Vermejo Park Ranch (New Mexico/Colorado)
Ben S. Legler
Inventory dates: 2007, 2008
This represents the thesis project by Ben S. Legler. Fieldwork was conducted during the summers of 2007 and 2008, with a short return trip in 2009. The area encompassed the Culebra Range, Park/Raton Plateau, and the Canadian and Vermejo river drainages (Colfax and Taos counties, New Mexico; Costilla and Las Animas counties, Colorado) for a total of about 912 mi2 ranging in elevation from 5,800 to 12,931 feet. Collected were 7,503 specimens documenting 1,112 unique taxa. Twenty-six taxa previously not known or confirmed for New Mexico were discovered. Two species appear to be new to science. Species of conservation concern totaled 24 and documented at 88 sites. Also vouchered were 112 exotics including 21 noxious weeds. Funding was provided by the Vermejo Park Ranch, Dr. Thomas Ford (Aven Nelson Fellowship in Systematic Botany), and the University of Wyoming. More...
Results & Data
* Data for this project have not yet been released.
Map shows the approximate project boundary. Collection sites and specimen data for this project have not yet been released.
At 584,000 acres (912 mi2) Vermejo Park Ranch is one of the largest privately held parcel sof land in the lower 48 United States, stretching from I-25 on the east to the crest of the Culebra Range 60 miles to the west, and from just north of the Colorado border south to the vicinity of Cimarron 40 miles to the south. Approximately 30,000 acres of the ranch lies in Colorado (Costilla and Las Animas counties); the rest is in New Mexico (Colfax and Taos counties).
Habitats on the ranch range from dry short-grass prairie at 5,800 feet elevation on the plains northeast of Cimarron to windswept alpine tundra in the Culebra Range where the highest peak reaches 12,931 feet elevation. In between lies the Raton Plateau, also called the Park Plateau, composed of sandstone and coal deposits and dissected by numerous steep-walled stream canyons; elevations on the plateau lie mostly between 7,000 and 8,000 feet. In this portion of the ranch Pinus ponderosa dominates large areas, giving way to Pinus edulis, Juniperus scopulorum, and Quercus x undulata on drier south-facing slopes, and Pseudotsuga menziesii and Abies concolor on moister north-facing slopes. Narrow corridors of grassland line the canyon bottoms. Farther west the plateau gives way to several open montane parklands such as Castle Rock Park and Van Bremmer Park where Pinus ponderosa groves grow scattered in a mesic grassland dotted by small lakes and ponds. The parklands are bordered on the west by The Little Wall and The Wall, two prominent upturned sedimentary features running north-south through the ranch. Farther west lies Vermejo Peak (11,610 ft.), Ash Mountain, and the divide leading to the Costilla Creek Valley; these areas are clothed by Populus tremuloides, Abies arizonica, Picea engelmannii and Picea pungens. The Costilla Creek valley contains a large glacial outwash plain covered by open grassland dominated by Festuca arizonica; wet montane meadows also abound in the valley. Glaciation on the east side of the Culebra Range created several large cirques and a few natural lakes near treeline. Snow patches persist well into July in the alpine.
Due to its long history of private ownership dating back to the Spanish Land Grants the ranch has seen no previous botanical exploration except for a few collections made near the ranch headquarters and around mining operations, and on the Colorado portion of the alpine.
Collecting was done from June 4, 2007 to August 20, 2007 and again from May 15, 2008 to August 22, 2008 with return trips in mid September and again in July, 2009. Collecting procedures differed from those used on most inventory projects at RM. Most specimens were pressed in the field at the time of collection to ensure that flowers and other delicate parts were not lost or wilted. In leu of a traditional field notebook, a laptop computer was used in 2007 and a handheld computer in 2008 to record collection notes in the field. The handheld computer was connected to a bluetooth GPS unit and carried around during collecting. At each point where a collection was made the collection information was entered into the unit and a GPS reading captured for each specimen. In this way detailed notes and observations could be obtained for each and every specimen and the GPS coordinates captured would precisely define the location of each specimen limited only by the accuracy of the GPS device.
7,503 vascular plant collections were obtained, representing 1,112 unique taxa - a collection density of 8.2 specimens per square mile. A number of notable discoveries were made including 26 state records for New Mexico, numerous populations of rare plants, and two species that appear to be new to science - a Phlox and a Botrychium. More information on the possible new species will be forthcoming. State records were obtained primarily from the montane and alpine and include a number of notable Botrychium discoveries.
Legler, B.S. 2010. Additions to the Vascular Flora of New Mexico. J. Bot. Res. Inst. Texas 4(2): 777-784. (http://www.brit.org/fileadmin/Publications/JBotResInstTexas_4_2/777-784_Legler_NewMexicoRecords_JBRIT_4_2__28.pdf)
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