From Preserve to Preservation: Rocky Mountain Bee Plant in November

Mary Ann Maestas, IAE Southwest Botany Field Technician

For one of the last seed collections of the season, I joined two Bureau of Land Management interns for some collections and scouting in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. Our first stop was to the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve, adjacent to La Cienega. At this point in the season, the Preserve is closed to the public. The path through the Preserve is lined with an assortment of plants and flowers with a cover of trees almost enclosing you on the trail.

On our lookout for Helianthus annuus (common sunflower), Sam and I spotted the Rocky Mountain bee plant, more scientifically known as Cleome serrulata. Sam and I collected some of its bean-like pods. Cleome serrulata is a warm season annual found throughout the western and southwestern, midwestern US and Canada. It is very popular among pollinators, which is no surprise given that a pollinator is in its common name.

Leonora Curtin in the Fall (Photo Credit: Victoria Atencio)

Cleome serrulata’s lavender-colored flowers earlier this year (Photo credit: Victoria Atencio)

After collecting some of this population’s seed, we headed to help Ella with another seed collection and voucher.

Later, I was at the seed ranch to clean seed from all of the collection sites from the last of the season’s collections. While I was searching for the next round of seed to clean, I spotted the Cleome serrulata that I helped to collect at the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve. This particular plant is one of the easiest to clean quickly with the sieves and sifters available at the Seed Ranch. Cleome serrulata’s seeds are nearly black, sometimes spotted grey resembling small peas. They easily fall from their pods with a simple shake. After removing the seed from the plant, I ran the seed through the air separator in order to get rid of any non viable seed. After collecting, sifting and sieving, and then packing up the seed, I was able to join this plant on its journey from the preserve to being preserved for a future restoration or reclamation project.

Cleome serrulata seed pods

Cleome serrrulata seed processing at the seed ranch

Asclepias subverticillata
Airy, silky fibers
Yet poisonous like some spiders
Emerge from its fusiform pods
And stay atop the sieve
While its seed falls through
Just like wrote seed cleaner Steve