And now something different…

It has been a while since I blabbered about the cotyledons of Claytonia, but I want to let you all in on something I find VERY interesting…IMG_1521… so maybe we should start with a survey, to see what you think. How many cotyledons do you think Claytonia have? Keep in mind, they are dicots.

Claytonia saxosa seedlings2013-12-01 12.10.10If you guessed that Claytonia have 2 cotyledons, you’re right… but you’re not the only one that is right. Technically, those of you that guessed Claytonia have only 1 cotyledon are also correct — that’s right, there is in fact a group of dicots with only 1 cotyledon (probably several, but that question exceeds the scope of this blog post). Claytonia Section Claytonia, otherwise known as the tuberous perennials, lack a second cotyledon present in other species of Claytonia (and all of their closest relatives). To me, this is just another reason why you should believe that Claytonia is the whackiest group of plants this side of the Mississippi River. 😉

IMGP9244So who cares, there has been a loss of one of the cotyledons in this group of plants. One time only evolution, and now these plants simply can’t recover that lost cotyledon — I’m over it… right? WRONG! There is something fishy going on here, and it has to do with a certain caudicose perennial I have mentioned before: Claytonia megarhiza (pictured below).

IMG_4012IMG_4025You can see from the second image (the photo immediately above) that Claytonia megarhiza clearly has two cotyledons, not one like the tuberous, perennial Claytonia species I mentioned before. Thus, you’d expect that this species is more closely related to those other Claytonia that have two cotyledons, right? Well…

Print Trees PreviewAbove is a preliminary phylogenetic tree that I presented at the Botanical Society of America Meeting this year in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This tree has been developed from ~500 single nucleotide polymorphisms isolated from the nuclear genome of all of the samples included (using ddRADseq). You can see from the tree that the caudicose perennial C. megarhiza (indicated by [morphologically similar, but anatomically quite different] cartoon carrots ) clearly has a close association with the tuberous, perennial Claytonia, albeit the exact area in the tree where they will stabilize is still yet to be determined. Without question, Claytonia megarhiza is nested somewhere in this clade of otherwise tuberous, perennial Claytonia.

So how did C. megarhiza find itself with 2 cotyledons while all of its closest relatives (including those diverging away from the lot much earlier in evolutionary history) have only 1? If you have the answer… I would love to hear it from ya! From my perspective, it is a question that is ‘to be determined’ but I am hopeful that my dissertation will change things. 😉

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Oops, that took embarassingly long: UPDATE on what’s new with western Claytonia

IMG_0850First off (technically second, after the eye candy above), I need to announce that my research on Claytonia (Montiaceae) has been recently funded [yay!] by the National Science Foundation. You can see the abstract here for #DEB1502085:

http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1502085

Second (yes, I know, technically third), we should play my favorite game: compare the above eye candy with the below ridiculously beautiful [spring] beauty… SAME? or different. 😉

IMG_2978Now before you answer to yourself, consider that the Claytonia in the above two pictures are considered in the current taxonomy to be the same as the plants in the below picture, all being C. lanceolata [for now]. IMG_2834Check out the variation in those leaves!!! Who cares about the flowers, right? No way…IMG_0865IMG_7563IMG_2825The three photos immediately above correspond respectively with the same three putative taxa [let’s call them operational taxonomic units] in the first three pictures of this blog post. So? SAME or different? Feel free to vote at the bottom, and I welcome any feedback or discussion — I can’t say it all in 140 characters or less.

Third [ok, let’s stop with the sequential nonsense], I took an epic trip across California, Nevada and Oregon during the spring months of 2015 as part of #DEB1502085. While on this trip, I photographed new, mind-boggling [taxonomically speaking], tuberous Claytonia. Almost immediately after that, I took another most epic trip across California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado (with guest appearances in Arizona and Wyoming) with ‘Los Caryophylleros’. Let’s just say, I can’t wait to get my new morphological and molecular data (RADSeq X 2) up to speed…

Lastly [HA! I win!], I’ll finish this [short] commentary with what has been the most difficult collection of photos I’ve ever had to select from for the purpose of sharing, then I need to finish preparing for presentations at BOTANY and the Caryophyllales meetings…

IMG_1648IMG_1815IMG_2120IMG_2266IMG_2280IMG_2297IMG_2585IMG_2598IMG_2696IMG_2821IMG_2944IMG_2985IMG_3223IMG_3256IMG_3520IMG_3578IMG_3582IMG_3665IMG_3728IMG_3756What a wild ride!!!

Yukon — too much good stuff!

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Cheers from the Ogilvie Mountains!

Hey, all — I have returned from the Yukon Territory and I want to share with you at least SOME of the highlights regarding my fieldwork there. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden and I summarized most of it in our recent post on Experiment.com (click here to see the lab note), but I wasn’t able share all of the pictures that I wanted to share there — my administrative privileges on Claytonia.org allow me to expand a bit here 😉

So what did I see, exactly? Oh gosh, I collected a fair amount of Silene, a few Androsace septentrionalis seeds and vouchers, at least a few Boechera, and I even grabbed an endemic Claytonia to make the trip VERY worthwhile. Claytonia ogilviensis (two pictures below) was my main target, so I was very glad that we were able to collect it. I found at least one population, but I also got the opportunity to sample from some recent herbarium specimens where C. ogilviensis has been collected outside of the range from which it was originally described, each with a slightly different morphology (and geology) to boot — I am VERY excited to see how this all fits into the phylogeny I am developing (with help from collaborators) for Claytonia Section Claytonia.

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Tuber from putatively old individual of Claytonia ogilviensis in the Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon Territory, Canada.

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Basal leaf (left center) and remnants of flowering stem (right center) of Claytonia ogilviensis in the Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon Territory, Canada.

Based on my recent observations in the field, and from scanning herbarium specimens collected all across western North America, I can tell why many people have suggested that Claytonia ogilviensis (pictured above) may be closely related to C. umbellata (pictured below). It doesn’t help that I am not EXACTLY sure about who the REAL C. umbellata is, considering I collected four distinct genotypes (each with their own distinct morphologies) all within about 20 air miles of the vaguely described type locality. To make matters worse (read about it here), my collaborator has found another distinct lineage of C. umbellata in eastern Oregon that is nearly identical (genetically) to the Ogilvie Mountains endemic (C. ogilviensis) that I just collected… Claytonia is a tough cookie to crack!

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Tuber from individual of Claytonia umbellata in the Diamond Mountains, Nevada.

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Basal leaf of Claytonia umbellata from the Diamond Mountains, Nevada.

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Basal and cauline leaves of Claytonia umbellata from the Pine Nut Mountains, Nevada.

Aside from collecting the narrow endemic Claytonia ogilviensis in the Yukon Territory, I also found an interesting population currently treated as C. tuberosa (pictured below) in the area of Keno Hill. In my most recent nrITS phylogeny, it appears that these plants may be more closely related to samples of C. multiscapa from the Rocky Mountains than they are to other samples of C. tuberosa collected just to the west in Alaska — I don’t yet have chloroplast data to support this relationship (the Idaho area C. multiscapa sequences are from GenBank).

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Face-view of flower of Claytonia tuberosa s.l. from the top of Keno Hill, Yukon Territory, Canada.

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Claytonia tuberosa s.l. photographed on top of Keno Hill, Yukon Territory, Canada.

Lastly, I got to see and collect a VERY beautiful Claytonia in the Kluane National Park, a member (and my first sample) of Section Rhizomatosae Claytonia sarmentosa (photographed below). This rhizomatous perennial seems to really prefer talus slopes, not unlike C. ogilviensis, C. umbellata, and the C. “peirsonii” complex.

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Face-view of flower of Claytonia sarmentosa from the Kluane Ranges, Yukon Territory, Canada.

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Claytonia sarmentosa photographed on the King’s Throne Trail, Kluane Ranges, Yukon Territory, Canada.

It was a great trip, but I’m glad to be home — with school about to start, and another spring season just around the corner, it is time to REALLY get some work done!!!

Up Next = Molecular lab + Herbarium work.

It has been a while, but I’ve been busy…

photoIMG_8879Hey, all — I wanted to share a short post with you, some links that detail my activities in the field over the last two weeks in Idaho and Montana. I’ve been on the hunt for Claytonia, Silene, Boechera and Androsace in alpine areas across these two states, including my new favorite mountain range, the Sawtooth Range (pictures above). At the end of this trip in Idaho and Montana I got my first ever glimpse of the alpine Claytonia megarhiza (pictures below) — I’m beginning to think I should have selected that species for a more thorough investigation… I suppose there is life after dissertation, so maybe this can be my next problem child. 😉

IMG_8952IMG_8954My collaborator, Ingrid Jordon-Thaden, and I have been to some pretty spectacular places (see links below), but it is only going to get better (I think) when we head north to the Yukon (Canada) following the 2014 Botany Conference. I look forward to keeping you all in the loop!

first update: https://experiment.com/u/0gYspQ

second update: https://experiment.com/u/pdFliA

third update: https://experiment.com/u/itzIEA

Beginning of the end of Silene verecunda sensu lato

Hey, all — I thought I would share with you that my recent manuscript with colleagues (Diana D. Jolles and Heath A. Bartosh) describing a new species of Silene (Caryophyllaceae) has finally been published! You can access our article here, or the whole issue is here. It is a very special issue for the California Fish and Game Journal, #100, and the first ever all botany issue for the journal — some really GREAT articles in there that are worth reading, including an introduction by Governor Jerry Brown. Neat Stuff!

combined_finalAs always, I am interested to know what you think about this topic — the Silene verecunda problem is VERY complex, but fortunately the taxonomy isn’t.

Can I borrow $20? I’ll pay you back with publications…

Hey all — two quick ‘news’ items:

(1) I passed my qualifying exams… wow! Next step, actually writing my proposed dissertation. I am thinking something along the lines of this FUN title:

Circumnavigating the Claytonia lanceolata Species Complex: Systematic Studies of Claytonia Section Claytonia (Montiaceae).

(2) If you haven’t heard already — I am involved with another crowd-sourced fundraising effort in collaboration with a colleague at Bucknell University, Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden. This is the type of fundraiser where EVERY contribution counts! Even if you were to pledge $1, you would help to demonstrate just how much interest there is in research projects like this one.

https://experiment.com/projects/alpine-plant-biodiversity-why-is-it-so-high

 

Hopefully, we’ll be successful in raising funds to conduct field research this summer in Idaho, Montana, and the Yukon Territory (Canada)! Show your support today — you’re NOT CHARGED ANYTHING unless we meet our full fundraising goal!

¡Holy frijoles! You are just too cute, and too close to home…

OK, so I might just have a new favorite Claytonia after my most recent trip into the desert in northwestern Nevada. Let me just tell you something — in the Desert Southwest, spring has sprung! Just like my collaborator at Eastern Washington University (Dr. Robin O’Quinn), I think I am falling in love with the tuberous perennial ‘Great Basin Spring Beauty’ (C. umbellata) — photographed here on March 21st, 2014.

IMG_5178IMG_5195IMG_5134As Stevie Wonder might say, isn’t she lovely?!

It gets better… Also photographed on March 21, 2014, below are some pictures of plants from another population of C. umbellata that occurs on a different substrate in another mountain range nearby in Nevada.

IMG_5221IMG_5227IMG_5230There’s something funny going on here, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it…

Question for readers out there: Who thinks the above plants look similar to the below plants from southern California? Just wonderin’ about evolutionary relationships 😉

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My first targeted Claytonia hike: Eastern San Gabriel Mountains

I was dropped off at the base of the ski lifts for Mt. Baldy Ski resort as the sun was rising over a gorgeous day in May of 2012. It happened to be a shuttle hike approximately 17.5 miles end to end in the Cucamonga Wilderness of the Angeles National Forest; another solo hike… I hope I’ll be able to find this little thing!

I climbed up as quickly as I could towards the ski runs under Thunder Mountain, where what was once treated as Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii is reported from the steep, forested ridges between the runs. I hadn’t seen these plants in the San Gabriel Mountains just yet, but by this time I had stumbled across a Claytonia in the San Bernardino Mountains two years prior that answered to the rather vague description of this taxon (var. peirsonii) while working for the USDA Forest Service.

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That’s it! North-facing slopes! It can be found blooming next to melting patches of snow in areas where there is also heavy accumulation of conifer litter, often with associated species such as Pinus lambertiana, Abies concolor, Pyrola dentata and Fritillaria pinetorum. I don’t see any snow over there, but it fits the bill otherwise!

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OK, not quite flowering, but it’ll do. I’ve got two more peaks to ‘bag’ before this day is done if I am to see more Claytonia on this hike. I set off toward Telegraph Peak, where I had to shimmy a bit off trail right over the edge of the north slope down to another historically collected locality for this rare local endemic.

photo copy 10A bit of snow around here, this is more like it! Now I’ve just got to find the little buggers flowering…

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What a beauty! Spring Beauty that is… now I just had to get back up to the top of Telegraph to grab the trail over toward Timber Mountain to complete the ‘Three T’s Hike’ I’ve heard so much about.

photo copy 23The north slope of Timber Mountain seemed to be the most ‘typical’ habitat based upon reports for Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii, with persistent snow patches as I had just seen over at Telegraph Peak. Sure enough, I was not disappointed by the beauties there!

photo copy 31I made it down to the trailhead around 6pm at Ice House Canyon, where my car had been hanging out all day waiting to hear the news about my big adventure.

“You’ll never believe me, WaSaabi, but I accidentally stepped right onto a rattlesnake’s head this morning. He didn’t seem too thrilled about it.”