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An abundance of wildflowers are expected to cover the Indian Wells Valley with a vast array of colors. This year’s more than usual rainfall will contribute to its abundance. / Laura Austin File Photo

Wildflower Exhibit hosted by Maturango

Maturango Museum–

Every spring the Maturango Museum hosts the annual Wildflower Exhibit during which visitors can see the wide variety and abundance of wildflowers that grow in the Indian Wells Valley and surrounding canyons. Collectors with the proper BLM permits spend multiple days gathering the wildflowers which are placed into bottles or vases then set onto tables according to their family. This allows visitors to have a close-up view of the many wildflowers from this area – all in one room.

Kim_Schaefer

On the schedule for Saturday, Kim Schaefer, will speak at 2pm about the Vascular Flora of the Sacatar Trail Wilderness.

Schaefer, a master’s student studying Botany at Claremont Graduate University and California Botanic Garden will be giving a presentation on her location of study, the Sacatar Trail Wilderness.

The Sacatar Trail Wilderness (STW), approximately 20 miles northwest of Ridgecrest, CA, occupies a unique ecological transition zone. This part of the southeast Sierra Nevada occurs at the interface of the vast Mojave Desert, Great Basin Floristic Province, and highly diverse California Floristic Province.

The 90 sq mile area encompasses a significant elevation gradient from 3,500 to nearly 9,000 feet, and supports a diverse array of vegetation communities, from creosote scrub to montane meadows. The STW is a “botanical black hole,” an area with little to no previous documentation of the plants that occur there.

The absence of weather stations within the STW make it difficult to understand the precise microclimates its plants are subject to, especially considering that conditions vary within such a wide elevational range. With more study, this region of the eastern Sierra could potentially serve as a setting for future research on plant migration in response to climate change.

Over the course of two years, (2022 & 2023), Schaefer made a total of 27 trips to the STW and collected 1,496 plant specimens representing 73 plant families and 400+ minimum rank taxa. Several new populations of rare taxa were found, including Chimney Creek threadplant (Nemacladus calcaratus), Nine Mile Canyon phacelia (Phacelia novenmillensis), and DeDecker’s clover (Trifolium dedeckerae).

All specimens collected as part of this research will be deposited and preserved in multiple herbaria, and corresponding data will be shared with the Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH2) database portal to be utilized by scientists and the public.

Schaefer always knew she wanted to study plants. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent her summers hiking and picking wild berries in the Cascade Mountains. She moved to California to earn her B.S. degree in Biology with an emphasis in Botany from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 2018. She went on to work for California Botanic Garden as a Field Botany Technician and later as a Seed Conservation Technician, where she fell in love with California’s rugged desert habitats. After defending her thesis research later this year, Schaefer hopes to work towards a Ph.D. in Plant Ecology and eventually become a research professor specializing in desert plant communities. Outside of schoolwork, Schaefer loves hiking, camping, road trips, and spending time with her two younger sisters and her fiancé.