Friday, August 27, 2010

Astagalus geyeri var. geyeri

Geyer's milkvetch

Found in Deep Springs and Fish-Lake Valley, Geyer's milkvetch is an easily overlooked plant. Standing barely 5 cm at its tallest, this small pea is among the numerous special status plants found in the California Desert District.

This milkvetch appears to be associated with blow sand habitats. They are found abundantly along a southern chain of dunes in Deep Springs valley, but sharply cut off the moment one leaves the blow sand and enters more rocky habitat. I found that these tiny plants, at first very easily overlooked, were quite prolific in their "chosen" area, to the point that while surveying for them, I often had to avoid stepping on them as I worked my transect lines. In the short time I worked the area, I found over 500 plants.

This plant is a further reflection of how a special status plant can vary in nature. Unlike some of its cousin Astragalus', where it is often possible to actually count the number of individuals in the whole population, this species is quite prolific, but is highly limited to a small section of land. It is this limited range of habitat that makes this as a species of concern to the Bureau of Land Management. If something were to happen to the site where the species is found, then it could easily wipe out one of the few known populations. Because of this, the BLM does not allow utilization of the lands where this plant is found.

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