Carl Purpus, Plant Collector in Western America Report on My Journey to the La Sal Mountains (Continued)  

C. A. Purpus

Translated from German by Barbara Ertter  

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Original Title:

Bericht uber meine Tour in die La Sol-Mountains

C. A. Purpus, San Diego, Kalifornien

Mitteilungen der Deutchen Dendrologischen Gesellschaft. 8: 142-146.


Locations: Mount Peale. Mount Tomasaki. Mount Tukuhnikivatz. Mount Waas.  

One of my first excursions was to Mt. Waas, the third highest peak in this incomparably beautiful mountain range, which consisted mostly of sandstone interrupted by porphyry. The highest peak was called Mt. Peale, the second highest was Mt. Tukuhnikivatz, and the fourth was Mt. Tomasaki. The names are primarily of Indian origin. From all of these peaks, which I climbed during the course of the summer, one is treated to an indescribable panorama of the surrounding cliffs and mountains such as I had never before seen. Truly unique is the sight of Castle Valley, a huge narrow valley bordered by massive red rock walls. At its lower end were remarkable high sandstone cliffs that looked just like old ruins.
      I found the highest shrubs here to be the aforementioned Ribes and another Ribes belonging to the Grossularia group, along with Ribes cereum or its alpine form. Conifers represented were Picea engelmannii, Juniperus nana Willd., and infrequently Abies subalpina. The Picea extends above treeline as small stunted trees or shrubs. Upon exploring the abundant talus fields, I located Shepherdia canadensis Nutt., Lonicera utahensis S. Wats., the lovely Sorbus arbutifolia, and Acer glabrum Torr. Berberis fremontii is common everywhere between 8-10,000 feet.
      On one of my next excursions I went to the Triassic sandstone region at an altitude of 7-8000 feet. Cercocarpus parvifolius was one of the most abundant of the variety of interesting shrubs that occurred here. I also found Cercocarpus intricatus Wats., an intermediate between both species, and Philadelphus microphyllus A. Gray growin in the rocks. Purshia tridentata grew in great abundance on rocky ground, and Peraphyllum ramosissimum Nutt. was on loamy slopes. Masses of cacti, primarily Opuntia polyacantha and a variety of it, O. histricina Engelm., O. tortispina Engelm., and Echinocereus phoeniceus Engelm. covered that ground, even growing in partial shade under the conifers. Echinocactus whipplei var. spinosior did not ascend to this altitude.
Full Size Image Castle Valley, northeast of Moab, Utah.  

Locations: Castle Valley.  

On a foray to Castle Valley I found a splendid deep blue-green Juniperus, perhaps J. pachyphloea Torr., associated with J. monosperma on a ridge rising from the valley. At the upper end of the valley I encountered great quantities of Yucca angustifolia Pursh. Opuntia polyacantha, its variety, and the splendid Echinocactus simpsonii Engelm. grew on stony ground beginning at the scrub oak zone and ascending to the Populus tremuloides zone at 8000 feet This beautiful species [E. simpsonii ?] is therefore the highest reaching cactus in this mountain range.
      On another exploration of the sandstone region, I found the magnificent Yucca macrocarpa Engelm. that I had seen the year before in the Charleston Mountains of Nevada. The species grew here at an elevation of 6-7000 feet, so it would doubtless be winter-hardy in Germany. I also found two other Yucca that are undoubtedly new. The first resembed Yucca macrocarpa, but its leaves were completely different, being flatter, and its fruit was longer. The other resembled Yucca angustifolia except that it was shorter and very short, thick, rigid leaves. Both species occurred singly or in clusters intermixed with the others. I noted Bigelowia in the region, and somewhat higher a small, shrubby, silver-leaved Artemisia and Clematis douglasii. Near a creek I found an alder, possibly Alnus occidentalis, the gorgeous blue-white form of Picea pungens, Crataegus douglasii, and Prunus demissa Walp. In gravel on a limestone substrate grew Betula occidentalis Hook. An undetermined Ribes sp. and a subshrubby Brickellia were also on the outcrops.
      Alfred Jaeger, the son of the horticulturist and florist Mr. Jaeger of Pirna, Saxony, arrived here toward the end of July. He had come this way to accompany me on an unsuccessful journey to the upper Fraser River in British Columbia. I found him to be a welcome and capable assistant for seed- and cactus-collecting.

Locations: Grand Junction. Rio Dolores. Uncompahgre Plateau.  

After we had finished in the La Sal Mountains, we went collecting along the Rio Dolores in Colorado, with an emphasis on cacti. From there we crossed the Uncompahgre Plateau to Grand Junction. I then returned to my winter quarters in San Diego, whereas Mr. Jaeger remained behind for another month to collect cacti for me.
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Date and time this article was prepared: 6/7/2002 7:32:23 PM