Atop the west hills of Portland, Oregon, you’ll find an oasis of biodiversity and conservation called the Hoyt Arboretum. Established in 1928, and covering 189 acres, Hoyt is “a museum of living trees,” where the community can enjoy free access to 12 miles of trails and picnic areas. The arboretum boasts 6000 specimens (and 2000 species) from all around the world, including 63 different vulnerable and endangered species. Hoyt Arboretum is a truly valuable educational and recreational resource for local residents, and a partner in conservation and research for the scientific community.
One of the endangered species you’ll find at Hoyt is the Orchidacea Spiranthes–a member of the orchid family. Spiranthes are often called “ladies’-tresses,” and are known for their spiral-like flowering pattern (in fact, the the genus name Spiranthes is derived from the Greek speira–“coil”–and anthos–flower.”). The Hoyt Arboretum, as one of the habitats for this increasingly-uncommon but beautiful flower, has begun a project that utilizes citizen scientists for a variety of research and conservation purposes surrounding this beautiful species!
According to the project’s blog, the goals for the project are to:
- Prevent local extirpation (removal) of historic population of uncommon Orchidacea Spiranthes
- Research best restoration treatments for Spiranthes in Tualatin Mountains
- Create management protocol for Hoyt Arboretum (including improving the habitat for Spiranthes, increasing numbers of Spiranthes plants, removing invasive species, and increasing cohort species counts)
Specific, task-oriented objectives that are currently laid out for the project are to:
- Collect a baseline data set in research plot (data gathered for 2013, 2014, 2015)
- Conduct research of historical distribution of Spiranthes and associated species to identify how much was likely lost.
- Research appropriate restoration/weed control to increase population of Spiranthes (Weed control done in transects 2015)
- Investigate possibility of seed germination and banking of this species (Seed gathered 2015).
Citizen scientists will be utilized for the project in a variety of ways, including plant counting and identification, journal-based historical research about Spiranthes, and report writing. If you’re interested in volunteering with the orchid project, there is more information on what is asked of citizen scientists here (there are some time commitments that they ask for, as well as physical requirements such as being able to kneel to identify plants for extended periods of time). You can contact the arboretum staff by calling (503) 865-8733, or fill out this contact form. If you’re not in the Portland area, but still want to spread the word about the Arboretum and drum up some publicity for them, even a quick Facebook “like” would help preserve this lovely flower and support a wonderful institution that’s filling a variety of important roles!
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons