Sunday, August 28, 2011

Broad-leaf Arrowhead

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, rose of Sharon, Russian sage, buddleia, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, red yucca, datura, sweet pea, Heavenly Blue morning glories, purple phlox, cultivated sunflowers, less Sensation cosmos than usual, alfalfa, brome grass.

Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, Apache plume, fernleaf and leatherleaf globemallows, scarlet bee blossom, white and yellow evening primroses, whorled milkweed, bindweed, goat’s head, white sweet and purple clovers, stickleaf, buffalo gourd, silver leaf nightshade, toothed spurge, prostrate knotweed, lamb’s quarter, Russian thistle, amaranth, pigweed, ragweed, some snake weed, native sunflowers, chamisa, spiny lettuce, horseweed, paper flower, gumweed, Hopi tea, goldenrod, áñil del muerto, Tahoka daisy, golden hairy aster, sandburs; buds on broom senecio; with rain, Russian thistle and ivy-leafed morning glories are sprouting, as well as something that could be goat’s head, áñil del muerto or next year’s white sweet clover.

In my yard, looking east: Hosta, garlic chives, hollyhock, winecup mallow, sidalcea, baby’s breath, Maltese cross, bouncing Bess, large-leaf soapwort, pied snapdragon, Jupiter’s beard, pink evening primrose, Shirley poppies, cutleaf coneflower, Maximilian sunflowers; buds on Autumn Joy sedum and tansy.

Looking south: Floribunda and rugosa roses, Illinois bundle flower, reseeded and new Crimson Rambler morning glories; sweet alyssum, moss rose and zinnia from seed.

Looking west: Caryopteris, calamintha, flowering spurge, sea lavender, lead plant, perennial four o’clock, Mönch aster.

Looking north: Golden spur columbine, Hartweig evening primrose, Mexican hat, chocolate flower, blanket flower, yellow cosmos from seed, anthemis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemum.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss rose, nicotiana, impatiens.

Inside: Zonal geranium, aptenia, asparagus fern.

Animal sightings: Hummingbirds, hummingbird moth, cabbage butterfly, small bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants, hear crickets.

Weather: Monsoon winds brought rain several evenings this week; last rain 8/25/11; 13:44 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: Last Saturday I was surprised by a clump of arrowheads blooming in an Española ditch.

The herbaceous perennial is a semiaquatic plant whose roots live in water, but has leaves on narrow stalks that rise above the surface. With the broad-leafed species, Sagittaria latifolia, the bases of those bright green, triangular leaves are wide in swallow water, but so narrow in deeper water they can’t be distinguished easily from the arum-leafed Sagittaria cuneata. Both have been reported in Rio Arriba County.

The three petaled white flowers appear in whorls of two or three on spongy, erect stalks. The lower ones are female, with their centers filled with green pistols. Those above, with twenty to forty yellow stamens, are male. Each group opens from the bottom up with a space between that begins to resemble a plucked grape cluster of denuded pedicels.

Round, green pods replace the lower flowers. Inside those furrowed fruits, plants can produce up to 20,000 seeds that are eaten by ducks and geese. Indeed, in Michigan the Potawatomi in the southern part of the state and the Ojibwa/Chippewa in the north encouraged the Alismataceae to attract fowl.

The flat green seeds must pass through a winter, a summer, and another winter before they germinate, and then only when temperatures range between 80 and 90 degrees in direct sun. Once they undergo their two-year dormancy, the seedlings do well.

The plants, however, have found other, more reliable ways to reproduce. As the days of summer wane, they transfer carbohydrates and other nutrients to tubers that form towards the ends of their milky, radiating rhizomatous roots so they can survive the winter without photosynthesizing leaves. A mature plant may produce up to forty tubers, each of which can send up clusters of tall stalked leaves for three new plants.

The reason they didn’t quickly overrun their resources in the wetter north was women gathered the white tubers in fall, often using their toes to loosen them. The golf-ball size corms floated to the top and were dropped into floating baskets.

The Potawatomi, along with the neighboring Meskwaki and Menominee in Wisconsin, boiled them, then strung slices for winter food. The Ojibwa dried them. A great many other tribes in the plains and far west also boiled or roasted them. Some even traded them.

The thing that surprised me wasn’t that arrowheads were growing in Española. After all, they’re found almost everywhere in the New World where six to twelve inches of water stands for any period of time.

In New Mexico the arum-leafed species also grows in the Four Corners where the San Juan flows, in the northeast with tributaries of the Canadian, and along the western side of the Rio Grande down to Albuquerque. Latifolia is also found in northwestern San Juan, northeastern Union and eastern Roosevelt counties.

What did surprise me was that there was a running ditch where I was standing near the highway on the west side of the river. The soils are poor and the terrain between the San Juan and Santa Clara tends to be broken badlands that quickly drop to sandy wastes along the river. The only evidence of old farmsteads is a few square houses with steeply pitched, four-sided, steel roofs and dormers, a style I associate with the influence of the French in the early to mid nineteenth century.

When the Spanish returned after the Pueblo Revolt, Antonio de Salazar requested land in 1714 near the confluence of the Chama and Rio Grande he claimed his maternal grandfather had settled earlier near the San Juan settlement. His father, Agustín, was a blind Indian who served Diego de Vargas as a translator when he was leading the reconquest.

On the northern edge of the Santa Clara, near the confluence of the Santa Cruz with the Rio Grande, José López Naranjo claimed land south of that owned by Salazar. It became the ridge and valley settlement of Guachupangue. Naranjo also acted as a go-between with the Indians for Vargas. His father Domingo was active in Taos during the revolt.

At some time the land between was purchased or claimed by descendants of Francisco Montes Vigil, who came north from Zacatecas in 1695 when Juan Páez Hurtado was recruiting settlers for an area north of Albuquerque. He and his wife, María, who was described as an española, relocated to Santa Cruz a few years later.

Angélico Chávez suggests that, while Juan de Oñate had specified all settlers in the north be españoles, his own children had mixed blood. His wife was the granddaughter of Hernán Cortés and Tecuichpotzin, Moctezuma’s oldest daughter and heir. The term came to be used for the children or grandchildren of mixed marriages or liaisons who had become sufficiently acculturated to be restored to their status as Spaniards.

The badlands on the west side of the river, then, were settled by people who openly lived outside society, neither in pueblos nor in the Roman Catholic village of Santa Cruz. The great-great-granddaughter of Vigil’s illegitimate son, Josefita Vigil, married a descendent of Naranjo, Benedito Naranjo. He sold what was then known as La Vega de los Vigiles to the Denver and Rio Grande railroad.

If the name Vigil’s Meadows is any clue, the land was then being used for cattle. It’s unclear when or why the Acequia de los Vigiles was dug.

The ditch begins just below the junction of the Chama and Rio Grande, and flows between the old rail bed and the river until it reaches the city limits. At that point, the older Acequia de Los Salazares turns to empty into the Rio Grande, and the Vigil ditch turns inland to continue what could have been an older path of the Salazar ditch.

From that point the Vigil ditch moves southwest to skirt the bottom of the highland where Frank Bond built his home. Today that land is used by the community college, the hospital, various churches, and public buildings like the library. For most of the distance it’s buried in culverts, but at the point I saw it, the land was dropping steeply and modern engineers apparently had decided it was cheaper to let it fall in the open than try to encase it.

At various times city planners have coveted its right of way, most recently when it was seen as a possible conduit to move water from the Rio Grande to a proposed new water treatment plant that could handle the city’s allotment from the diversion of the San Juan over the Rockies through the Chama to the Rio Grande. That merger of the rivers in 1971 could explain how the plants got here, if they didn’t just fall off some truck headed back north to Colorado.

The open section of the ditch has been carefully maintained. No trash had accumulated and none of the nastier weeds were growing there last week. At the upper end, showy milkweeds were growing on the west bank. They gave way to sunflowers. Then, on the east side, there was some bright green grass. Just before the waters reentered a culvert to cross under the highway horsetails grew on the bank and broadleaf arrowheads flourished in the water.

Rather like the Salazars, Naranjos and Vigils who lived on the west side of the river beyond the constraints of organized society, the arrowheads are exploiting a part of the ditch freed of the concrete and steel walls that confine it before it finally flows west to empty into the Arroyo de Guachupangue.

Chávez, Angélico. Origins of New Mexico Families, 1992 revised edition.

_____. Chávez: A Distinctive American Clan of New Mexico, 1989, on españoles.

Esquibel, José Antonio. Entry on Francisco Montes Vigil posted on

Garcia, Lisa K. Entries on descendants of Francisco Montes Vigil posted on Genealogy Benedito’s son, Alejandrino, married Delfinia Vigil; their son was Emilio Naranjo.

Moerman, Dan. Native American Ethnobotany, 1998, summarizes data from a number of ethnographies including Frances Densmore, “Uses of Plants by the Chippewa Indians,” Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnography Annual Report 44:273-379:1928 (cites latifolia); and articles by Huron H. Smith which appeared in the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee Bulletin - “Ethnobotany of the Menomini Indians,” 4:1-174:1923 (cuneata); “Ethnobotany of the Meskwaki Indians,” 4:175-326:1928 (latifolia); “Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians,” 4:327-525:1932 (cuneata); and “Ethnobotany of the Forest Potawatomi Indians,” 7:1-230:1933 (latifolia).

United States. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Germplasm Resources Information Network. Distributions for cuneata and latifolia.

_____. Department of the Interior. Geological Survey. 7.5 quadrangle maps for San Juan Pueblo and Española.

Photograph: Male flowers on broadleaf arrowhead growing in the Acequia de los Vigiles, 20 August 2011.

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