C. Leo "Hitchy" Hitchcock spent almost his entire career at the University of Washington, where he led the efforts to produce the definitive floras for the Pacific Northwest. Hitchy came to the UW from the University of Montana in 1937, but part of nearly summer field season after arriving was spent collecting in western Montana. In fact, he has about three times as many specimens in the UW Herbarium from Montana than he does from Washington. The flora of western Montana and northern Idaho were far less understood during Hitchy's years, which is likely why he devoted so much time and energy to collecting in this area.
For the first time ever, the 2008 Annual Herbarium Foray was held in Montana. We have very few contemporary collections from the eastern edge of the geographic range circumscribed in "Flora of the Pacific Northwest", so this was a great opportunity to fill this gap. The specific location and dates of the trip were intentionally planned to have us in the same area that Hitchy collected from back in 1946, some 62 years area. Our center of operations was the Bitterroot Flat Campground campground in Lolo National Forest, which is approximately 25 bumpy, dusty, gravel-roaded miles south of Interstate 90 as it heads east from Missoula. An unusually wet spring made for atypically lush conditions according to Jim Mital from the U.S. Forest Service, who is to be thanked for all of his help with permits needed for the various forests from which we collected. One group on the first day collected in the area around Rock Creek Campground, just as Hitchy had done in 1946. It will be interesting to see how the two species lists compare!
The habitats that we collected from over the course of three days varied among subalpine, lodgepole pine understory, open grasslands, riparian zones, and mesic meadows. The group size was the largest ever, 29, which explains why we made the most collections on a Foray to date — more than 700! Among the many interesting finds were Chionophila tweedyi, a penstemon-like member of the Scrophulariaceae (sensu lato) whose distribution is restricted to Montana. Geum rivale (water avens), a plant with brilliant red sepals and considered rare in Washington, was scattered along streams winding their way through openings in lodgepole pine forests. Galium boreale (northern bedstraw) was abundant and in full-flower, as was the Festuca idahoense (Idaho fescue) that dominated many of the grassy slopes.
In keeping with another Foray tradition, we were fortunate to be joined in the field and at the Saturday Spaghetti Dinner by two outstanding regional botanists — Scott Mincemoyer from the Montana Natural Heritage Program and Peter Lesica from the University of Montana Herbarium. Peter's timing was better as he got to participate in the annual Ken Davis Memorial Dessert Contest. Once again, Maria Gerace assumed full responsibilities for cooking the Spaghetti Dinner — thanks Maria!
In addition to being the largest group ever, the 2008 Foray participants produced the largest age range to date: 4 years to 88 years (no names, of course). We're especially grateful to everyone who joined us this year despite the upward march in gasoline prices, another Foray record. Participants in the 2008 Foray were Robert Goff, Doug Williams, Suzanne Anderson, Dick and Sheila Olmstead, Julia Gertsen, Hannah Marx, Hanhla Phan, Julia Bent, Brianne Cohen, Caroline Strömberg, Julie Nicol, Dan Paquette, Tracy, Ryan, and John Fuentes, Alan Yen, Jeff Benca, David Giblin, Don Knoke, Maria Gerace, Ryan Miller, Yuan Yawou, Valerie Soza, Pat Lu-Irivng, Luke Ledwich, Howard Coleman, Jim Rodman, Scott Mincemoyer and Peter Lesica.