Eastern Mojave Vegetation How to Mark a Forb?  
 

Tom Schweich  

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The Problem

  Looking for Ideas: How to Mark a Forb?
  In my studies of Frasera albomarginata, I need to permanently mark multiple individuals of a forb. The purpose in marking the plants is to locate the same individuals through several seasons. A forb is an herbaceous perennial, and the plant dies back to the root every winter. The caudex (root stock) is quite small, so I can't screw a nameplate to it, plus I would be reluctant to manipulate it in any way, for fear of skewing my data.
  I posed this question to the ECOLOG-L list server membership and received numerous responses. This page contains the suggestions of others, a synopsis of the suggestions, and a description of the solution I am now using.
 

How I Solved the Problem

Here's what I ended up doing:
 

Step 1

Bought 6 foot lengths of white fiberglass rods, quarter-inch diameter. The guy at the plastics store told me that acrylic rods would resist sun and weather damage as well as the fiberglass, but I chose the fiberglass because it is more stiff. Twenty 6 foot rods at $1.75 each: $35.
 

Step 2

Cut into 5 pieces, approximately 14 inches long.
 

Step 3

Sharpened one end in a pencil sharpener. I bought the $6 cheap-o one-cutter pencil sharpener; next time I'll go for the $12 deluxe two-cutter model. This was the most difficult operation.
 

Step 4

Sanded off the abraded glass fibers with 120 grit emery cloth. Wear gloves, or be prepared for a few glass fibers in your hands.
 

Step 5

Bought 100 No 4 bandettes, blue and numbered 1 to 100. Chicken bands, or bandettes, are sized in one-sixteenth inch increments, so a No. 4 is four sixteenths, or one quarter inch. Cost was $25.40 for 100 bandettes. Seems like an outrageous price for chicken bands which I used to buy through the Sears catalog for $5 or $6 per hundred. But then again, these were special ordered and sent UPS to what must be the last remaining urban feed store.
 

Step 6

Glued the bandettes approximately 1 inch below the blunt end of the stake with Silicone General Purpose Glue & Seal.
 

Step 7

The field test for these works of art began April 30, 1996. When examined in October 1996, all stakes were intact, including four of them that were stepped on by cows. I am least comfortable with the prospective performance of the glue, but so far it seems to be holding up.
  Total cost was $70 for 100 stakes, plus 4 hours of my labor. I estimate that better planned shopping could bring the cost down to $40-50.
 

Performance in the Field

  Generally, performance of the stakes in the field has been good. However, there are two problems that I have not yet satisfactorily resolved. One, the fiberglas stakes deteriorate over time and, two, the numbers on the chicken bands fade over time.

Full Size ImageFiberglas stake after 7 1/2 years in the field.  
The photo at left shows the condition of a stake after 7 1/2 years in the field, in the eastern Mojave. You can see that glass fibers are escaping the binding of the plastic resin.
  Stakes in the more temperate climate of the San Francisco Bay Area perform even worse than in the eastern Mojave. In addition to the plastic resin deteriorating and releasing the glass fibers, the stakes also mildew, or otherwise turn blackish.
  The second problem is fading of the printed numbers on the chicken bandette.
 

Synopsis of Ideas Received

  Here's a synopsis of the responses I received. If anyone else has something they have tried in the field, I will be happy to catalog the idea with these and redistribute the list.
 
  • Stick Something In The Ground Near The Plant
    • One adjacent to the plant, or 2 or 3 at some distance from the plant. Two stakes would allow precise relocation; three would allow triangulation plus provide redundancy if one stake is damaged or lost.. Could use 3 equal length strings that meet only on the location of the plant.
    • Metal
      • Paint or epoxy a bright (ungalvanized) nail.
        • Mark with a chicken band around the nail.

      • Aluminum nails, no coating, may be toxic.
      • Aluminum nails coated in silicone tile caulking. Worked well.
      • Surveyors flags not recommended, no details.

      Leaching may not be biologically significant unless the soil is especially deficient. Concerns about leaching may be overdone, unless one is also studying the effects of acid rain, which presumably could significantly increase leaching and subsequent alteration of soil chemistry.

      A soil might be a notorious iron binder, e.g., carbonate soils. (However, wouldn't this minimize the possible effects of leaching of iron ions?)

    • Plastic
      • Tent stakes. About $0.30 at local camping store, color yellow, could be a problem in rocky soil.
        • Mark by engraving and putting permanent maker in grooves. Permanent marker alone might wear off.
        • Mark by "burning in" an alphanumeric.
        • Point the "hook" toward the subject plant.

      • Acrylic rods. No corrosion after 5 years. Some snapped, perhaps due to cattle.
      • Plastic spikes from electrical supply places.
      • Plastic golf tees. In colors.
      • Colored plastic toothpicks in relocating individuals of Calochortus on an annual basis. The bright colors stood out well in fairly dense grasslands. Different colors also allowed me to distinguish among plants growing closely together. Relocating them was made easier because all of the marked individuals were within quadrats that were laid out along transects with permanent rebar end stakes. Also mapped the location of each plant within the quadrat using a grid system and graph paper. Some of the toothpicks were dislodged by freeze/thaw (this was at 6,000 feet in Idaho), but they usually were lying on the ground next to the plant. More troublesome were those broken off by cattle. Out of several hundred marked individuals I probably failed to relocate only a few.

    • Composite Material.
      • Fiberglass rod.
        • Cheap rejects from a fishing pole factory, cut them to short lengths. Worked well.
        • Expensive new fiberglass rods. Cut to 14" lengths, sharpened on one end, sanded smooth, No. 4 pigeon band glued near top with silicone glue. Material was $70 and labor was 4 hours. Not field tested yet.

      • Other composites ?

  • Wrap something around the plant.
    • Telephone wire, colored.
    • Plastic straws. Where the size of the seedlings (and of adult individuals) is usually small (height of adult individual. ca 10 cm). used rings made of straw (those you use to sip). Cut the straw lengthwise with scissors and then in rings of about 0.3-0.5 cm. Use straws of different colors for each observation date. Worked very well for me.
 

E-Mails Received

  Sat Feb 17 18:24:45 1996

Depending on your soil (if it's too rocky this is a problem) you may be able to use plastic tent stakes (about $0.30 each at your local camping store). If you get the ones with the flat tops you can number them there. I recommend inscribing first with one of those vibrating thingamajigs they sell for marking stereos, then putting on a permanent marker in the grooves. This shows up well visually & does not wear off as readily as "permanent" marker alone.

Anna Hopkins, anna.hopkins@colorado.edu, hopkinsa@spot.Colorado.EDU

  Sat Feb 17 18:25:07 1996

If you are wedded to the idea of staking the chicken band with a nail, why not paint or epoxy a "bright" [ungalvanized] nail. In my experience, the carbonate soils in the Austin area are notorious iron binders but 0.76 cm isn't much distance between the roots and that potential iron source. Epoxy coating will minimize soil contact with the metal. I'd be concerned about aluminum nails because of the potential toxicity of the Al ions.

Mike Scioli, email: mescioli@ix.netcom.com, Humble Ecologist, Mad Biometrician, MSE Consultants, Austin, TX

  Sat Feb 17 18:25:22 1996

In response to your question regarding markers for plants: There was a thread on one of the newsgroups (sci.bio.ecology, I think) a few months back on this very topic. You might want to check it out. I think one suggestion was tent stakes. They are cheap, available at your local K-Mart, etc. and come in bright colors. You could easily burn/scratch an -alphanumeric onto them. Since they're plastic, they probably won't affect soil chemistry. They usually have a hook on one side at the top...you could "point" it toward the referenced plant. I've been using surveyor's flags...I *don't* recommend them. I'll probably use *tent stakes in the future, but if you get other interesting responses, please post them to the list...I think others would be interested too.

Paul Weihe, pweihe@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu, School of Natural Resources, Ohio State University, 2021 Coffey Rd., Columbus, OH USA 43210-1085

  Sat Feb 17 18:25:33 1996

Tom, I have two suggestions for you. 1. how about using a plastic marking device ("nail"), that may be the most "environmentally friendly" substance available and is unlikely to alter soil. 2. or, how about using triangulation to locate individual plants. You could locate 6 stakes around each plant and using 3 strings of equal length, locate a precise point (where the 3 strings meet) multiple times. You probably would want to remove strings after each data collection because of natural disturbance to the stake locations (tree branches falling, animals,etc). Good luck!

Joe Benedict, rbenedic@ag.auburn.edu

  Sun Feb 18 09:05:16 1996

My wife conducted a study of seedling germination on mine tailings in northern NY State. She speculated that soil chemistry was an important factor in limiting seeding survival, but needed some way to mark individuals. She opted for aluminum nails that she coated in silicone tile caulking (sp?), the same stuff that you use on shower walls. That seemed to be an inexpensive solution, although it takes some time to coat the nails.

Rob Barber-Delach, rdbarber@usa.pipeline.com, rdbarber@mailbox.syr.edu

  Tue Feb 20 15:45:49 1996

I've two methods to suggest. When working with plants with well defined caudices one can triangulate their location with respect two two remote pins, as I have seen done in the U.K. Alternately, you can use inert materials in place of your nails: I used acrylic rods in one study and most of them were easy to relocate after 5 years of neglect although some had snapped (probably due to animal traffic). In another study, I used plastic-coated steel rods. Several years later I removed the rods and discovered no evidence of corrosion. The rods, however, were quite expensive. You may not find the leaching biologically significant even if you use nails, unless you are dealing with a peculiarly deficient soil. My pet soil chemist tells me that any concerns I have over that are overdone unless I am doing acid-rain work. Still, if you get any more good ideas, pass them on.

Matt Fairbarns (OV MFAIRBAR), Research Ecologist, Range Branch phone 356 5898 FAX 356 5909, MFAIRBAR@MFOR01.FOR.GOV.BC.CA

  Tue Feb 20 15:46:25 1996

Might try using colored telephone wire wrapped around the base of the plant-- let me know if you need more information.

Sam Fuhlendorf, Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2126, Email:fuhlendorf@tamu.edu, sfuhlendorf@RANGELAND-ECOL-MGMT, Fax: (409)845-6430, http://www.tamu.edu:8000/~sdf0116/, Phone: (409)845-5579

  Tue Feb 20 15:46:55 1996

I have marked seedlings in a limestone grassland in Sweden, where the size of the seedlings (and of adult individuals) is usually small (height of adult indiv. ca 10 cm). I used rings made of straw (those you use to sipp). I first cut the straw lengthwise with a sissor and then in rings of about 0.3-0.5 cm. I used straws of different colours for each observation date. It worked very well for me.

Graciela Rusch, Oklahoma Biological Survey, grusch@obsnsrv1.bio.uoknor.edu

  Tue Feb 20 15:49:24 1996

I knew someone who used to mark small plots with fiberglass rods. They got cheap rejects from a fishing pole factory, cut them to short lengths, and drove them into the ground. Also, you might try electrical supply places for plastic spikes.

Mark J. Twery, Integrating Ecological and Social, Research Forester, Project Leader Dimensions of Ecosystem Management, USDA Forest Service Internet: mtwery@forest.fsl.uvm.edu, 705 Spear St. PO Box 968 DG: M.Twery:S24L04A, Burlington, VT 05402-0968, 802-951-6774, 802-951-6368 (fax)

  Tue Feb 20 15:49:37 1996

You might want to try plastic pins or plastic golf tees.

William S. "Bill" Null, Ph.D., WSDOT Biology, P.O. Box 47331, Olympia, WA 98504, Phone: (360) 705-7408, FAX: (360) 705-6833, Email: bnull@wsdot.wa.gov

  Tue Feb 20 15:50:21 1996

I had good success using colored plastic toothpicks in relocating individuals of Calochortus on an annual basis. The bright colors stood out well in fairly dense grasslands. Having different colors also allowed me to distinguish among plants growing closely together. Relocating them was made easier because all of my marked individuals were within quadrats that were laid out along transects with permanent rebar end stakes. I also mapped the location of each plant within the quadrat using a grid system and graph paper. Some of the toothpicks were dislodged by freeze/thaw (this was at 6,000 feet in Idaho), but they usually were lying on the ground next to the plant. More troublesome were those broken off by cattle. Out of several hundred marked individuals I probably failed to relocate only a few.

Steve Caicco, Steven_Caicco@mail.fws.gov, or, slc@well.com

If you have a question or a comment you may write to me at: tas4@schweich.com I sometimes post interesting questions in my FAQ, but I never disclose your full name or address.  


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Date and time this article was prepared: 6/17/2017 2:14:47 PM