Sunday, August 11, 2013

Red Loco

Weather: Soaking rain with hail Thursday; last rain 8/08/2013; 13:52 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, roses of Sharon, purple garden phlox, zinnias from seed, cultivated sunflowers, alfalfa.

Beyond the walls and fences: Trumpet creeper, sweet peas, buffalo gourd, purple mat flower, stickleaf, leather-leafed globe mallow, blue trumpets, bindweed, greenleaf five-eyes, silver-leaf nightshade, velvetweed, yellow evening primrose, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, Tahoka daisy, golden hairy aster, native Mexican hat, gumweed, horseweed, goldenrod, native sunflowers.

In my yard, looking east: Hosta, baby’s breath, coral bells, winecup mallow, sidalcea.

Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Illinois bundle flower.

Looking west: Caryopteris, Johnson Blue geranium, David phlox, catmints, calamintha, sea lavender, ladybells, lead plant, white mullein, white spurge, bachelor buttons from seed, Mönch aster.

Looking north: Blackberry lily, golden spur columbine, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, anthemis, yellow yarrow, chrysanthemum, dahlias.

In the open, along the drive: Fern bush, Dutch clover, hollyhock, Shirley and California poppies, larkspur, black-eyed Susan, lance-leaf and prairie coreopsis, yellow, red and mixed Mexican hats, Sensation and yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, pansies, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, impatiens, French marigolds, gazanias.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, geckos, swallowtail butterfly on zinnias, small bees, hornets, large and small black ants.

Weekly update: Whenever I read science reports that contain clear narratives of discovery, I marvel at their luck. My adventures never are so successful.

I have a red legume blooming in my drive that appeared last summer after I had work done on the gravel. That should be easy to identify. One can quibble about the verbal description, but there’s no question it is red.

And, there’s no doubt it has leaves like a vetch or loco.

The flower is definitely a pea.

I suppose it's some form of the Bigelow’s loco, but I can’t be sure. With locos, the identification depends on the pods. There are few photographs of the obvious - the flowers. Most that I’ve seen show something more purple than what I have.

I saw a patch of red flowered plants two years ago near the entrance to one of the casinos. Since the flowers were so brilliant, I thought it might have been a deliberate wildflower seeding. Maybe, the scarlet pea that grows in Texas.

The county came through a week later and cut them to the ground. Alfalfa and sweet clover came back.

I gave up on discovering what it is. I have learned to take things as they are, known or unknown.

I still was curious about where it came from. Again, the choices were fairly simple: the sand from a Velarde arroyo, the gravel from north of town, or the backhoe tires which most recently had been in the four corners area.

I thought it would be fun to find it blooming in the wild.

The location of the gravel quarry is a mystery. Telephone books and official records give a town name and an indication it is in the country. No road names.

I started by driving along the road that paralleled the Hernandez ditch. It had rained some, though not as much as the last two weeks. Nothing was growing. Or, almost nothing. A few prickly pear, a patch of Santa Fé thistles, a magnificent buffalo gourd, but otherwise nothing wild.

The road went through the badlands to skirt the irrigated land. No signs. No roads toward the river where rock could be dug. Nothing.

I drove back on the Chama highway looking for possibilities to the west. One gravel operation with a different name was near the road. Near it I saw a gravel truck turn down some dirt road. I followed.

The road left civilization quickly, but remained in good condition. One lane covered with fine rock, hard in the center and soft on the shoulder. No room to pass a returning gravel hauler.

The land remained level, but probably was rising slightly through the badlands. Nothing was growing except juniper. Nothing by the road, except a very rare golden hairy aster.

I reached the limit of my adventurousness. That actually has a clear definition: how far do I have to walk if I break down. I turned around.

Back home, it took a while to find the road on a map. The area immediately north of town has been developed recently.  None of the landmarks showed on the USGS map. Not even the bridge over the Rio Grande.

I think I was on a pueblo road that ultimately ended near the Santa Clara canyon. On the way - and the road spread across three USGS map sections - there are some pumice pits. I suppose that’s where the gravel came from.

But, not the flowers.

Notes: Bigelow’s loco weed is now called Astragalus mollissimus var. bigelovii. Scarlet pea is Indigofera miniata.

1. Flower near casino entrance, 28 May 2012.

2. Flower habit in my drive, 24 July 2013.

3. Flower bud in my drive, 13 July 2013.

4. New growth after rain, 27 July 2013.

5. Flower, 27 July 2013.

6. Flower patch near casino entrance, 28 May 2012.

7. Road side north of Española, 25 July 1013.

8. Road to pumice pits, 25 July 2013.

9. Elongating flower buds, 16 July 2013.

10. The plant came up where I planted zinnia seeds. A swallowtail butterfly was mining the zinnias, 6 August 2013. Legume leaves to front left.

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