Here's my back yard, June 1st a couple years ago versus March 1st this year. All that snow is from one day, btw, and is well over ten feet high. It was an excellent blizzard, and after a day of subzero temps and howling yowling winds, the weather is pretty much back to normal for this time of year. Sunny skies mixed with some drizzly rainshowers, and temps in the glorious mid-50s.
A hike on Waterworks Hill yesterday told me that the bitterroots are out in droves. I found hundreds of the bright green anemones tucked into the rocky northeast slopes. Now I'll start keeping my eyes peeled for buttercups, draba and Rocky Mountain douglasia. The earliest spring wildflowers are some of my favorites.
|Draba verna, each flower no bigger than a grain of rice.|
I'm starting up a new project with Watershed Consulting, hunting for Mecinus janthinus, the biocontrol weevil that attacks the noxious weed toadflax. The hard cold temperatures this winter (we had two good stretches where it was under 20 below zero) killed off quite a few bugs, which overwinter as adults in the toadflax stems. Our plan is to find stems that were hidden underneath the snow during those cold snaps. Hopefully the snow will have provided some protection from the frigid temps, much like an insulating blanket. We'll see! Once we find the weevils, we'll pack some of the population up and ship them out. The simple version of how biocontrol projects like this work is this:
|Linaria dalmatica, Dalmation Toadflax|
|Matt, from my 2013 Youth in Restoration crew, getting biocontrol weevils ready to ship.|
It's a fascinating and effective process, and one that I'm really excited to learn more about. Over the next few weeks, you'll find me out in the hills, rambling through weedy patches, slicing stems and looking for Messinus. Did they survive more on north or south slopes? Low or high? Big stems or small? The Bitterroot Valley or the Swan? So many questions. I'll let you know how it goes.
In other news, I'm still building wild bee houses, and now is the season to order one! You can visit my Flora montana Etsy shop, or pop in to one of the Missoula businesses that carry them (the Naturalist's Mercantile and The Buttercup Market and Cafe, at the moment). I have woodblock photography and bee houses on display (and for sale!) at the Montana Natural History Center through the end of April, and will be setting some stuff up at Bad Goat for a First Friday show in May. And of course, feel free to drop me a line if you'd like to order one directly from me! I'd love to hear from you. Happy spring, everyone. I'll be back soon with the first of this season's Plant Profiles. Keep in touch.