Sunday, June 24, 2012
Weather: Summer high temperatures arrived just before the solstice; last rain 5/13/12; 14:33 hours of daylight today.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid perpetual roses, buddleia, Japanese honey suckle, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, Spanish broom, red yucca, red hot poker, daylily, hollyhock, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, scabiosa, larkspur, yellow flowered yarrow, zinnias, brome grass; one-inch green apples visible in orchards.
We've moved into the season of bright orange daylilies and trumpet creepers that require little care; the roses only remain where they get extra attention.
Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, showy milkweed, leatherleaf globemallow, mullein, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, stick leaf, yellow, scarlet bee blossom, velvetweed, white and pink bindweeds, scurf peas, bush morning glory, silver leaf nightshade, buffalo gourd, Indian paintbrush next to chamisa, horse tail, prostrate knotweed, goat’s head, Hopi tea, plain’s paper flower, goat’s beard, fleabane, green Mexican hat, golden hairy asters, native dandelion, needle and rice grasses.
In my yard, looking east: Snow-in-summer, Maltese cross, bouncing Bess, white and creeping baby’s breath, coral beardtongue, Jupiter’s beard, pink evening primrose, winecup mallow, sidalcea Party Girl, California and Shirley poppies, Saint John’s wort.
Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Dutch clover, tomatillo; first ripe raspberries, but many drying from heat.
Looking west: Trumpet and oriental lilies, blue flax, Siberian and Seven Hills Giant catmints, Romanian sage, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Goodness Grows speedwell, David phlox, white spurge, white mullein, perennial four o’clock, ladybells, Shasta daisy, Mönch asters; buds on sea lavender, purple coneflowers.
Looking north: Golden spur columbine, hartweig evening primrose, butterfly weed, squash, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis, Mexican hat; buds on chrysanthemum; fruit ripened on sand cherry.
Bedding plants: Petunia, nicotiana, moss rose, snapdragons.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.
Animal sightings: Hummingbirds, small brown birds, geckos, cabbage butterflies, ladybugs, bumble bees and other small bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.
Weekly update: Asparagus is a most unusual vegetable. The member of the lily family quite naturally behaves more like a bulb than an annual green.
It grows easily from seed, but seedlings take three years to mature enough for sprouts to be harvested. Many gardeners buy year-old crowns. Once established, individual plants can last more than ten years and a bed more than twenty.
At the end of the spring cutting season you have to let the plants produce their tall, ferny branches with scale like leaves which, like tulips and daffodils, store the nutrients for next year’s crop in their underlying mass of matted roots.
The plants are either male or female. Both are edible, but the females also produce green berries which turn red later in the summer.
The seedlings go wild, and can become a nuisance in commercial beds. The Rutgers Asparagus Breeding Program has developed F1 hybrids like Jersey Knight which produce only male plants. These don’t waste energy with seed production in summer, and so the next year’s sprouts are more desired by gourmets.
While garden guides tell you anyone can grow asparagus - you only need to add lots of organic matter to your soil - most are trying to turn the improbable into the possible. Yahya ibn al Awam warned in the late 1100’s that it was “very fond of damp places.”
When I was growing up in southern Michigan, I became aware different parts of the state grew different plants. It was partly latitude, but mainly the consequence of glaciers. The southern part where I lived was good for the usual farm crops like wheat and corn, and had supported hard wood forests.
In the more glaciated north, the soils were thinner and the primary trees were white pine. Within that area there was a section between Grand Rapids and Traverse City where land just in from Lake Michigan produced good cherries and peaches because of moisture and other ecological conditions fostered by the lake. It was within one small area of the cherry belt, an area in Oceana County around Hart, where people grew asparagus for canners.
When I see asparagus growing near the village, what surprises me isn’t that it’s gone wild - it’s naturalized in most parts of the country. What surprises me is that people got asparagus to grow in the first place.
According to al Awam, Asparagus officinalis was grown in Spain for the dried roots which were used to “banish all taint from rank meat.” William Dunmire says the plant was taken to México, but there’s no evidence it ever reached this part of the empire.
The French who came with La Salle to settle around Matagora Bay on the Texas gulf coast however did plant asparagus in 1685. The plants survived longer than they did, and were recognized in their abandoned gardens by the Spanish in 1689.
Dunmire says the French who later settled New Orleans also grew the vegetable. The native Americans who are reported to have eaten asparagus were either ones associated with the French - the Iroquois - or from the southeastern part of the county - the Cherokee.
Asparagus probably came into New Mexico with either settlers descended from the French or with Presbyterian missionaries and others from New England. It wasn’t the sort of plant to appeal to cattle raising Texans who took land east of the Sangre de Cristo.
But, it definitely has naturalized here. One plant I noticed last summer is growing so close to the steel farm fence along an alfalfa field the farmer would have to dig it out - reapers and snow plows won’t dislodge it. Another colony is growing just beyond the end of a ditch along the farm road.
In 1912, Smithsonian researchers found the plant was known to local Tewa speakers, but not generally used by them. In the 1930’s, students of Edward Castetter discovered Isleta was eating wild plants in the area south of Albuquerque.
Later, Leonora Curtin was told espárrago berries were mixed with ground leaves of yerba del sapo to treat stomach problems. Ambrosia concertiflora was considered a female plant and used by men, while Ambrosia acanthicarpa was considered the male plant appropriate for use by women who did not add berries.
The gender association may be one reason local Spanish speaking men used the berries for stomach problems. The other may be that asparagus often affects the smell of urine and that may have suggested a use for the stomach.
The forms of ragweed mentioned by Curtin grow along a diagonal running southwest from Colfax County, but not in Rio Arriba county. Colfax County was the site of the Maxwell land grant owned by Charles Beaubien, a French Canadian fur trader who settled in Taos.
The local plants probably came with irrigation waters moving in the Santa Cruz river from Chimayó. Presbyterian missionaries introduced many vegetables there. Since, of course, artists and others from places like Santa Fé have settled along the river. Any could be the source of the local plants which, most likely, are a form of Mary Washington, the descendent of selections made by Jesse Norton in Massachusetts after the rust fungus, Puccinia asparagi, decimated the beds in that state in the 1890’s.
Castettler, Edward F. Uncultivated Native Plants Used as Sources of Food, 1935, draws on work done by his graduate students, including Volney H. Jones, The Ethnobotany of the Isleta Indians, 1931.
Curtin, Leonora Scott Muse. Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande, 1947, republished 1997, with revisions by Michael Moore.
Dunmire, William W. Gardens of New Spain, 2004.
Ibn al Awam, Yahya. Kitab al Felaha, late 1100's, translated as A Moorish Calendar by Philip Lord, 1979.
Moerman, Dan. Native American Ethnobotany, 1998, summarizes data from a number of ethnographies including Arthur Caswell Parker, Iroquois Uses of Maize and Other Food Plants, 1910 and Paul B. Hamel and Mary U. Chiltoskey, Cherokee Plants and Their Uses -- A 400 Year History, 1975.
Robbins, William Wilfred, John Peabody Harrington, and Barbara Friere-Marreco. Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians, 1916.
1. Asparagus growing along the farm road, 18 June 2012.
2. Base of asparagus stems growing along the farm road, 18 June 2012, with remains of previous years’ growth. The scales are the leaves.
3. Asparagus in winter along the orchard road, 18 January 2012.
4. The same asparagus plant last summer, 10 July 2011.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Weather: High temperatures, low afternoon humidity; last rain 5/13/12; 14:34 hours of daylight today.
You hear people claim sun spots are the real causes of drought on this planet, usually followed by a quick explanation of why they’re wrong. However, when you read that this past Wednesday and Thursday the sun was more active than usual, and that the “coronal mass ejections” it produced then were supposed to hit the Earth yesterday, you can see how easy it is to suspect a connection.
Wednesday was the day I noticed my watering methods could no longer compensate for humidity levels. On Thursday, humidity levels in Santa Fé got down to 4%. Saturday the weather bureau was forecasting a slight chance of rain which took the form of high clouds during the afternoon and high winds in the early evening. These could all just as easily be blamed on the approaching solstice.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid perpetual roses, Japanese honey suckle, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, Spanish broom, red yucca, red hot poker, daylily, hollyhock, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, blue perennial salvia, scabiosa, larkspur, yellow flowered yarrow, brome grass.
Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, cholla cactus peaked, showy milkweed, leatherleaf globemallow, mullein, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, purple mat flower, gypsum phacelia, stick leaf, yellow, tufted and prairie white evening primroses, scarlet bee blossom, velvetweed, pale blue trumpets, blue gilia, white and pink bindweeds, wild licorice, scurf peas, loco, yellow sweet clover, silver leaf nightshade, buffalo gourd, horse tail, plain’s paper flower, goat’s beard, cream tips, áñil del muerto, fleabane, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native dandelion, needle grass; cotton on cottonwood.
In my yard, looking east: Snow-in-summer, Maltese cross, bouncing Bess, white and creeping baby’s breath, coral beardtongue, sputtering Jupiter’s beard, pink evening primrose, winecup mallow, sidalcea Party Girl, California and Shirley poppies, Saint John’s wort.
Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Dutch clover, tomatillo; red fruit appearing on raspberries.
Looking west: Blue flax, Siberian and Seven Hills Giant catmints, Romanian sage, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Husker and purple beardtongues, white spurge, Shasta daisy; buds on lilies, sea lavender, David phlox, purple coneflowers.
Looking north: Golden spur columbine, hartweig evening primrose, butterfly weed, squash, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis, Mexican hat; buds on chrysanthemum; catalpa producing pods.
Bedding plants: Petunia, nicotiana, moss rose, snapdragons.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.
Animal sightings: Rabbit, hummingbirds, goldfinch and other small brown birds, geckos, cabbage, sulphur, monarch and paisley butterflies, ladybugs on goat’s beard, bumble bees and other small bees, hornets, grasshoppers, harvester and small black ants.
Weekly update: Objects have a way of outliving your enthusiasm. There are still croquet and badminton sets in the garage from my childhood that I know can never be used in bunch grass New Mexico. There’s probably even a tennis racket somewhere out there.
There are empty planters and clay pots that are still around because the logistics of emptying the dirt from them to throw them out is beyond considering. And, there are the perennials that take hold and continue after you stop noticing them very much.
My interest in blue flowered salvias was sparked by Salvia farinacea, a delicately leafed bedding plant with light, steel blue flowers. When I was still in Michigan, I bought some Blue Victoria from a local greenhouse that was wonderful. That place didn’t carry them the next year, and the ones I bought elsewhere died. I tried them once in New Mexico and they barely survived.
While I was regretting my luck with mealy blue sage, nursery catalogs in the 1980's were in the throes of a perennial blue salvia mania, with new varieties being offered every year. I thought it would be wonderful to have a perennial form of that plant, only the plants they were offering were very different.
Farinacea, which actually is a perennial in warmer parts of the country, can mix with other plants aesthetically. Varieties of Salvia nemorosa like East Friesland and May Night are soloists that look best in demonstration gardens where a bit of brown mulch sets off the dark flowers that are lost when surrounded by greenery.
Before my interest was sated by success, I experimented with other salvias, including one from Romania. How can one not be intrigued by something called Salvia transsylvanica?
Unlike those species being heavily promoted by the nursery industry, the one I bought in 1998 not only survived, but produced a seedling the following summer. The colony died in 2005 after grasshoppers decimated it before a hard winter. When I replaced the mint family member the following spring, I discovered another seedling in the grass which is only smaller than the parent because it gets less water.
Unlike the specimen varieties, this has large triangular grey-green leaves quite capable of elbowing out competitors from the space they need. The flowers look the same only the stalks are longer and the florets more widely spaced.
Like many other plants that have done better than I expected in my garden, this one evolved in a steppe grassland environment, this time the dissected low plateau drained by rivers flowing from the surrounding Carpathian mountains to the Danube where the annual precipitation is around 22". The primary grasses in the area are Stipa species. The needle grass that grows here is Stipa comata.
A team led by Eszter Ruprecht suggests steppe vegetation was replaced by forest lands in that area of Romania during the late glacial period. The durmast oak-hornbeam forests were cut some thousand years ago, and relic grasses from the glacial period returned, as well as plants from Siberia and the Pontic. Romanian sage developed as an endemic plant.
In the past hundred years or so, grazing has been abandoned as unremunerative and many of the grasslands have been converted to pine plantations. Surprisingly, this salvia is one of the grassland plants that’s flourished in the new regime.
Like many plants, including the highly cultured salvias, the coarse Romanian sage has done better than usual this year, able to complete a cycle that was begun during the snows of winter before the dry heat of June took command.
For much the same reason the badminton set gets toted from place to place, plants like Transylvanian salvia are left to themselves - one’s never quite ready to say goodby to the relics of one’s past selves - after all they might have been the better ones. In the case of this sage, it’s possible the best may reappear.
Frazen, Carl. “See the Hyperactive Solar Region That’s Blasting Earth Up Close,” Talking Points Memo, 14 June 2012.
Oroian, Silvia and Mihaela Sãmãrghitan. “Dry Grasslands of the Corhan Hill - SaBed Village (Mures County),” Environmental Science and Engineering 3:181-194:2006.
Ruprecht, Eszter, Anna Szabó, Márton Z. Enyedi and Jürgen Dengler. “Steppe-like Grasslands in Transylvania (Romania): Characterisation and Influence of Management on Species Diversity and Composition,” Tuexenia 29: 353-368:2009.
1. Romanian sage, 11 June 2012.
2. Same plant, 5 June 2012, surrounded by needle and June grasses.
3. Blue Queen Salvia sylvestris outflanked by ladybells, 6 June 2012. It’s possible this is some other salvia; I planted several different ones and all seemed to die out; this one reappeared to bloom last summer, along with what I think is an East Friesland.
4. Romanian sage leaves, 12 May 2012.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Weather: Sun, wind, smoke from fires around Santa Fé and Cochití with last rain 5/13/12; 14:32 hours of daylight today.
What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey and other hybrid roses, Japanese honey suckle, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, Spanish broom, red hot poker, daylily, hollyhock, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, blue perennial salvia, scabiosa, larkspur, yellow flowered yarrow, brome grass.
Farmers making their first hay cuts.
Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, tangerine yellow flowered prickly pear and cholla cacti, showy and whorled milkweeds, leatherleaf globemallow, alfilerillo, tumble mustard peaked, purple mat flower peaked, gypsum phacelia, stick leaf, tufted and prairie white evening primroses, scarlet bee blossom, velvetweed, pale blue trumpets, blue gilia, white and pink bindweeds, oxalis, wild licorice, scurf peas, loco, silver leaf nightshade, buffalo gourd, horse tail, plain’s paper flower, goat’s beard, cream tips, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native dandelion, needle grass; buds on Virginia creeper.
Early dry heat, on top of little spring rain, is hastening the transition to seed production for plants like purple mat flower and woolly plantain that might have bloomed longer. So far, the wild prickly pear are producing few flowers, though they’d prepared for a great season with lots of buds.
In my yard, looking east: Bath pinks, snow-in-summer, small leaved soapwort peaked, Maltese cross, bouncing Bess, baby’s breath, sea pink, coral bells peaked, coral beardtongue, pink evening primrose, winecup mallow, Rose Queen salvia, first California and Shirley poppies, Saint John’s wort; buds on sidalcea.
Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Dutch clover, tomatillo.
Looking west: Blue flax, Siberian and Seven Hills Giant catmints, Rumanian sage, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Husker and purple beardtongues, white spurge; buds on lilies, sea lavender; pods forming on baptisia.
Looking north: Catalpa, golden spur columbine, hartweig evening primrose, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis; buds on butterfly weed, Mexican hat; sour cherries turning red; berries forming on privet.
Bedding plants: Petunia, nicotiana, moss rose.
Those plants that prefer cool weather or shade - pansies, sweet alyssum, impatiens, snapdragons - going or gone out of bloom.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.
Animal sightings: Hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, cabbage, sulphur and paisley butterflies, bumble bees and other small bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants. Noisy, but invisible insects.
Some kind of cottony insect webs on plants along the shoulders. Doesn’t seem to matter if the plant is active or passed its prime, so long as there’s a bare stem.
Weekly update: You always know what the label says on a plant and what you intend. What you get is sometimes another matter. Only someone with a strong legalistic bent would try to fix a point of accountability that explains what blooms and consider suing for breach of promise.
I ordered a bare root climbing Iceberg rose from Wayside Gardens in 1998. Every year it’s gotten about three feet tall and never bloomed, probably because it’s never gotten enough water. Last year, I replaced a nearby weak spirea that hadn’t made it through the winter of 2009-2010. With the drought, I moved a hose to ensure more water in the area.
This year the Iceberg finally produced a number of semi-double, pale pink flowers. Not what I expected with the name Iceberg. Botanica describes it as a pure white floribunda introduced in 1968 as a sport of a 1958 Kordes rose. It admits there may be “occasional pinkish flushes in the bud stage, especially in the early spring and autumn when the nights are cold and damp.” It even suggests that if dew hits a petal, the morning sunshine may bring out the pink.
Temperatures are now in the high 80's and damp is a fantasy. I’m amazed the rose actually survived all these years and didn’t revert to rootstock. Why should I be surprised that when it’s finally bloomed, the environment has altered the color of the flowers in unforeseen ways?
After all, one lives with unexpected variations. For years I tried to start hollyhocks with seeds and plants, and some combination has naturalized. They’re never pure red or pure white, but hues in between. Most of the Althcea rosea are light pink
but a few are a deeper rose.
When one dies, another takes it place somewhere. They don’t seem to be that different from sweet peas, except the Lathyrus latifolia that grow around here are almost always rose colored.
Rose is probably dominant and, through natural selection, all that exists in the local gene pool. The only place I know I can see the range of Mendelian colors and quantities is where the village ditch makes a ninety degree turn and dumps water that has been running in a concrete bed into a dirt one. Soon after, the ditch angles into a narrower conduit to pass under the road, then continues, after another turn, on the other side in an open bed.
Everything downstream is the usual rose. The only place you can see light pink
or white flowers is the short stretch where transitions in bed, direction and flow rates have apparently trapped seeds coming from who knows where. The water ultimately comes from the Santa Cruz dam in Chimayó and flows miles through an open channel.
While one grows used to nature’s variations, there are also flowers that are reliably the same color year after year. I planted a number of itinerant perennials in a bed where they can go to seed. Their location and number changes from year to year, but not the color. To get variation, I had to use different species - coreopsis, anthemis, chocolate flowers, black-eyed Susans and golden spur columbines. There’s some variation in the blanket flowers, but nothing else changes.
That is, until last year, when a columbine showed up beyond the edge of the border with red sepals.
I have a friend in Santa Fé who grows the red Canadian and blue Colorado columbines along with the native Aquilegia chrysantha, and he says he sometimes gets unexpected colors. But, I know my gene pool is a pure as one can be. I bought two plants in August of 1997 from Santa Fe Greenhouse. When they didn’t do well, I ordered a few more from Weiss Brothers the next year. However, there’s was already a seedling. From that small parentage, plants have filled a bed 40' by 6' and every one has always been the same color - no mutations, no recessed characteristics ever.
The unusual plant survived the winter and has been blooming again in its isolated location. A few weeks ago, I thought I saw a very light colored columbine at the other end of the bed, upwind from the bicolor. When I looked closer, I saw it was growing with another plant with red sepals.
I could blame the effects of drought or I could consider the profligate ways of moths which may have found another species growing somewhere in the village. Or, I can just watch and wonder what will happen next year while lawyers try to sue someone for causing the Colorado Peak fire near their expensive homes in Santa Fé.
Notes: Botanica. Botanica’s Roses, 2000.
1. Last year’s golden spur columbine with red sepals, 27 May 2011.
2. Climbing iceberg rose, 6 June 2012.
3. Pink flowered hollyhock growing where it planted itself in needle grass, 9 June 2012.
4. Rose colored hollyhock, 6 June 2012.
5. Rose colored sweet pea which has climbed into a red leafed plum, 4 June 2012.
6. Light pink flowered sweet peas growing along a village ditch, 5 June 2012.
7. White and rose sweet peas growing along the same section of shaded ditch, 5 June 2012.
8. Migrating perennials, including golden spur columbine, coreopsis and blanket flowers, 5 June 2012.
9. Golden spur columbine with a bicolor and an albino in their darting fish phase at the west end of the bed, 24 may 2012.
10. Golden spur columbine plant with red sepals that’s come back this year at the east end of the bed, 13 May 2012.
Sunday, June 03, 2012
Weather: Temperatures higher; last rain 5/13/12; 14:27 hours of daylight today.
Morning temperatures have been running at least five degrees higher than usual, suggesting some kind of dust or fumes in the air are holding in the day’s heat. Suspect some combination of debris from the southern fires and car exhausts coming down from places like Santa Fe.
What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey and other hybrid roses, Japanese honeysuckle, silver lace vine, Spanish broom, red hot poker, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, blue perennial salvia, yellow flowered yarrow, brome grass; buds on daylily, hollyhock. Onion heads visible from road. First hay cuts in alfalfa and brome grass fields.
Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume peaked, tamarix, yellow flowered prickly pear, showy milkweed, fernleaf globemallow, cheese mallow, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, purple mat flower, gypsum phacelia browning, stick leaf, tufted white evening primrose, scarlet bee blossom, pale blue trumpets, blue gilia, white and pink bindweeds, nits and lice, oxalis, wild licorice, scurf peas, loco, silver leaf nightshade, buffalo gourd, horse tail, amaranth, plain’s paper flower, goat’s beard, cream tips, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native dandelion; needle, rice and three awn grasses; buds on Virginia creeper.
In my yard, looking east: Bath pinks, snow-in-summer, small leaved soapwort, Jupiter’s beard, Maltese cross, sea pink, coral bells, pink evening primrose, oriental poppy, winecup mallow, Rose Queen salvia, purple clover; buds on bouncing Bess, baby’s breath.
Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Dutch clover; buds on tomatillo.
Looking west: Chives, blue flax, Siberian and Seven Hills Giant catmints, Rumanian sage, baptisia, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Husker and purple beardtongues; buds on sea lavender.
Looking north: Catalpa fragrant, golden spur columbine, hartweig evening primrose, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower; buds on coral beardtongues, anthemis, Mexican hat.
Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum, petunia, nicotiana, moss rose, snapdragons.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.
Animal sightings: Rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, sulphur butterflies, ladybugs, bumble bees and other small bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.
Weekly update: You simply cannot, with a straight face, tell someone about the wonderful hymenopappus you saw driving home. You can try leading in with adjectives like fine leaf or woolly white, but halfway through hymenopappus your smuttier minded friends will still be snickering.
Telling them that pappus is the Latin term for the hairs that turn the composite’s seeds into parachutes and hymen simply refers to their membranous quality won’t help.
Joe Guennel calls them cream tips in his Guide to Colorado Wildflowers. It was his photograph and accompanying watercolor that allowed me to first identify the taprooted perennial, and so I assumed his was the standard name.
Hymenopappus filifolius is a bit of a shape shifter. When you see it in winter, the basal rosettes of grey leaves look like carrot tops.
By the time the plant's producing flower buds, the leaves have added green and yellow pigments to become lime green.
The clusters of florets barely meet the definition of a flower: they’re much reduced to the minimum reproductive functions. The head may contain 20 to 50 narrow tubes with extended stigmas that bend backwards to nearly touch the style. The corolla tips have small lobes and there may be fine hairs of the outside of the receptacle.
Some flowers don’t even bother with pigment. I saw a white one growing by the side of the road near Jaconita earlier this year.
When the rayless flowers are fully open, the leaves are darker. Those leaves tend to disappear by mid-summer when the more common Hopi tea comes into bloom. In areas where the two overlap, it disappears into the crowd.
The species ranges through the Great Plains and intermontane region from Alberta and Saskatchewan down into México where it’s evolved into 13 subspecies. The local variety, cinereus, was first identified as Hymenopappus arenosus by Emily Gertrude Heller, née Halbach, and her husband, Amos Arthur Haller, when they were collecting in the Española area on 17 May 1897.
Cinereus is found in New Mexico and the bordering states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. The cultural center for the species seems to be the rio abaja where the root’s been used by the Ramah Navajo to treat coughs and was recognized by the Acoma and Laguna.
The Hopi used the lugens subspecies as a ceremonial emetic, the Kenyata Navajo used it for illnesses caused by lunar eclipses and the Ramah Navajo for arrow or bullet wounds. The Hopi used the pauciflorus variety as a beverage and the Hopi used it for a dye. The newberryi subspecies has been used by Isleta for stomach aches. The Jemez used an unspecified variety as tea, the Hopi baked one into bread, and the Zuñi used one with mutton lard on swellings.
According to Matilda Coxe Stevenson, ha’uheyaew was used by all the Zuñi fraternities which each had its own mystery medicines and who recruited the men, women and children it cured. The plant was gathered in summer by men. During a dance ceremony, the fraternity director gave pieces of the root to each man. It could also be requested at any time during the year by someone who needed it.
For something that sounds fairly well known early in the twentieth century, the plant wasn’t found when Scott Camazine and Robert Bye were surveying the medical plants of the Zuñi in 1977 and 1978. Whether the distribution of the plant had changed with the environment, had been obsoleted by modern medicine or wasn’t recognized is unknown.
All tribal identifications depend on the ability of ethnobotanists to identify plants and Dan Moerman to standardize their names. With short season flowers and sparse vegetation, it’s hard to evaluate the absence of information.
Smithsonian researchers reported local Tewa speakers were using Hopi tea as a beverage, but made no comment on cream tips, in the same years Elmer Wooton and Paul Standley were saying the plant grew on the “dry plains and hills” around Española, Ojo Caliente, Santa Fé and along the Chama river.
Camazine, Scott and Robert A. Bye. “A Study of the Medical Ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2:365-388:1980.
Guennel, G. K. Guide to Colorado Wildflowers, volume 1, 1995.
Moerman, Dan. Native American Ethnobotany, 1998, summarizes data from a number of ethnographies including George R. Swank, The Ethnobotany of the Acoma and Laguna Indians, 1932; Alfred E. Whiting, Ethnobotany of the Hopi, 1939; Leland C. Wyman and Stuart K. Harris, The Ethnobotany of the Kayenta Navaho, 1951; Harold S. Colton, “Hopi History And Ethnobotany” in A. Horr’s Hopi Indians, 1974; Volney H. Jones, The Ethnobotany of the Isleta Indians, 1931; Sarah Louise Cook, The Ethnobotany of Jemez Indians, 1930 and Edward F. Castetter, Uncultivated Native Plants Used as Sources of Food, 1935.
Robbins, William Wilfred, John Peabody Harrington, and Barbara Friere-Marreco. Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians, 1916.
Schneider, Al. “Hymenopappus filifolius,” Southwest Colorado Wildflowers website.
Stevenson, Matilda Coxe. The Zuni Indians, 1904, reprinted by The Rio Grande Press, Inc., 1985.
_____. Ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians, 1915.
Vestal, Paul A. The Ethnobotany of the Ramah Navaho, 1952.
Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915, reprinted by J. Cramer, 1972.
1. Cream tips on prairie land with what looks like a bee, 20 June 2010.
2. Cream tips growing along the ranch road this week, 31 May 2012.
3. Partial cream tips seed head, 12 June 2011.
4. Cream tips near the far arroyo this past winter, 4 March 2012.
5. Cream tips a year ago near the far arroyo, when drought persisted and temperatures were more normal, 30 May 2011.
6. Cream tips near the far arroyo a week later, 6 June 2011.
7. White cream tips growing along the highway near Jaconita, 2 May 2012.
8. Hopi tea growing along the local road, 19 June 2011.
9. Cream tips root exposed by strong waters moving through the far arroyo last summer, 28 August 2011; the plant survived and later winds recovered it with fresh sand.
10. Cream tips with what looks like a bee on prairie land, 4 July 2010.