PCMN Sonoita, Grasslands Field trip 4/22/18

IMG_4824Cohort (1) Carol Anderson, Don Featherstone, Julie Hallbach, Hank Verbais, Deb Huie, Franklin Lane. Cohort (2) Gael Cassidy, Mack Consigny

Presenter: Jim Koweek

At this final, coordinated, Advance Training opportunity for the Spring of 2018, Pima County Master Naturalists met at the General Store in Sonoita, Arizona. We caravanned from there about 20 miles south down Hwy 83 to the Lyle Canyon turn off. At the bottom of the hill we met our Grasslands Guide; Scientist/cowboy/author/range specialist/western singer, Jim Koweek!

For the next couple of hours we learned about the incredible biodiversity of this high elevation (+5,000’) grassland biome. The dirt road through the canyon is initially on private property but it is a legal easement to a section of the Coronado National Forest. We made several stops (get out, get back in!) as Jim spotted plants or a particular soil type from his truck.

At out final stop we hiked up a small hill that stood out prominently on the terrain. With some amazing views we discussed grassland ecology, history of ranching in the area and the impact of invasives.

Jim explained about the importation of African grasses to the area in the 1920s-30s as part of an effort to combat the devastation of severe drought conditions in Southern Arizona around that time. He has concluded that it takes about (40) years to really understand the effect an introduced species has on a native population. Therefore, many of those early decision makers never really lived to see the end result. When an invasive out competes a native species there is a cascading effect on other plants, animals and insects.

Everyone agreed that the experience was incredibly worthwhile and should be considered for part of the required curriculum for future PCMN cohorts.
“Grasslands are full of indicator species….a fascinating history of farming and development.” – Julie H.

Submitted by Franklin Lane, Certified Pima MN, Cohort 1. All Photos and the following partial list of plants encountered provided by Deborah Huie, Certified Pima MN Cohort 1.

List of Grasses Identified:

• Blue grama
• Side out grama
• Green sprangle top
• Seep willow
• AZ sycamore
• AZ ash
• Loco weed
• Border pinon pine
• White oak
• Alligator juniper
• Bull muhly
• Pinon rice grass
• Trailing flea bane
• Plains love grass
• Sacaton
• Three ons
• Canyon grapes
• AZ walnut

• Hairy grama
• Cochise lovegrass
• Creeping snake herb – dichereti
• Evolvulus arizonicus (blue eyed)
• Gumphrina
• Manzanita
• Spruce top grama
• Yellow disoida thymophyla
• Yerba de psomo
• Vevlvet pod mimosa
• Native flax – lineum pruberum
• Curly mesquite grass
• Rose heath
• Cliff rose
• Range spreading magenta rattney
• Mouse ears
• Louts (vetch)
• Milkweed
• Rubber rabbit bush

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