1900 acres is a lot to try to walk in a day, especially with cameras and gear. But when we learned that an H. E. Butt Foundation Camp plant survey would be taking place—led by a Texas state botanist—we eagerly (and somewhat naively) signed on to follow along and film.
Plant hunting is slow-going. The expedition had us working our way through some of the more remote reaches of the property, culminating in the Box Canyon. Jason and Nancye paused repeatedly to scrawl entries about each species we encountered. Their enthusiasm and delight (and considerable knowledge) was contagious, so that from time to time we forgot just how far we had gone…and how much equipment we were lugging.
Already exhausted by mid-afternoon, we reached Box Canyon, beginning to wonder if any of the truly rare plants Jason had told us about would actually turn up. Would we discover a plant new to science? Would we find the elusive Canyonlands Rattlesnake-Root? Would we step on a rattlesnake?
A light rain began to fall and to our tired eyes the features of the Canyon had blurred into a grey-green swirl in which little was recognizable anymore. And that’s precisely when Jason made the most significant discovery of the day.
“Thus there is always present the feeling that at any moment you may come upon an unknown and beautiful flower; beautiful at any rate, and new or not, the joy is the same. Exploring a cliff is not like exploring a meadow….Rock plants are small. There may be a gorgeous flower within a yard of you, invisible till you are on top of it almost. It is lurking under a rock, or hiding in a crevice; it may even be quite out of reach. And on the cliff plants do not grow in sheets and colonies as they do in the meadow, or in the woods. It is a plant here and a plant there.
“No doubt there are plenty of them, but they have to be searched out one by one. Therefore it behooves the plant hunter to search every nook and cranny, to climb every ghyl, to explore every corry and crag, to prowl round every escarpment he cannot climb; the search is long, but well, well, worth while.”
—Frank Kingdon Ward, The Romance of Plant Hunting (1924)