Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Searching the Woods

We have a great new challenge for those of you who want to explore for a rare plant.  A new shrub has been described in Missouri and Susan Farrington, Plant Community Ecologist for MDC needs you!
The shrub is closely related to our common leatherwood (Dirca palustris), which is scattered throughout much of Missouri, but is not particularly common anywhere. It is usually found in low woods along creeks and streams. The new species of leatherwood, Dirca decipiens, may also be found in these habitats, but is thought to occur more on higher north-facing bluffs overlooking creeks and rivers.  Leatherwood is one of the first shrubs to bloom (along with spicebush), and should be starting this week in the southern part of the state, and within the next 2 weeks further north.
The two are not that easy to tell apart: to see photos and descriptions of both, Download this PDF.
What you can do:
  1. Keep an eye out for ANY leatherwood.  Record the location (GPS if possible), the habitat, the date.
  2. If you are on MDC land, without an MDC employee, you should just note the location and hopefully take some good pictures of the flower. 
  3. If you are on private land and have the landowners permission, collect a small (6” or so) twig with flowers or fruit.  Press the twig in newspapers under heavy books, or in a big phone book. Record the location (GPS if possible), the habitat, the date, and please get the specimens to Malissa Underwood or your local botanist or natural history biologist or George Yatskievych at the Missouri Botanical Garden (NHB’s: please forward specimens to Malissa or George Y).
If  you  are on private land, you need the landowner’s permission to collect a specimen.  If you are on MDC land, without an MDC employee, you should just note the location and hopefully take some good pictures of the flower.  Then contact Malissa Underwood, MDC State Botanist,  atmalissa.underwood@mdc.mo.gov, or the area manager, and if a voucher specimen is needed, an employee can collect it. 
What a great way to get out of doors in the sun, rain sleet, etc.!

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