Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snow in Sanpete

Snow so far this season is about average as it goes. I am not getting out much, but this SNOTEL plot from the Mammoth-Cottonwood site up Fairview Canyon shows the story for so far this year. The dark blue line traces Snow Water Equivalent, which is very near but just below the ten-year average, probably because it has been warmer than normal on the Skyline so far. The Total Precipitation, the dark red line, shows well ahead of the ten-year average, shown by the yellow. So our water year is off to the very best of starts.

The snow pack is not as deep as in some years, because the melt rate has been higher due to warmer temps, but the water is there, to water crops and gardens next spring.

And to make the wildflowers blossom.

This specimen is Palmer's Penstemen (Penstemen palmeri) BTW. It is a common but sparse resident of Sanpete County in late spring and early summer at elevations ranging from 3000 to 6000 feet at roadside waste place with little extra water and dry sandy soil.


Anonymous said...

How beautiful that penstemen is. Thanks for sharing it.



Jim Cobabe said...


Remember Ricky and I worked last summer survey in an area in Iron County were there was a big fire the year before, after the Milford Flats?

It was an awful survey. Most of the area was junipers, and they had been bulldozed and chained by D9 Caterpillers. This leaves the dead trees laying over on the ground, piled up like jackstraws. Even our ATVs could not climb over them comfortably. The terrain we had to traverse was very steep. But we were determined to do a thorough job, even at a cost of many punctured tires and tipped over rigs. We did the job!

What I was going to say was that the fire, for some reason, caused Palmer's Penstemon to bloom in the greatest profusion! They were everywhere in the black! I could not believe my eyes.

Another of the strangest phenomen was that Indian Tobacco bloomed in great profusion, too. It was everywhere in the black. I have never seen so much of it before at one time. But that was not the greatest surprise. On most of the tobacco plants, there were feeding with the greatest enthustiasum tomato hornworms!

You know this obnoxious species, if you have ever tried to grow tomatoes at home before. They seem to show up overnight, and start devouring great masses of tomato leaves like they were delectable salad. When you come close, they start standing up by the hind legs and try to act threatening!

Well, they were just covering acres and acres of all of this native indian tobacco that grew up after the fire. Who knows where either one of them came from? *shrug*

Thin air, as far as I could tell.

While I was working, I met a ecologist from BYU who was working on fire ecology study projects. He was doing a survey of how species repopulate areas that are devastated by forest fires. I promised I would meet him later and compare notes, but was somewhat distracted by later developments, as it turns out. He made a pretty whacky picture, with a big butterfly net, pith helmet, high socks and bermuda shorts. He was wearing a sort of vest that had lots of pockets with lot of small vials for insect specimens. Nutty Professor type, if I ever met one!

Jim Cobabe said...


BTW, I was going to mention that Nicotiana, the tobacco species, and Lycopersicon, the tomato species, are all part of the same Nightshade family that this Hornworm feeds on. He apparently does not distingusish between food types when hungry. Who could blame the guy?