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If you pick the wildflowers, the snakes will bite you

May 30, 2011

I took a jaunt up the Saddle Rock Trail on Scotts Bluff National Monument this weekend, and I was amazed by all the flowers I saw . . . white, yellow, purple, blue, pink, orange . . .

If you haven’t been up there this spring, YOU MUST GO SEE THE FLOWERS!

I won’t post pictures because I don’t want to spoil the joy of discovery for you, but you can search “wildflower” on this blog and see plenty of pictures from last year.

Here is a minimum list of the wildflowers I saw:

  • Hood’s phlox (or was it plains phlox?)
  • Death camas (a take-no-prisoners kind of flower)
  • Wild white onion
  • Large-flowered townsendia
  • Gumbo lily
  • Bastard toadflax (Hee hee. Such a great name.)
  • Sandwort (much prettier than its name sounds)
  • Miner’s candle (or was that mountain cat’s eye?)
  • Small lupine
  • Spiderwort
  • Showy peavine
  • Milkvetch of some sort
  • A penstemon or two
  • Prairie goldenpea
  • Fringed puccoon
  • Western wallflower
  • Narrow-leaved musineon
  • Groundsel
  • Goat’s beard
  • Stemless hymenoxys
  • Scarlet guara
  • Scarlet globe mallow

And that’s just what I saw while running past!

But I also saw this:

And this:

And . . . aaaaaah . . .  the horror!

Some jackmonkey has been picking the wildflowers!

This is stupid, for a number of reasons.

One. You’re preventing other people from getting to see those lovely flowers. They’re in a public park. They belong to everyone, not just you.

Two. By picking the flower, you have ruined that plant’s chance to produce any babies for the next year. That’s right, folks – flowers are plants’ reproductive organs. (Yes, wildflower fans are ogling the plants’ private parts. Buncha pervs, aren’t we?)  The wildflowers may be abundant this rainy spring, but let the plants build up against a future drought, would ya?

Three. Most importantly, you are putting yourself at risk of snakebite.

Being in the newspaper industry, I have access to a number of governmental sources.* I have it on good authority that some higher-ups in Washington D.C. were so sick of particular trailside flower patches being denuded year after year that they decided to take drastic action.

They have contracted with a special ops unit  – Snake Team Three. I know at least one STT unit was dispatched to western Nebraska. It was paid for by a Political Action Committee of reactionary tree-hugger types from Colorado.

The STT has highly-skilled members – a herpetologist, botanist and animal trainer among them. The STT mission is to capture local snakes, such as the western hog-nosed snake, the bullsnake and the ever-popular Crotalus viridis viridis (AKA the prairie rattlesnake). The snakes are trained to stay in close proximity to the plants that need protection. Through a series of adverse conditioning exercises, they learn to attack any human hand that invades the protected space around the flower. Once the plant has gone to seed, the pheromones released by the flower fade, and the snake goes back to its normal life.

The hog-nosed snake and bullsnake are trained on the more common flowers. The venomous bite of the prairie rattler is reserved for rarer flowers on one of the conservation watch lists, either state or federal.

The only drawback to this protection system is that the snakes are a little slow on cooler days, potentially allowing the offenders to escape unscathed.

On those days, karma comes back to bite the flower pickers.

(Long story short: enjoy the flowers, take pictures if you want, but don’t be a jackmonkey.)

*Note: I am also a big fan of The Onion.

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2011 9:40 am

    The Onion has some healthy sarcasm–

  2. May 31, 2011 4:37 pm

    Only the gubmint could be so cruel to snakes! ;-o

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