Gateway Gazette

Documenting Plants in Glenbow Ranch Provinicial Park

The herbarium project is a citizen science undertaking to document and describe plants in GRPP. It has been running for four years. Our team collects and presses plants once a week from May to September and describes and mounts the plants during the rest of the year.

But before we can do the latter, we need to ensure that we have correctly identified the plants we have collected. Since none of the core team is a botanist, we rely on help from three professional botanists: Bonnie Smith from the University of Calgary herbarium, Jane Lancaster, a fellow steward, and Ian Macdonald, from the St. Mary’s University herbarium and Fish Creek Provincial Park. This past year, Ian has been our main resource.

This year, our ‘final exam,’ when a botanist checks our work, was on September 3. With magnifying glass in hand and various reference books nearby, Ian checked the 56 plants from this summer. Considering that Ian was with us when we collected about one-third of those, I anticipated that our score for correctly identifying plants this year would exceed the 80% accuracy we achieved in previous years. Excluding 3 plants that were not mature enough to confirm their identity (seeds would have helped), we correctly identified 46 of the remaining 53 plants, yielding an accuracy rate of 87%.

In addition, for 6 plants, Ian provided the sub-species or variant names which we did not know. He also brought us up to date on plant and family names that have changed (names are constantly changing, especially since the introduction of DNA typing). A good example is the lily family (Liliaceae) which, in recent years, has split into, among others, AlliaceaeConvallariaceae, and Melanthiaceae. Considering how difficult plant identification can be, we are pleased with our mark and most grateful to our three botanists who help and encourage us.

To find out more about the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park click here.

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