Tag Archives: wax currant

MT Naturalist – Journal Assignment 2

The second journal assignment in the Montana Naturalist class I am taking is a Species Account. The directions are to “find one species that you can readily observe, and document as many details as you can through direct observation.” Since I have chosen Phipps Park, Billings, Montana, as my journaling location, I headed there on May 9, 2023.

It may not look like much when you hike by, but up close the Wax Currant (Ribes cereum) has interesting leaves and little pink flowers.

Here are the first two pages of my journal entry:

I had noticed the leaves on the plant on an earlier hike – the green color is more vivid than the other plants in the area. According to National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Rocky Mountain States the leaves are “toothed” (not ruffled), “grayish,” and have a “musky smell when crushed.” I am guessing the leaves may be more grayish in the summer. I didn’t think to crush and smell a leaf; maybe next time.

Page three of my journaling:

The flowers look like tiny bells to me; the Field Guide says they are tubular – which they are. I imagine learning the common descriptive words when we get to the unit on plants. Once I stood up to take pictures, I realized there were many groups of three or more flowers at the top of the bush.

I really like the star shape made by the petals.

I didn’t notice the darker pink at the end of the petals when taking the picture. I’m wondering if they’re shadowed or actually darker pink. Seems like a hike to the top of Phipps Park is in order – with the hope the wax currant is still flowering.

I will, of course, have to go back in late summer or early fall to check out the berries on the bush.

MT Naturalist – Journal Assignment # 1

For my first journal assignment for the Montana Master Naturalist Course, I hiked to the top of the rimrocks in Phipps Park. Along the way I had to pause to take pictures of the phlox (top left) and a parsley plant of some sort (top right).

The assignment was to create a “Sound and Senses Map” and to begin by sketching a map of your location. The next photo is picture of what I could see once I found a good rock to use as a seat. The trail up the rims can be seen in the lower right center.

The next instruction: Listen for 10 – 15 minutes, “recording sounds around you as you hear them. Find creative ways to show the sounds, using symbols and diagrams along with words and sketches.” I used a simple musical eighth note for every bird sound, the letter “z” for every insect sound, and a badly drawn airplane for airplane sounds.

After listening, we were to document four things we could see, three things we could touch, two things we could smell, and one thing we could taste. Once I’d done the written assignment, I pulled my camera out.

I was – and am – amazed by the colors and textures of the lichen on the rock (below).

To my left was a little fuzzy plant that I still haven’t identified and to my right was a very prickly bush which on a subsequent visit had tiny yellow flowers that suggest it is a skunkbush.

The picture below shows where I was sitting. The tree in the center of the picture is a ponderosa pine and the one on the right is a juniper (not a cedar – I learned it’s often called a cedar but there are no true cedars in this part of Montana).

The next two photos are of the things I could smell: juniper (not cedar) and sagebrush. One of my favorite things about where I live is the smell of sagebrush on a summer morning.

The rest of these pictures were taken on my hike down to the parking lot: ponderosa pine cone, wax currant leaves, juniper berries on branch, prickly pear cactus, and a yucca with last year’s pods still on some stems.

I have been back to Phipps with camera in hand at least three more times in the last few weeks. Spring wildflowers are out and will get a blogpost of their own.