2021 Annual Meeting

Laramie Area and the Rocky Mountain Herbarium

June 25-27, 2021

This year we return to the Laramie to explore vegetation from the basin to the alpine. We’ll also tour the Rocky Mountain Herbarium to see the largest collection of Rocky Mountain plants in the world! And, University of Wyoming botanists will share some insights on how plants survive the harsh conditions of Wyoming. Tour options will include local endemics Laramie columbine (Aquilegia laramiensis) and Laramie false sage (Artemisia simplex).

COVID-19 Precautions: Although we hope the COVID-19 situation will continue to improve, we are planning the annual meeting with the assumption that extra precautions may still be necessary in June. To that end, we have planned for most of the events to take place outdoors, including all of the hikes, Saturday dinner and the evening program, and the business meeting on Sunday morning.  The Rocky Mountain Herbarium Open House and check in on Friday will be indoors in the Aven Nelson building, but will take place over three hours to limit the number of people indoors at the same time. We ask that everyone who is physically able wear a mask while indoors, whether required to do so by the University of Wyoming or not. We will follow all CDC COVID-19 guidelines and University of Wyoming requirements during the event. Those who wish to take additional precautions, such as refraining from carpooling, are welcome to do so.

Registration: There are two ways to register. Register online here. Or, print and mail your registration form. This event is open to the public; membership in the Society is not required. However, registration is required to attend.  The registration fee is $10 per adult, or $5 per child 12 and under. It is an additional $9 if you would like the Saturday evening catered dinner (details below), paid when you register. Only service dogs are permitted on any of the hikes. We have extended the registration window; registration will now be open right up to the day of the event! However, as of 6/17/21, dinner orders are closed so that we can provide final numbers to the caterer. 

Camping and Hotels: WYNPS has reserved Hidden Valley Picnic Area for group camping. Tables, potable water and pit toilets are available. There are no individual camp sites, but a large open area surrounded with trees where tents can be pitched. The parking area and road can accommodate campers of modest size (no busses, please). This location will also be the site for the Friday evening hike and the Saturday evening program.

Hidden Valley is located in the Pole Mountain Unit of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, less than 10 miles (15 minutes) from town. Traveling east from Laramie on I-80, exit at Happy Jack (exit 323), turn left to go over the highway, then right, past the Lincoln Monument Rest Area. Continue approximately .8 miles and take the first right into Hidden Valley.

Laramie has a large number of hotels and motels to choose from.

Here is a map of the various meeting locations.


Friday, June 25

3-6 pm: Registration and check-in at the Rocky Mountain Herbarium, University of Wyoming campus. (Look for the registration table outside of the greenhouse).

3-6 pm: Rocky Mountain Herbarium (RM) Open House

Join Curator Ernie Nelson and other herbarium staff for a tour of the RM, the largest repository of Rocky Mountain plants in the world!

Parking near campus can be difficult. Campus lots are available after 4:30 pm only. Street parking is available, but watch for City Permit Only signs on some blocks—the fines for parking there before 5 pm can be quite hefty.

6-7:30 pm: Dinner on your own

6:30-7:30 pm: Registration and check-in at Hidden Valley

7:30 pm: Headquarters Trail sunset hike

We will leave from Hidden Valley Campground for a leisurely walk along Forest Service trails, to explore the flora and landscape of the Laramie Range. Hike leaders: Katie Haynes and Greg Pappas.

Saturday, June 26

6:30-7:30 am:     Registration and check-in at Hidden Valley

8:00 am: Trips 1 & 2 will leave at 8 am from the north end of the Safeway parking lot. Safeway is located at 554 N. 3rd St, just north of downtown. The lot extends to the north, past Planet Fitness to the empty store that used to be Kmart, where we will congregate. Cars can be left there for the day; we encourage carpooling as much as possible. Note that parking/use fees are required at some of our destinations—please bring your public land pass, if you have one.

Trip 1: Snowy Range

Trip leader: Ernie Nelson

This all day trip will take us to the high subalpine of the Medicine Bow Mountains.  Here we will look at plants which occur at the alpine-subalpine ecotone, seeing a number of species which are also seen in the alpine.  We will also explore the northern part of the Southern Rocky Mountain flora.  There will be hiking at high elevation (10,600-10,900 ft.). Be sure to bring a jacket!

Trip 2: Friend Park

Trip leader: Katie Haynes

This all day excursion will take us north the Laramie Range near Friend Park where we will explore rock outcrops looking for Laramie columbine (Aquilegia laramiensis), an endemic species known from a very small area of the state. Our travels will take us on many miles of gravel roads and across remote terrain, expect a 2.5 hour trip each way. There may be several miles of walking during the day, with some light rock scrambling for the adventurous. Hopefully we will spot some other interesting plants in bloom along the way, such as ragleaf bahia (Bahia dissecta) and wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum).

6 pm: Dinner at Hidden Valley Campground. We will have deluxe sandwiches from Turtle Rock, plus homemade desserts from local members. Cost for dinner is $9; if you plan on taking part in this meal, please pay for dinner along with your registration fee. As of 6/17/21, dinner orders are closed, but you can still bring your own food and join us for this picnic-style meal. 

7 pm: 40th Anniversary Program at Hidden Valley Campground

Recognition of WYNPS charter members, and Hartman award recipient Jennifer Whipple.

Speaker: Dr. Brent Ewers, UW Professor of Botany, “A biophysical view of Wyoming native plant distribution and productivity.”

As the climate continues to change, our ability to predict how Wyoming native plants will respond becomes more uncertain because the plants will experience environments that haven’t been directly observed. A first principles view of plants based on biophysics may provide improved predictive understanding. In this talk, I will provide some biophysical views of Wyoming native plants based on the exchange and storage of mass and energy from forests recovering from bark beetle and fire, sagebrush responding to atmospheric and soil drought, and potential biophysical limits to endemic plant distributions.

Sunday, June 27

7-8 am: WYNPS business meeting at Hidden Valley. Breakfast treats will be provided.

Morning trips will leave at 8:30 am from the north end of the Safeway parking lot. Safeway is located at 554 N. 3rd St, just north of downtown. The lot extends to the north, past Planet Fitness to the empty store that used to be Kmart, where we will congregate. Cars can be left there for the day; we encourage carpooling as much as possible.

Afternoon trips will leave at 1:30 pm from different locations, depending on the hike. See the info below.

Trip 1:    Artemisia simplex research tour at the McGuire Ranch. Morning only (8:30 am). Meeting location is the north end of the Safeway parking lot.

Trip leaders: Joy Handley and Madison Crawford

This venue is an example of typical southeastern Wyoming high plains.  Or is it?  In this grassland we may find Phlox hoodii (musk phlox), Lithospermum incisum (narrowleaf stoneseed), Balsamorhiza sagittata (arrowleaf balsamroot), Zigadenus venenosus (meadow deathcamas), and Penstemon radicosus (matroot penstemon), but the calcareous outcrops give refuge to a local Wyoming endemic: Artemisia [Sphaeromeria] simplex (Laramie chickensage).  This low growing forb was discovered by Aven Nelson in 1898 and it has some mysteries that graduate student Madi Crawford is trying to decipher.  Is it wind pollinated, as are most of the members of Artemisia?  Or do its showy flowers attract insect pollinators?  Perhaps both?  If it is insect pollinated, which insects provide that service?  Join Madi for a description and demonstration of her experiments.  We may also have time to wander throughout the landscape and see flowering shrubs, such as Rhus trilobata (skunkbush sumac), Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry) and Ribes cereum (wax currant), as well as reveal some local lore.

Trip 2:    Red Buttes.  Morning and afternoon (8:30 am and 1:30 pm). Meeting location is the far north end of the Safeway Parking Lot.

Trip leader: Bonnie Heidel in the morning, Dorothy Tuthill in the afternoon

Red Buttes Environmental Biology Laboratory (University of Wyoming) is about 10 miles south of Safeway on Hwy 287 (east side).  Late June is the best time to see an amazing show of wetland plants (tobacco root, shooting stars, gentians, pale blue-eyed grass) and rare plants (low northern braya, slenderleaf buckwheat, white larchleaf penstemon, lesser bladderwort at local springs). This is an easy hike of less than a mile on gentle terrain.  Hiking boots will do but you might prefer rubber boots or old tennis shoes for walking across wet ground.

Check out this plant checklist for the Red Buttes hike!

Trip 3: Pole Mountain wetlands.  Afternoon only (1:30 pm). Meeting location is the Hidden Valley Campground.

Trip leader: Greg Pappas

This hike will explore the unique vegetation of Pole Mountain wetlands, including streamside, beaver pond, and fen/peat habitats. It will feature several rare species, such as a willow found only on Pole Mountain in Wyoming (Salix serissima) and the aquatic herb, Utricularia minor, a carnivorous plant!


Self-Guided Hikes

At some point during the weekend, you may want to check out the new Pilot Hill open space. The project is part of a years-long collaboration between many stakeholders to ensure the Pilot Hill area remains open space. The project connects open space in the City of Laramie to Forest Service lands in the Laramie Range. Check out this preliminary plant checklist to help guide your tour.

More info about the Pilot Hill open space, including maps, is here: https://pilothill.org/about/