Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2007
Publication Date: 2/1/2008
Citation: Harmon, D.N., Young, J.A., Clements, D.D. 2008. Ecology of Kearney’s Buckwheat (Eriogonum nummulare) for Restoration Efforts [abstract]. Society for Range Management National Meeting.
Technical Abstract: The Eriogonum are a highly complex group of plants with a long history of changes in scientific names. These distinctive plants often have unique associations with endemic animals. One such case that has received much interest involves Kearney’s Buckwheat (Eriogonum nummulare) and an endemic Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly (Euphilotes pallescens ssp. arenamontana). Until this year the butterfly was listed as threatened and endangered. The butterfly pupates under Kearny’s buckwheat plants and the larva exclusively feed on the plant. Another aspect that brought attention to this relationship is that this all occurs at sand mountain, a popular and one of a kind off road vehicle recreational area outside of Fallon Nevada. Disturbances from off road vehicles have been implicated in the decline of Kearney’s buckwheat that is essential to this insect. In 2007 the butterfly was delisted because of large numbers being surveyed the year before, indicating their numbers are not decreasing. An interesting part of this delisting was that there is a stipulation that Kearney’s buckwheat plants are expected to be artificially increased at the site. Kearney’s buckwheat is not exclusive to this site as the butterfly is as it occurs from Gerlach, Nevada south to Mono Lake, California. Kearney’s buckwheat appears to be restricted to sand textured substrates. Very little research has been done on the seed production, viability and propagation or restoration potential of this plant even though restoration is an expectation of the delisting decision. We continue to examine these unknown potentials to help with the required restoration efforts. Flowering and seed maturity occurs quite late in the fall, November, and often occurs after the first killing frost for tender species. We found that the first possible chance to collect ripe seed provides a five-fold increase in seeds per gram than collections made even 2-3 weeks later. Older decadent plants produce much less seed also about a tenth as much as younger plant. With proper timing about 100 seeds can be obtained from 1 gram of inflorescences. Based on germination tests, Kearny’s buckwheat germinate over a wide range of temperatures from 0C to 40C. Only about 10% occurs at both ends of those extremes with a maximum germination rate of 60% occurs at 5C/35C alternating temperatures. Restoration efforts through direct seeding, transplanting and root propagation appear to be very difficult and experience very low success. We continue to investigate restoration methods for this species.