Eureka! Mountain Sagebrush Sighting

Read about Jim’s confirmation of Linda Bell’s observation of Mountain Sagebrush near Azubah’s grave in the Batterson Greenbelt.

On Sep 12, 2008, at 9:13 AM, LINDA BELL wrote:
Hi again,
I also question mountain big sagebrush that is an aspect dominant up near Red Feather Lakes. Definitely woody, it’s easily identified by using a black light on leaves mashed in water; the solution fluoresces a milky blue.

Interesting about the sagebrush — I was very surprised last year to find two isolated sagebushes up on the slope above the Batterson greenbelt. Not sure I could find them again, I was off cross-country going up some game trail, but I could give it a try and bring a specimen twig/branch. It’s the only sagebrush I’ve seen around GVM, but then, we all have our own extended territories, so that’s not to say there are not other isolated plants. It thought at the time though that I’d never seen the plant this low in elevation. Around here the common lore is that once you come across mountain sagebrush, you won’t find rattlesnakes.

Linda Bell

On Oct 2, 2008 Jim Erdman emailed Linda Bell:
As I was helping pick up roadside trash this a.m.—my charge from Gate 3 through 5—I noted a small gravestone in the trees above the grassy Batterson greenbelt at Gate 5. As a gate access was along the main road, curious, I went up to the site of Azubah Ella, the 10-year-old daughter of “S. & Mary L. Batterson” who died in December 1878. (What a strange name, Azubah.) I noted an orange lichen, likely Xanthoria elegans, on the limestone headstone. Then when I looked up the slope I saw amongst the mountain mahogany a single plant of mountain sagebrush. I brought a specimen home, mashed the leaves in water, zapped it with my black light, and voila! the fluid fluoresced the diagnostic milky blue that separates it from basin and Wyoming sagebrush. Serendipity. Have to admit that I was very surprised to see it down here; it’s the dominant shrub in the clearings up at Red Feather Lakes, fully a thousand feet higher. You, too, found its occurrence down here in GVM surprising.


*Another shrub added to the list….your mountain sagebrush (Weber’s Seriphidium [Artemisia] vaseyanum)

Ellen added this from Jim’s 10/4 email: It used to be called by some Mountain Big Sagebrush, as opposed to Basin Big Sagebrush or Wyoming Big Sagebrush when the three were subspecies of Artemisia tridentata (A. t. subsp. vaseyana, A. t. subsp. tridentata, and A. t., subsp. wyomingensis, respectively). We’ve both mountain and big sagebrush here along the Front Range, the latter infrequent. I might grab another specimen of Mountain Sagebrush at the gravesite to show those who might be interested at the meeting how it fluoresces under UV.

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