Monday, June 10, 2013

Springtime in New Mexico

Winter was not over yet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe.
Fifteen years ago, my wife had business in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and so I tagged along with camera in hand.  It was April, and I was hoping to find some signs of spring.

The famous Rocky Mountain aspens
(Populus tremuloides)
were still bare and snowbound.

At first it looked rather barren.  There had not been a lot of rain recently, and I wondered whether there was in fact a spring (botanically speaking) in the semi-arid parts of the state.  A little research on the internet shows that there is much more rain in the summer and fall than in the winter and spring.

At the Rio Grande Botanical Garden,
native redbud (Cercis) trees are
paired with cultivated pansies.
Tulip species from the Mediterranean
region were a highlight at the botanical
garden.
A quick run into the local mountains, the southern tail of the Rockies, confirmed that it was too early.  Snow still covered large areas, and the famous Aspen trees were still bare. So I began poking around the Rio Grande valley, Albuquerque basin and the mesas around Santa Fe, and  managed to find quite a lot. There were moist spots here and there with colorful annual and perennial herbs, and some plants that apparently didn't care whether it had rained recently in the drier areas.  Of course, there was plenty of color to be had at the Rio Grande Botanical Garden in Albuquerque, much of it not native, but nevertheless a welcome oasis in this dry region.

At Bandelier National Monument along the Rio Grande, the cottonwoods, relatives of the aspens, were just coming into bloom.  Hummingbirds buzzing and fighting with one another around the feeders at the visitor's center were a great treat.  Perhaps they also fed on the currant flowers that were also coming into bloom. Along the river were also thickets of Tamarisk, a shrub with scale-like leaves and tiny flowers.
Hummingbirds put on a constant show around the feeders
at Bandelier National Monument.
Low to mid-elevations around Santa Fe were dominated by pinyon pines,
and appeared to be quite dry in April of 1998.

Currants, or Gooseberries (genus Ribes) are shrubs growing along rivers.

The flowers of the cottonwood tree, Populus fremontii, were
emerging in April
Penstemon pseudospectabils in the river floodplain.
The male flowers of the box elder
(Acer negundo) dangle on long stems.
The wind will disperse their pollen with
a small chance that some will land on
a female flower.

Astragalus missouriensis provides bright color along
roadsides.

Descurainia richardsonii is in the mustard
family.

Feather dalea, Dalea formosa, in the legume family, is common along
roadsides
Astragalus mollissimus, also a legume.
The prairie evening primrose, Oenothera albicaulis
Melampodium leucanthum, or plains blackfoot, is in the sunflower
family, Asteraceae
A horsetail, genus Equisetum, is a distant
relative of ferns
Spectacle pod, Dimorphocarpa wislizeni, is a member
of the mustard family, Brassicaceae
Waterleaf, Nama hispidum


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