidota.

Oenothera coryi

Again, not at the WMAs, but another rare species. I was hoping to find it in fruit and I did. Many thanks to @amzapp for finding the location!

Other Oenothera species found on the trip included O. serrulata, O. hartwegii (at least three varieties), O. grandis, O. laciniata, O. triloba, O. engelmannii, O. albicaulis, O. rhombipetala, O. cinearea var. cinearea, O. suffulta, O. sinuosa, O. suffrutescens, and O. glaucifolia. A couple weren't in bloom. The observations I made on the trip of O. serrulata should help me figure out the distinctions between that species and O. berlandieri. So far, just the length of the style has been considered as the distinction. Also, some nice Schinia gaurae to go along with the members of sect. Gaura.

Ceanothus herbaceous

First time I've seen a Ceanothus in the region. Not at either of the WMAs.

Apocynum cannabinum

Though not rare or the first time I've seen it, it was the first time I saw it in flower which gives me some ability to understand the species in relation to the Monahans population which I believe to be a different species.

Argemone species

I documented at least two species on the trip and a couple of color variants of one (presumably A. polyanthemos). The group is complex and it seems that I encounter plant taxonomists are wondering about them whenever I am in the field with a group of them. I have not yet processed the material I gathered, but am hoping to write a key or guide on the subject once I get them figured out.


No trip report of mine would be complete without noting the Euphorbias. There wasn't much new, though I did get some photos of potential pollinators of E. albomarginata, a gall associate of E. fendleri, and a leaf miner and a leaf hopper on E. hexagona. Also, the leaves of E. serpens at Gene Howe were atypically elongated. Oblong leaves are not what I typically think of when I see E. serpens. Just more evidence that the species is a taxonomic complex waiting to be untangled. In total, I saw 14 species: E. hexagona, E. bicolor, E. spathulata, E. davidii, E. albomarginata, E. serpens, E. fendleri, E. lata, E. prostrata, E. stictospora, E. maculata, E. glyptosperma, E. geyeri var. geyeri, and E. missurica.

פורסם ב יוני 05, 2020 04:54 אחה"צ על־ידי nathantaylor nathantaylor | 6 comments | הוספת תגובה

יוני 29, 2020

Change is a good thing

So, I think it's time I talk about how I've had to and will continue to cut back on my identifications. To skip to the point for those not interested in the long story, I have and will continue to cut back severally on the number of identifications I provide on iNaturalist and focus only on the most important ones to me (more details about what "most important" means in bold below).

This decision has been a mixture of conscious decision-making and a natural progression as my life and iNaturalist change. The natural parts have come via the record high numbers of observations continually being uploaded and my desire and need to focus on matters closer to home. The conscious decision-making has come in the form of figuring out a new balance to my life and iNaturalist so that I can stay engaged without being overwhelmed. There's no way to sugar coat it, this has been a hard year for everyone and with prospects of starting a doctoral program at Oklahoma State University has made me think about what I want out of iNatualist and my research in general.

My goal used to be to curate all the US Euphorbias, all of sect. Anisophyllum worldwide, and all the plants of the Llano Estacado and surrounding areas. I have added Texas Euphorbiaceae to that list a couple of times. Excluding Euphorbiaceae and the other random groups, I would have occasionally tried to curate, the records I have been focusing on have grown from roughly 2,623 observations per month from last year (about 31,474 for all of 2019) to nearly 3,941.5 observations per month this year (about 23,649 for these first 6 months of 2020 alone). This is a 50% increase, but the trend is upward growth, so I would not be that suprised if the overall figure ends up at a 70% increase by the end of the year (last year's growth for the US Euphorbias was 43%). I suppose it's still possible to expect a full doubling by the end of the year. The Llano Estacado observations for this year, in particular, are just 652 away from matching the 12,351 observations made last year. I am extremely proud and encouraged by this growth even if it does exceed my limitations. To put those numbers in perspective, the average for all of 2019 was about 86.2 observations/day. That average has risen to about 129.5 observations/day for 2020. Of course, these are usually clustered in the growing season. For this month (June 2020), the average has been 226 observations/day! This is what identification fatigue looks like in cold hard numbers.

With this in mind, I can't keep the same goals I have had. I have cut back severely these last couple weeks and have felt a lot better for it. I've even had some time to dabble in botanical illustration. At this point, it isn't just a question of time but also a question of rebalancing my life outside of iNaturalist. Every hour I spend on iNaturalist IDing Euphorbia maculata in cities that have a hundred others just like them is an hour I could spend writing documents that could help shape the way we all view the species and help everyone get better at identifying this and other species as a whole. When I write anything on iNaturalist, I want to focus on this meathod and not try to get keep everything tidy as I wanted to in the beginning. That's ultimately what I want and my time on iNaturalist needs to facilitate these goals and not hinder them as has been the case for many months now. I think it will be better for me, iNaturalist, and our understanding of the natural world in general. As for what my future plans are regarding iNaturalist, I will have to see how much time I have when I start my Ph.D. studies, but my hope is to focus on what follows:

Llano Estacado: Putting together genera treatments as I have been doing and only IDing the genera I'm currently working on.
US Euphorbias: Except for sect. Anisophyllum and special requests, I'm putting this group on hold. I may try to complete some of my ideas for guides in the project, but I have to cut back here.
Worldwide sect. Anisophyllum: Focus on novel observations and publishing articles that have been on the backburner for over a year. I hate to say this, but that especially means no more IDing E. maculata across most of the US except by special request.

Ultimately, I suspect I will have to cut the above down to one or maybe two once I start grad school, but those are my iNaturalist goals facilitating my broader goals of creating a flora of the Llano Estacado and monographing section Anisophyllum. Concerning special requests, I still intend to offer my expertise whenever someone asks and really hope I don't get so busy that I have to start ignoring them, but please be understanding if I do. So many aspects of my life and iNaturalist are changing and it will be hard to predict where I end up as time goes on. I hope it never comes to this, but if I have to prioritize, my first priority will always be towards those who both want to learn and are willing to help others identify. The second will be towards those who want to learn how to ID the species. And lastly are those who simply want an ID. I will also prioritize observations that I know without having to look anything up. Looking up information takes a lot of time when multiplied over many observations and I will almost certainly have to cut or severely limit these in the future.

It may not seem like it, but this is a big change for me, definitely the biggest internet usage change and probably a lot bigger than when I decided to not check Facebook every day. I have spent nearly every day (with the typical exception of Saturday) for the past few years identifying plants on iNaturalist. It is comfortable, familiar, and yielded a grand total of 120,499 identifications to date (109,354 of those are at species-level). I am proud of those numbers and have few regrets about the time spent to produce them. But change can be a good thing. And, I think it's high time for this one.
LE plants: 12,351 (12 months; 2019); 11,699 (6 months; 2020); 3,726 (June, 2020)
US Euphorbia: 15,215 (12 months; 2019); 9,592 (6 months; 2020); 2,206 (June, 2020)
World Anisophyllum: 3,908 (12 months; 2019); 2,358 (6 months; 2020); 395 (June, 2020)
Total: 31,474 (12 months; 2019), 2,622.8/month; 23,649 (6 months; 2020), 3,941.5/month; 6,327 (June, 2020), 226/day.

פורסם ב יוני 29, 2020 05:01 לפנה"צ על־ידי nathantaylor nathantaylor | 13 comments | הוספת תגובה

יוני 10, 2020

Rhus aromatica/trilobata

Rhus aromatica and R. trilobata have been treated as distinct species and the same species over the years with little explanation in the Texas flora as to why. Although a much more thorough investigation into the literature would be preferable, I'll just go through the classic Texas references (I would ordinarily include FNA, but the Anacardiaceae treatment hasn't come out yet). Firstly, here are the three names and their equivalents under the two taxonomies:

R. aromatica var. serotina = R. aromatica var. serotina
R. aromatica var. flabelliformis = R. trilobata var. trilobata
R. aromatica var. pilosissima = R. trilobata var. pilosissima

Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas considers R. trilobata a synonym of R. aromatica with little explanation.
Flora of North Central Texas considers the two species separate but notes the following: "This taxon [R. trilobata] is distinguished in some instances with difficulty from R. aromatica and is possibly only a variety of that species."
Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Texas synonymizes R. trilobata under R. aromatica without any explanation.
Flowering Plants of Trans-Pecos Texas and Adjacent Areas considers R. trilobata a synonym citing Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Texas.
The taxon merge on iNaturalist was made citing this: https://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=41175. Jepson cites this: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25064252?seq=1. The phylogeny paper gives no indication that the two should be treated as synonyms. Indeed, there is not enough populational data mapped in the paper to give a conclusion one way or another meaning that the decision is based on the experience of the authors (John M. Miller & Dieter H. Wilken). This is fine, but it still doesn't offer any populational explanation as to what is going on in the species and why the decision to synonymize was made.

Until a more thorough study is done or I find some better references, I'll be following suit and not recognizing R. trilobata. Please let me know if you have a reference that offers a view with greater depth than the above as there doesn't seem to be much in the way of explanation in the Texas literature on Rhus.

The best distinctions are given in Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas and are as follows:
Terminal leaflets 25-60 mm long, more or less narrowed at apex.....................R. aromatica var. serotina
Terminal leaflets 15-33 mm long, abruptly narrowed to truncate at apex
Mature leaves glabrous....................R. aromatica var. flabelliformis
Mature leaves densely pubescent.....................R. aromatica var. pilosissima

Rhus aromatica var. serotina doesn't appear to occur on the High Plains/Rolling Plains.

Rhus aromatica var. flabelliformis in truly glabrous form appears to be somewhat uncommon in the region, but many individuals have leaves so sparsly pubescent that it is hard to consider them R. aromatica var. pilosissima. As good varieties, there is going to be intergradation. Here is one of the few glabrous examples in the area: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/13131983. Even it has a little hair.

R. aromatica var. pilosissima seems to be the most common variety on the Llano Estacado and adjacent areas. The most extreme and obvious examples of this variety are when the hairs are densely pilose and produce a velvety texture. This form is common.

פורסם ב יוני 10, 2020 04:31 אחה"צ על־ידי nathantaylor nathantaylor | 2 comments | הוספת תגובה