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.

Euphorbia

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.

Posted by nathantaylor nathantaylor, June 05, 2020 16:54

Comments

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@nathantaylor So many beautiful flora! Thank you so much for sharing!

Posted by pufferchung about 2 months ago (Flag)
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Your willingness to share and educate continue to amaze me! Your photos are awesome. Thanks.

Posted by suz about 2 months ago (Flag)
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Great journal post, and fantastic pictures.
I can't believe you managed to find so many different plant species, I'm in awe.

Posted by annikaml about 2 months ago (Flag)
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What a great read - thanks for putting this together! And amazing photos, too!

Posted by beschwar about 2 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks all!

Posted by nathantaylor about 2 months ago (Flag)
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Enjoyed reading @nathantaylor...thanks!

Posted by pfau_tarleton about 1 month ago (Flag)

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