Both the City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County have proclaimed April 18 – 24 as Native Plant Week, thanks to a joint proclamation prepared by Mesilla Valley Audubon Society and the Las Cruces chapter of the Native Plant Society.
Presented by Commissioner Shannon Reynolds and City Councilors Gill Sorg and Tessa Abeyta Stuve, the proclamation reminds us that native plants are important not only because they are part of our unique desert environment and are beautiful, but also because they support native pollinators, provide food and habitat for birds, have medicinal value, and connect us to the history of the land and Indigenous peoples past and present.
Where are the best places to go to see native plants in our area? We asked the experts at the Native Plant Society! Joan Woodward shared her top spots with us.
- Dripping Springs Natural Area at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (OMDPNM)
More than 260 plant species have been recorded here. Look for Arizona oak (Quercus arizonica), spotted monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) and Wright’s silk tassel (Garrya wrightii).
- Soledad (Bar) Canyon at OMDPNM
More than 260 recorded plant species are here as well! Look for bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum) for fall color and hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) near the waterfall—watch for hoptree’s spring blooms!
- Pine Tree Trail at Aguirre Spring National Recreation Area
More than 230 plant species have been recorded here. Look for alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) and Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) at higher elevations.
- Tortugas (A) Mountain Recreation Area
You can find more than 190 recorded plant species in this popular spot. Look for succulents like ocotillo (Fouqueria splendens), haystack cactus (Echinocereus stramineus), soaptree yucca (Yucca elata), and claret-cup cactus (Echinocereus coccineus) abound. Watch for scarlet blooms on the claret-cup cactus in April. If you look carefully, you might be surprised to see ferns, too!
- Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
More than 180 plant species have been recorded here. Look for flowering shrubs like Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) and feather dalea (Dalea formosa).
- Picacho Peak Recreation Area (Picacho Peak Trail)
More than 180 recorded plant species can be found while you’re scaling the Peak. Look for shrubs like little-leaf sumac (Rhus microphylla) that bloom in the spring and oreganillo (Aloysia wrightii) that bloom in the late fall.
- Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park—More than 180 recorded plant species can be found just down the road from Mesilla! Look for riparian shade trees: both cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and Goodding’s willow (Salix gooddingii) can be found here.
- Sierra Vista National Recreational Trail (north)—You can find more than 90 recorded plant species on the north end of the Sierra Vista Trail. Look for banana yucca (Yucca baccata), claret-cup cactus (Echinocereus coccineus), and sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri) anchoring the dry landscape. Wildflowers are abundant in wetter years.
How do you know what kind of plant you’re looking at? The easiest way while you are on the trial is to use an app such as Seek by iNaturalist. Just take a photo and poof! It identifies the species, gives you information about the plant, and saves it in your list of observations. Off the trail, sit down with an excellent book about native plants such as Jack Carter’s Trees and Shrubs of New Mexico or Chihuahuan Desert Gardens by Greg Magee and Tim McKimmee. In fact, why not take a hike and enter for a chance to win one of these books at the visitor centers of the Dripping Springs Natural Area and at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park from April 18 – 24, 2021?
Written by Elaine Stachera Simon for LasCruces.com
Posted by LasCruces.com