Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 31, 2010

Lithic scatters, bones, biscuitroot, and aerie

knapped flakes found within a few feet of each other

Here’s your new vocabulary for the day; see if you can use it in conversation.

LITHIC SCATTER: a surface scatter of cultural artifacts and debris that consists entirely of lithic (i.e., stone) tools and chipped stone debris. This is a common prehistoric site type that is contrasted to a cultural material scatter, which contains other or additional artifact types such as pottery or bone artifacts.

As Tricia and I hiked out to locate a Great Horned Owl’s nest near Delicate Arch, we had to veer from established paths. I’d say four of our six miles were off trail, and what a treasure hunt THAT was. Staying off the biological soil crust (formerly ‘cryptobiotic soil’) was tricky, but it took us along the slickrock edges and down sandy washes. I felt as if I were on a scavenger hunt; Tricia’s experienced eyes found all manner of remarkable items.

1. The sharp thin razor-edged flakes from knapped chert were lying ALL OVER in certain places. I picked them up and marveled at the people who made them, and then returned them to their spots despite wanting to keep a couple for souvenirs.

Part of the food web

2. The area below the owl alcove that we found (with about 5 gallons of whitewash blanketing the rocks) was strewn with regurgitated owl pellets and bones of small rodents and young rabbits. I hooted, “Who’s awake? Me, too…” to no avail. We’ll have to go back early in the morning to hoot again.

Canyonlands biscuitroot


3. The Canyonlands biscuitroot is blooming!!! This species of concern grows ONLY at the base of fins of Entrada sandstone. Such a narrow niche allows it to be found in only two counties in the world. It is a precious and protected plant.

We concluded our day scoping out what a recent visitor directed us to: a possible Peregrine Falcon aerie at the north end of the park. This will be closely monitored for nesting activity in the coming weeks.

Two threatened species in a day. Happy.


  1. Hola! I just can’t leave questions unanswered. So in regards to the different species of lomatium we were seeing. Yes, they are different species. The one we saw with the parsley like leaves is Lomatium perryi, Parry’s Biscuitroot. This species also doesn’t seem to hold on to all the old growth and also does have the red stem to distinguish it. The plant we saw in the FF was Lomatium latilobum, the Canyonlands Biscuitroot, which has the flat ladder like leaves and the previous years growth. There are also different species of cymopterus, Spring Parsley, that have the same flower as the lomatium but the leaves are very different and they usually are smaller plants that grow very close to the ground. All are blooming now.

    What else? Rumex is the scientific name for Rumex hymenosepalus, going by the common name of Canaigre (Dock; Wild Rhubarb; Sorrel). Sometimes I can’t get the scientific names out of my head:)

    Hope you’re surviving jeep week!

    Comment by triciao — April 3, 2010 @ 10:22 am | Reply

    • VERY helpful, Tricia!! I was having difficulty reconciling the two varieties of biscuitroot! THANK YOU. I’ll keep my eyes open for all of these, and I appreciate your help.

      Comment by kath56ryn — April 3, 2010 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

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