It's Complicated: The Launch of a New Seed Banking Project
Jim Locklear, Lauritzen Gardens
Blowout penstemon (Penstemon haydenii) is a critically imperiled (G1) plant listed as an endangered species by the USFWS. It is presently known from ten occurrences in the Nebraska Sandhills and three in the Ferris Dunes of Wyoming. This species is associated with areas of active wind erosion within a grassland matrix. The dynamic, transitory nature of this habitat can result in natural population decline in response to changes in microhabitat conditions and associated vegetation cover. The geographic isolation of such habitat limits recruitment from other occurrences, increasing vulnerability to local extinction. Recent surveys in Nebraska and Wyoming suggest substantial population declines. Lauritzen Gardens is undertaking a seed banking effort for blowout penstemon that entails a systematic, range-wide sampling of as many extant populations as is logistically possible and biologically prudent. This project presents many challenges, particularly since most blowout penstemon populations occur in remote locations on privately-owned ranches. Complications include obtaining landowner contact information in a sparsely-populated region, securing permission to access private property, and reaching remote occurrences in difficult terrain. Meeting these challenges has required careful relationship-building with government agencies, NGOs, knowledgeable researchers, landowners, land managers, and other partners.