Sunday, June 28, 2015


Weather: Afternoon temperatures above 90 wall week; last real rain 6/13.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, silver lace vine, honeysuckle, trumpet creeper, lilies, daylily, datura, Spanish broom, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, hollyhock, bouncing Bess, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, brome grass.

Crew was picking peas by hand in large field. Others were selling them in the grocery store parking lot.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, cholla, tumble mustard, buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, silver leaf nightshade, goat’s head, white sweet clover, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, flea bane, strap leaf aster, rice grass.

In my yard facing north: Potentilla, Saint John’s wort, golden spur columbine, coral beard tongue, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, anthemis.

Facing east: Snow-in-summer, coral bells, winecup mallow, Maltese cross, pink salvia, pink evening primrose, Jupiter’s beard,

Facing south: Dutch clover.

Facing west: Purple and Husker’s beard tongues, lady bells, veronica, purple and blue salvias, catmints, blue flax, Shasta daisy.

In the open: Rugosa roses, buddleia, California poppy, larkspur, bachelor button, white yarrow.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: House finch and other small birds, geckos, cabbage and sulphur butterflies, bumble bees, hornets, ants.

Found a bird’s nest in the apple tree, relatively exposed at the end of a branch. It’s the first I’ve found on my land since I moved here in 1991.

Weekly update: Spring didn’t bode well. We'd had a normal amount of snow and rain in the winter. The winds were delayed, and no rain. Then, some hurricanes formed early off the southwest coast of México, Andreas and Blanca the end of May, Carlos in mid-June.

Plants in the right growth cycle when the rains came down have flourished. Those whose flowering was determined in the previous late summer and fall could only expand what they had.

Daffodils and tulips had few flowers, but the stems were longer. Later, the iris stems were tall, and then the Oriental poppies, columbine and daylilies have produced longer stems than usual.

Other plants whose flowering is usually blighted by the dry spring, have been able to open all their flowers. Cottonwoods produced more cotton. It was possible to walk to the bolls on one tree that had had a branch crash down years ago.

Roses that fail to bloom much early, and then finish their buds in late summer, produced masses of flowers in June.

Plants that had all but disappeared, reappeared. I planted some Siberian iris years ago. They never bloomed, and I though they died out in 2005. When I was weeding in 2012 I started to pull out a grass and realized it was iris leaves. The leaves reappeared this year.

Similarly, the Goodness Grows blue veronica last bloomed in 2012. I found no evidence of it last year, but this year, I found its flowering spikes.

Annuals, of course, have a better chance of exploiting chance moisture than do the shrubs and perennials. Larkspur reseeds itself. It usually gets bout six to ten inches high with a few flowers.

This year, the stems are longer and covered with flowers. It remains to be seen, if they will keep blooming, or if the number of flowers is finite and only the opening dates vary.

More important are the natives that have been able to respond. Cholla cacti have suffered in the dry years and their roots have been attacked, probably by ground squirrels. I thought mine were dying. They aren’t putting out many flowers yet, but they have put out new growth all along their stems.

The most interesting are the plains prairie flowers. Usually, a few grow along the south bank of a road going over a local bridge of Arroyo Seco. This year the bank is covered with yellow flowers.

They’re blooming on the north bank and across the arroyo. The composite Psilostrophe villosa are blooming in a wash by the arroyo in the Arroyo Seco valley.

They’re blooming on the south side of the Pojoaque ridge, and other places along the road to Albuquerque.

They’re a biennial that may become perennial. It’s behaving this year like an annual who’s seeds were germinated in late winter, and have survived to cover the slopes of hills today.

1. Daylilies, 27 June 2015.
2. Bird’s nest in apple tree, 27 June 2015.
3. Oriental poppy with Apache plume, 6 June 2015.
4. Cottonwood, near village farm land, 21 June 2015.
5. Dr. Huey roses, 14 June 2015.
6. Veronica Goodness Grows, 21 June 2015.
7. Larkspur, 22 June 2014.
8. Larkspur a year later, 27 June 2015.
9. Cholla new growth, 14 June 2015.
10. Plains paper flower, Arroyo Seco bank near village, 21 June 2015.
11. Plains paper flower, wash in Arroyo Seco valley, 21 June 2015.
12. Plains paper flower, south side of Pojoaque ridge, 21 June 2015.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ozark Coneflower

Weather: Today’s solstice marks end of the early hurricane season that produced Carlos and Bill. The increased heat north of the equator alters the tropical storm patterns off the coast of México. With no atmospheric moisture to form afternoon clouds, we’ve had very high temperatures this week. Last real rain 6/13.

The clearer signifier of the seasonal change is the onset of daylily and hollyhock flowers.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey and hybrid tea roses, catalpa, silver lace vine, honeysuckle, daylily, datura, red hot poker, Spanish broom, sweet pea, alfalfa, purple salvia, Russian sage, hollyhock, golden spur columbine, pink evening primrose, blue flax, Jupiter’s beard, Queen Anne’s lace, larkspur, Shasta daisy, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, brome grass. Another hay cut done.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, prickly pear, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, bindweed, buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, goat’s head, green-leaf five-eyes, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, flea bane, strap leaf aster, common and local dandelions, rice grass.

Cottonwoods dropping cotton.

In my yard: Rugosa roses, potentilla, Saint John’s wort, California poppy, snow-in-summer, Bath pinks, Johnson’s Blue geranium, purple, coral and Husker’s beard tongues, coral bells, Dutch clover, winecup mallow, Maltese cross, veronica, pink and blue salvias, catmints, Rumanian sage, Mexican hat, chocolate flower, anthemis, bachelor button, white yarrow.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds, geckos, bumble and other bees, hornets, ants.

Weekly update: Spring winds dropped small Russian thistle carcasses that buried themselves in grasses. I don’t see them before I feel them when I’m weeding.

The gusts also moved seeds within my yard.

Three years ago I noticed some unusual leaves in the tiles I placed around the house to keep vegetation away from the building. They didn’t look like a weed, so I left them.

A couple weeks later they took on more character. Their linearity was emphasized by the paler colored mid-rib on leaves that branched from the main stems.

A week later, the unknown visitors produced some buds.

Yellow petals emerged around the brown centers to confirm it was a composite. The petals were narrow and folded.

They took on more color, and opened horizontally.

A few days later, the petals began dropping, and the disc flowers began opening.

It’s come back every year from the same root, so it’s a perennial.

It’s taken me a few years to decide it’s an Ozark coneflower. I had put some potted plants in the nearby slope, but they never survived. The last time I tried was one in 2006.

Then nothing until 2013.

It’s not like Echinacea paradoxa is a southwestern native. It grows in limestone glades in the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri where it develops a deep taproot.

Nor, is it the easiest thing to grow. Susan Mahr says, it needs "cold moist stratification." If seeds aren’t planted in the fall, then it’s necessary to store them in a refrigerator for eight weeks. Then it takes two or three years before they bloom, and another two before they look decent.

While they self-seed, a single plant isn’t likely to reproduce. It all depends on the compatibility of the pollen with the stigma. The pollen with a recessive allele in one location will reproduce, but otherwise nada.

Mine may not be the offspring of the last seedling I set out. It may have come from the two I bought in 2003.

I’ll probably never know if this one can reproduce because goldfinches harvest the seeds. Fortunately, the yellow coneflowers can be long-lived. Many things can happen if given enough time.

Notes: This species is not used for herbal medicines, but it has been crossed with the purple species to create the new orange and rose hybrids.

Carey, Dennis and Tony Avent. "Echinacea Explosion - The Purple Coneflower Chronicles," Plant Delights Nursery website.

Mahr, Susan. "Yellow Coneflower, Echinacea paradoxa," Wisconsin Master Gardener website, 3 July 2009.

Photographs: All taken in my garden. All except #10 are the same plant, #10 is the possible parent.
1. Flower opening this year, 11 June 2015.
2. Flower beginning to droop this year, 13 June 2015.
3. First sign of the new plant, 3 May 2012.
4. Leaves, 14 May 2012.
5. Flower bud, 22 May 2012.
6. Petals just expanding from the central cone, 27 May 2012.
7. Petals fully horizontal, but most still folded, 28 May 2012.
8. Petals fully open and drooping, 2 June 2012.
9. New leaves emerging the next spring, 5 April 2013.
10. Possible parent, 26 August 2006.
11. Seed heads in the snow, 14 December 2012.
12. Desiccating flowers, 5 July 2012.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hop Clover

Weather: Rain yesterday. Earlier in week, clouds came up so the highest temperatures were around noon.

For the first time in years, there are no restrictions on the local ditch, except, of course, paying your dues. They even are running some at night for anyone with "large acreage."

What’s blooming in the area: Dr Huey, pink, and hybrid tea roses, catalpa, silver lace vine, datura, red hot poker, sweet pea, alfalfa, purple salvia, golden spur columbine, pink evening primrose, blue flax, Jupiter’s beard, Queen Anne’s lace, Shasta daisy, coreopsis, brome grass.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, oxalis, bindweed, scurf pea, loco, goat’s head, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, green-leaf five-eyes, flea bane, common and local dandelions, June, needle, rice, and cheat grasses.

In my yard: Rugosa roses, potentilla, chives, vinca, Saint John’s wort, California poppy, snow-in-summer, Bath pinks, Johnson’s Blue geranium, coral bells, Dutch clover, winecup mallow, Maltese cross, pink and blue salvias, catmints, blanket flower, chocolate flower, anthemis, bachelor button, white yarrow. Reseeded larkspur flowers so far are all dark purple.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Hummingbird and other small birds, geckos, bees, ants.

Weekly update: When the new post office was built, someone decided to xeriscape the grounds. Apache plumes and broad-leafed yuccas were planted in gravel mulch near the building.

Whoever made that landscaping decision didn’t realize the gravel would act as nursery for all the weeds blowing off the beds of pick-ups that back into spaces. Periodically a crew is paid to weed eat nature’s volunteers.

The most unusual blooming at the moment is hop clover. I noticed a few plants a year ago. They’ve spread into a dark-green patch of dense, trefoil leaves near the building where the taproots dig into the runoff and afternoon shade protects them. The trimmer’s spinning string throws seed pods a foot away where they plant themselves. Since the annual has a long blooming period, it probably always has seeds at the right stage.

Trifolium campestre has withstood more than a little trimming in its life. Its genus probably emerged around the Mediterranean during the Miocene era of grasses and huge mammals 16 to 23 million years ago. Nick Ellison’s team found this species was unusual among the clovers for being a hybrid. Nigel Maxted and Sarita Jane Bennett believe that plasticity meant it was able to evolve rapidly.

The bright yellow flower is unusual among Trifoliums, which range from white to pink and purple. But there’s no mistaking the flower form: its round head is only smaller and tighter than other clovers. The banner petals remain after they’ve turned brown and surround the single-seeded pods. They catch the wind to disperse the seeds.

The legume spread through the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas to the adjacent parts of the near east and to Algeria and Morocco in north Africa. It remained a low growing ground cover spreading on limey soils until the English civil war, when Samuel Hartlib and Richard Weston began promoting improved pastures.

Until then, Caroline Lane says animals were essentially scavengers. "Where there was both arable and livestock rearing, livestock feeding was merely an adjunct to the arable, so that stock was fed upon the stubble of arable crops and whatever land could be grazed."

Hartlib was the grandson of an English merchant in Danzig, who fled from advancing Swedish armies in 1628. He flourished under Oliver Cromwell. The other left for Flanders where he observed local farming techniques. Hartlib published Weston’s letter to his son in 1645 as a Discourse on the Husbandry of Brabant and Flanders. In it, Weston recommended rotating crops and planting clover to improve the land. He also was demonstrating the utility of irrigating hay crops.

The price of meat was increasing with the growth of cities. The demand meant more animals needed to be grown on the same amount of land. That could only be done by improving what they ate. The larger market financed the investments.

It took a while for clover to succeed. Hartlib subsequently published letters from farmers. Some were happy, some had problems. Lane suspects the latter were lacking the soil bacteria the plant needs to convert atmospheric nitrogen into an earthen form. This, of course, is what makes it useful in improving cultivated land.

One problem was getting viable seed. It was adulterated by either Dutch wholesalers or English retailers. To remove seed from the pods, it was dried in a kiln, then threshed. The overdried seeds were exported. In 1675, Richard Haynes patented an invention that would sever, divide, and make seed clean. Weed eaters may serve the same function.

By 1700, Lane says, farmers were planting various types of clovers. It took longer for hop clover to migrate to this country. Edward Voss says it didn’t begin escaping in Michigan until the 1870s into wetlands and moraines. My guess is those areas were raising sheep after the local market for wheat collapsed with the opening of Minnesota lands. The more agricultural parts of the state were growing Dutch clover.

Hop clover rarely appears in New Mexico. It’s a temperate grassland plant that eschews both the arid plains and the very wet southeast. But one thing about the trucks parked at the post office, is, they’ve been everywhere.

Ellison, Nick W., Aaron Liston, JeVrey J. Steiner, Warren M. Williams, Norman L. Taylor, Molecular Phylogenetics of the Clover Genus (Trifolium-Leguminosae)," Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39:688-705:2006.

Lane, Carolina. "The Development of Pastures and Meadows during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," The Agricultural History Review 28:8-30:1980.

Maxted, Nigel and Sarita Jane Bennett. "Legume Diversity in the Mediterranean Basin," in Maxted and Bennet, Plant Genetic Resources of Legumes in the Mediterranean, 2001.

Voss, Edward G. Michigan Flora, volume 2, 1985.

Photographs: All taken outside the local post office.
1. Flowers and trefoil leaves, 8 June 2015.
2. Patch from above, 3 April 2015.
3. Close-up of flower, 3 April 2015.
4. Patch in the gravel, 8 June 2015.

Sunday, June 07, 2015


Weather: A week ago Monday, the afternoon high was 67; this past Monday it was 83. Reach the season when whatever rain falls is less than the water sucked into the atmosphere. Last real rain 5/21.

What’s blooming in the area: Persian yellow, Austrian copper, pink, Dr. Huey and hybrid tea roses, black and purple locusts, silver lace vine, red hot poker, peony, alfalfa, purple salvia, Oriental poppy, golden spur columbine, pink evening primrose, blue flax, Jupiter’s beard, Shasta daisy, coreopsis, brome grass. First hay cut made.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, oxalis, bindweed, fern leaf globemallow, scurf pea, loco, wild licorice, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, green-leaf five-eyes, flea bane, common and local dandelions, June, needle, rice, and cheat grasses.

In my yard: Rugosa roses, potentilla, privet, beauty bush, chives, vinca, California poppy, snow-in-summer, Bath pinks, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Dutch clover, baptisia, winecup mallow, Maltese cross, pink salvia, catmint, blanket flower, chocolate flower, yarrow.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Ground squirrel, rabbit, small birds, geckos, bees, ants, heard crickets.

Weekly update: Yarrow is coming into bloom along the shoulders, where I suspect it may have been planted to hold soils. The only places I’ve seen it are around the engineered rises leading to the new overpass in Arroyo Seco near the Pojoaque Ridge, and farther south between Buffalo Thunder and Camel Rock.

I haven’t seen it much elsewhere in the valley, though it will grow here. I have some plants I bought in Albuquerque last year that are putting out runners. The Texas seed I scattered three years ago is into its second generation of seedlings.

Yarrow grows everywhere else from the Yukon to Honduras, from high moist mountain meadows to dry valleys. It originated in the eastern Mediterranean in the Pleistocene ice age. In Europe, Achillea millefolium developed several distinct subspecies, including one that weathered the glaciers in the Pyrenees. A Chinese variety migrated here through Beringia sometime a million years ago.

As it spread in this country, it produced a number of variants that haven’t yet stabilized enough to be considered subspecies. Many have four sets of chromosomes. Plants with six sets live in California’s Mediterranean habitats The European strains primarily live in grasslands and along forest edges. Justin Ramsey says multiple sets of chromosomes are characteristic of alpine and arctic plants.

Even though they are genetically similar, the American varieties look different. For a long time, botanists distinguished western yarrow from the European by calling it Achillea lanulosa. Taxonomist who care about such matters can’t agree on how to distinguish the American from the old world strains.

You would think you would see more of it around. Al Schneider asked, "Is there a more common plant in the Four Corners area?" Elmer Wooton and Paul Standley said it was "common in all the higher mountains" around 1915, with a subspecies endemic to Truchas Peak, Pecos Baldy, and the Jémez.

It’s one of the most useful and easily recognized medicinal plants. Leonora Curtin said local Spanish speakers ground dried plumajillo leaves and mixed them with powdered English plantain in boiling water to reduce a fever. They must have brought the cure with them from Spain, because their explanation, that it was a cold plant that could also be used for purges, were part of the medical vocabulary of the sixteenth century’s four humors.

At San Juan, William Dunmire and Gail Tierney said it was used for sore lips. John Harrington only collected the name, pobi tsæig, from Santa Clara in 1916. He was more interested in their esoteric classification of plants than with ways they used them.

In contrast, Zuñi, have incorporated it into their ceremonial life. Members of the fire fraternity chew the leaves and root, then rub the mix on their bodies before they handle hot coals. More generally, the entire plant "ground and mixed with cold water is applied to burns."

Although its best known for healing wounds, treating burns may be its oldest use. Archaeologists scraped the teeth of Neanderthals found at El Sidrón in the Cantabrian mountains of northern Spain. They found yarrow and chamomile from 49,000 years ago, along with evidence of cooked starches. Since they probably were roasting their foods, it's likely they burned themselves. I’m guessing they chewed some leaves and sucked their burned fingers.

It doesn’t have to be dried. It stays green in the snow. If you brush it, you can smell it. I tried chewing a leaf, and part of my tongue went numb. It begged to be used.

That’s why it’s such a mystery it doesn’t grow in wet places here. It may be the drought adapted varieties didn’t cross the mountains and the montane ones never adapted to the valley climate. Or, it may be it was eaten with all the rest of the native grasses. Sheep especially like the flowers. They may have inhibited the natural cycle so much it couldn’t come back.

Notes: The Pyrenees subspecies is Achillea ceretanica or Achillea millefolium ceretanica.

Curtin, Leonora Scott Muse. Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande, 1947, republished 1997, with revisions by Michael Moore. English plantain is lantén or Plantago major.

Dunmire, William M. and Gail D. Tierney. Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province, 1995.

Gua, Yanping, Friedrich Ehrendorfer, and Rosabelle Samuel. "Phylogeny and Systematics of Achillea (Asteraceae-Anthemideae) Inferred from nrITS and Plastid trnL-F DNA Sequences," Taxon 53:657-672:2004,

Hardy, Karen. Quoted in Colin Barras, "Neanderthal Dental Tartar Reveals Evidence of Medicine," New Scientist, 18 July 2012.

Harrington, John Peabody, William Wilfred Robbins, and Barbara Friere-Marreco, Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians, 1916.

Ramsey, Justin. "Polyploidy and Ecological Adaptation in Wild Yarrow," National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings 108:7096-7101:2011.

_____, Robertson A, Husband B, Conti E. "Rapid Adaptive Divergence in New World Achillea, an Autopolyploid Complex of Ecological Races," Evolution 62:639-653:2008.

Schneider, Al. "Achillea millefolium," Southwest Colorado Wildflowers website.

Stevenson, Matilda Coxe. Ethnobotany of the Zuñi Indians, 1915; quotation on burns.

United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Germplasm Resources Information Network. Entry for Achillea millefolium L.

_____. Forest Service, Range Plant Handbook, 1937.

Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915.

1. White yarrow head, grown from plant, 6 June 2015.
2. White yarrow, between Buffalo Thunder and Camel Rock, 21 May 2012.
3. White yarrow seedling from seedling, 6 June 2015.
4. White yarrow bud, grown from plant, 6 June 2015.
5. White yarrow bud opening, grown from seed, 21 May 2014.
6. White yarrow in snow, frown from seed, 28 December 2012.
7. White yarrow habit, grown from plant, 6 June 2015.
8. White yarrow florets, grown from seed, 19 June 2013.