The following is a guest blog post by Colleen Hurst, a student intern with CNHP in the Siegele Conservation Science Internship program:
There’s something instinctively thrilling about the concept of ‘one-of-a-kind’. We all admire things that are rare because their novelty makes experiencing them that more precious, and the moment more special. When I think of rare and novel things, I think of remote Indian jungle inhabitants and hidden glacial lakes high in the Canadian Rockies. However, I would never have thought to look for something even more rare, a true one-of-a-kind in a small plot of land off the highway in my own state.
Being a Siegele Intern, I had the incredible opportunity to get to explore the hidden treasures in the state I’ve called home my whole life but never knew about. I got to go with Jill Handwerk to Pagosa Springs, CO to survey the Pagosa Skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha). This beautiful plant only grows in and around Pagosa Springs. Looking at the Colorado State property it stands on, one would be prone to passing them by among the non-native grasses and forbs. But if you know what you’re looking for, the proud white stalks of flowers cloud all over the landscape and transform your perception of its value. It was truly eye-opening. Suddenly, every step becomes the childhood game of lava as I tried to avoid crushing any of the precious flowers that seemed to be exactly where you wanted to be. I now am always so aware and cautious of where I step.
Being a wildlife geek by nature, I had always practically appreciated botany as a key habitat and nutrient component of wildlife. However, this experience helped me value plants in a new way. Being able to see something rare is truly a powerful way to introduce the beauty and sanctity of our natural world to people. I have such a respect of the work all the CNHP employees do. Their work provides for sanctuary for these rare treasures of our natural world, so that people for generations to come can be inspired to preserve them as I have.