Sunday, June 03, 2012

Cream Tips

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.

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