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Jul 6 Orchid Trip Adventure Recap

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, really it was morning, but the dark and stormy part is true. Regardless, the inclement weather during Tuesday’s early hours wasn’t enough to keep Team Echinacea from taking a road trip to monitor orchid populations in Fertile, MN.

Eight of us, about half the team, left the field house around 7am and drove north for two and a half hours. We stopped only for the necessities, namely the bathroom and donuts. The rain forced us to wait in our vehicles when we arrived at our site, and we were finally able to get to work around 10:30.

The first location we visited required a short hike to access. Though it’s acres upon acres in size, you’d never find it if you didn’t know where to look, which is why we were fortunate we were joined by Gretel Kiefer, who has worked with these orchids and the Nature Conservancy for over decades. A long-time member of Team Echinacea, Gretel is spending most of her summer at the Chicago Botanic Garden, but was able to join us this week for the trip.

The work itself consisted of moving in groups of four searching 10m by 10m plots for orchid plants. Whenever we found one, we would gather some data on its flowers, give it a numbered flag and use a GPS to mark its exact location. The plots themselves were sometimes a bit difficult to keep track of because many of the markers were fallen over or missing; I can only imagine how difficult it may have beef if there was standing water. Fortunately for us—but perhaps not the plants—this year is a dry one.

After finishing up at the first location, we ate lunch before traveling to the second and final location for the day. Because it would have been a long walk carrying all of our equipment, to get there we all piled in to Stuart’s pickup truck and drove down what I would hesitate to call a road, though we did all make it in one piece.

Our task for the second location was the same as before, but took much longer due to its larger size. By the time we were finishing up, the sun had come up after hiding behind the clouds all day. We were fortunate that it had been cloudy for most of the day; not only does cloud cover provide some relief from the heat, but, somewhat counter-intuitively, direct sunlight also makes it more difficult to spot individual plants. Once we wrapped up our work around 7pm, we headed south, stopping at a pizza place in Ada on the way back for dinner.

Despite the rain in the early hours, the consensus was that the orchid trip was successful, and indisputably a blast.

Some bonus photos:

—Wyatt

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