Sunday, August 8, 2021

New Mexico Roadside Wildflowers

I went on a week's vacation to northern New Mexico in mid-July. We hiked and went to botanic gardens, but the best moment of wildflower spotting was the unexpected one. A field of flowers on the roadside.

Roadside view, northern New Mexico

Someone in the car asked, "why is the hillside purple?" I didn't know if it was a stand of penstemons or something else, so we pulled over so to look. 

When I stepped out of the car, all about my feet was the most wonderful diversity of flowers!

New Mexico wildflowers

Look at these!

New Mexico wildflowers

I can name many of them to genus, but they'll be New Mexican species. Blue and purple penstemons (Penstemon), white evening primroses (Oenothera), clumps of grayish sages which are in flower but have tiny flowers the same color as their foliage (Artemisia), yellow ragworts (Senecio)...

The red below is skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata, also called scarlet gilia). The red-purple in the lower left is a pea-family vine, maybe a milkvetch (Astragalus).

New Mexico roadside wildflowers

There are some weeds--I recognized mullein (Verbascum thapsus), the big soft leaves at the top of the photo below--but natives far out-numbered them. I didn't look closely enough at the white spires (in the photo above), I think they are a bistort (Bistorta) but I can't say for sure.

wildflowers, northern New Mexico

While a display of roadside wild flowers could have been planted, some of the plants, like the winged wild buckwheat (Eriogonum alatum), the yellow plant standing beside the skyrocket, are not available as wildflower seeds, so my thought is that no, we stumbled on a flowering meadow. 

skyrocket and winged wild buckwheat
sky rocket and winged wild buckwheat

So just look around with me: 

roadside wildflowers, New Mexico

roadside wildflowers, New Mexico

New Mexico wildflowers

Wherever you wander, keep your eyes open for the unexpected!

wildflower field, northern New Mexico

Totally distracted by the flowers near the road, I never walked over to see what plant colored the distant fields purple. The site had penstemons in purple, but also lupines (Lupinus) which are taller so easier to see at a distance, and milkvetches (Astragalus) which are low but the right shade of purple (in the photo above out toward the fence). So too many choices! How wonderful1

Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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