Wildflower Madness

New Mexico hiking wildflower

Dakota vervain, Glandularia bipinnatifida blooming in profusion this spring

Last September amidst an annoyingly persistent dry couple of years, our area received a bounty of moisture–record amounts in fact for the month after our summer rainy period normally ends. We had unfortunate erosion and flooding over burn scar areas (see Bandelier National Monument for an example) but intact watersheds drank in the plentiful rain.

Then in late November, our early winter season kicked off to a good start with snow in the mountains and rain again at areas below 7000 feet. The rest of the winter was a bit dry, but a front which arrived the first weekend of March dropped over a half-inch of rain as nice, gentle, soaking moisture. A little bit more (though less than 0.4 inches) also fell later in March and April.

Although winter temperatures and precipitation certainly matter, the moisture in September and March squarely impacted all our native plants during their growing season. As a result, many plants are blooming or are set to bloom more profusely than in many years! In several locations, plants are being noticed for the first time–like Cliffrose (Purshia mexicana) in the Cerrillos area. Hiking around Santa Fe has become a sort of treasure hunt for new wildflowers.

Santa Fe hiking wildflower

Narrow leaf Yucca–yum!

One of the plants doing notably well this season is Narrow leaf yucca, Yucca glauca. There are more flower stalks emerging now than I’ve seen in many years. Since the springtime a Jicarilla Apache woman told me about how to enjoy them, I’ve viewed these 3/4-inch wide stalks each year with some interest. I will shortly be making a trip to some backcountry where I can harvest a few stalks (without too much impact to the plants or other critters). They are much like very large asparagus–delicious grilled! I seldom partake because there are too few to rob from the deer, or they’ve become woody with too little moisture. They are perfect and numerous this year.

Wafer parsnip (Cymopterus bulbosus), Golden Smoke (Corydalis aurea), Easter daisy (Townsendia exscapa) and Scorpionweed (Phacelia neomexicana) have all come and gone in profusion this spring. The verbenas are making lush purple carpets instead of individual clumps. And the cactus, especially various Prickly Pear, are loaded with flower buds. I can hardly wait to see what else will burst forth!

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