Sunday, April 27, 2014

Antelope Sage

Weather: Last rain, 4/19/14.

What’s blooming in the area: Apples peaked, redbud, flowering quince, tulips; iris poised to bloom.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, bractless and tawny cryptanthas, hoary cress, purple mustard, dandelions, cheat grass. Tansy mustard getting to be 2' high. Elm seeds blowing around parking lots.

In my yard: Sand cherry, grape hyacinths, moss phlox; buds on choke cherries, spirea, lilacs, and Bath pinks; lilies breaking ground.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds, ants.

Weekly update: Antelope Sage is a water plant. One grows on the flood plain of the prairie arroyo near a Russian olive. I’ve seen another up stream on the top of the arroyo bank, about 30" from the bottom and a foot from the edge. I’ve also seen one a little down stream on top of a ten foot bank. And, in 2011, I saw one growing along the shoulder where the road drops to cross the near arroyo.

Among the Zuñi, Matilda Coxe Stevenson said a piece of ta’loo’ root was kept in the mouth for a day to treat soreness. Then, the "medicine man" took the root and buried it in the river bottom with a piece of turquoise and white shell beads so that it could "go to Ko’kuwala’wa, Abiding Place of the Council of Gods."

A powdered form was given to dancers before a ceremony to bring rain. She said its ceremonial name, chi’ka kianakia, referred to the sweetness it imparted to saliva.

Among the Navajo, Francis Elmore found in the 1940s, pilna’at’ohiih was mixed with white amaranth (Amaranthus albus) and other plants, then smoked during the Coyote Chant. Forty years later, Leland Wyman could find little information about the Coyote Way beyond the fact it had been used to restore someone who had broken a sexual taboo like incest.

Albert Regan could find nothing about the perennial’s use by the White Mountain Apache. They would only admit it was used in ceremonials and that is was chewed to sweeten the saliva.

The Hopi don’t use Eriogonum jamesii because it doesn’t grow in their area.

Since antelope sage is found through the southwest and in most of New Mexico’s counties, the range apparently is defined by altitude. The Hopi live below 6,000'. Zuñi pueblo is at 6293'. The Ramah Navajo live at 6,926'. The White Mountain Apache are even higher.

It can’t be said to be happy here in the arroyo at 5726', about the level of the Hopi.

The plant I saw in 2008 didn’t expand and didn’t produce seedlings. The individuals florets exist in tight clusters that are urban in their density. Stamens reach outside their home bases to pollinate their neighboring florets. James Reveal says, most plants in the genera avoid incest by releasing their pollen before the florets are ready, forcing exogamy within the cluster.

The long white stamens, with their white anther pads, are what give the late summer flowers their frothy quality. The Polygonaceae are in the same buckwheat family as silver lace vine.

The lone plant rarely bloomed, though it faithfully maintained its galvanized gray leaves every summer. Every winter they tuned deep maroon. Then, something happened this year. Some animal dug around the woody carapace, and left a blackened reminder on the soil.

Elmore, Francis H. Ethnobotany of the Navajo (1944)

Reagan, Albert B. "Plants Used by the White Mountain Apache Indians of Arizona," Wisconsin Archeologist 8:143-61:1929

Reveal, James. "A Glossary of Useful Terms and Expressions," The Eriogonum Society website

Stevenson, Matilda Coxe. Ethnobotany of the Zuñi Indians (1915)

Vestal, Paul A. The Ethnobotany of the Ramah Navaho (1925)

Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi (1939)

Wyman, Leland C. "Navajo Ceremonial System" in Handbook of North American Indians, volume 10 (1983) edited by Alfonso Ortiz

Photographs: All taken of the same plant in the prairie arroyo.
1. 21 September 2013, with black ant.
2. 23 August 2009.
3. 25 September 2011.
4. 21 September 2013.
5. 25 September 2011.
6. 21 September 2013.
7. 18 April 2014, surrounded by gypsum phacelia.
8. 26 December 2008.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

Very interesting post and history, as usual.