Our Flora Retrospective: One Year of the Vesper Meadow Plant List
Because plants are the basis for habitat, they are the first thing that we started tracking.
Just one year after the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve was established, we are feeling retrospective. The pervasive late-summer smell of tarweed has become familiar, and we are starting to see subtle changes in vegetation.
The winters’ snow and spring rains were significant, and likely contributed to some of the early season superblooms that we witnessed: Camas lily, Buttercups, Lupines, American bistort, and others… But perhaps even more apparent is how after two summer seasons without grazing, the land has been given a rest. We are witnessing the slow reemergence of high-value wildlife shrubs like black elderberry, ocean spray, serviceberry, willow, and quaking aspen. It also seems that a more shy, native grazer has reemerged with the removal of cows: Elk! They have made regular appearances weekly since the snow melted this spring. Though they continue to graze (on grass) and occasionally browse (on aspen and willow), their impact is lighter and more dispersed throughout the meadow.
Beyond Cattle: Plants Healing the Land
Understory flowers and grasses in the forest edges have also increased this year. Earlier this summer, pollinator plants like Seablush Plectritus congesta and Groundsol Senecio integerrimus were more abundant in forest openings - attracting a diversity of butterflies and bees. Currently, some favorite aromatics like Coyotes Mint Monardella odortissima, Horsemint Agastache urticifolia, and Yarrow Achilles millefolium are blooming and providing feed for late-summer pollinators. We are excited to proliferate these high-value forage and medicinal plants through seed collecting and cultivation with the public.
Many places that have been highly impacted by cattle through soil compaction and erosion are slower to recover: Large wallows remain as barren depressions in the higher parts of the meadow, as well as along the creek banks - colonized by invasive plants like cheat-grass, if anything. Deeply eroded paths along old fence-lines in the meadow were flowing like tributary channels during this past spring’s snow melt, and now remain as hard-packed earth, void of plants. These scars on the earth are blatant reminders of recent human-settler impacts, but with some volunteer help and the gift of time - they will be healed.
The Vesper Meadow Plant List and other studies
For the first time, we are excited to share some of our botanical data! See some pictures and our list below - documented from June 2018 - July 2019 and compiled by Wayne Rolle, Kristi Mergenthaler, Stephani Dayni, and Jeanine Moy.
Vesper Meadow Plant List (link)
We have included both native and non-native species for the sake of inventory. We have also been working on studying the % coverage and abundance of species in permanent study plots, and will continue to develop monitoring protocols as native plant restoration efforts begin later this fall.