Thursday, May 21, 2015

Finding Bird's Foot Violets at Pineries Open Space

CNHP staff botanists Pam Smith and Bernadette Kuhn recently conducted rare plant surveys at Pineries Open Space outside of Colorado Springs. Judy von Ahlefeldt, a Black Forest local, organized the survey in an effort to document populations of the rare bird’s foot violet (Viola pedatifida). The property is owned by El Paso County, and County officials plan to remove hazard trees that were burned during the 2013 Black Forest Fire. The goal of this project is to help El Paso County staff identify the locations of rare plants so they can be avoided during the tree removal process. After a day of surveying, our group of eight volunteers and botanists discovered 52 bird’s foot violets.

Bird's foot violet (Viola pedatifida) is a tallgrass prairie plant. Colorado populations represent the far western edge of the species' range. The destruction of native tallgrass prairie and woodlands is a major threat to this species. 
Our group takes a lunch break among burned ponderosa pine trees at Pineries Open Space. The area was burned in the 2013 Black Forest Fire.
We surveyed for bird’s foot violets along two ephemeral streams that are tributaries of Black Squirrel Creek. The streams were swollen with recent rainfall, and we spotted a large Woodhouse’s toad and heard chorus frogs calling loudly all morning. More rare plant surveys are scheduled at Pineries Open Space this summer. If you are interested in volunteering at Pineries Open Space, feel free to contact CNHP.

We spotted this adult Woodhouse's toad hopping along the forest floor. Woodhouse's toads are common in Eastern Colorado in non-forested areas, and are less frequently seen in ponderosa pine habitats.

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