Sharing the latest happenings in the studio and beyond. Deborah writes about new paintings, nature journals, techniques, equipment, supplies, and excursions.

Spring Wildflowers in New Mexico

Spring rains bring wildflowers in the grasslands and along roadsides. Many of the common plants and flowers are easy to overlook while driving or biking.

All of the flowers were found and photographed in my own yard—Mother Nature’s landscaping. A favorite pastime of mine is photographing and sketching these fascinating subjects up close and in detail.

Nikon D500, Tamron 18-400 mm

(Narrowleaf or Plains Yucca)
Agave Family, Agavacae

The circular or triangular, black, semi-glossy seeds are encapsulated in a pod that is cylindrical and elongated. Usually stemless perennial in foothill scrub and piñon-juniper woodland, 4,000-7,000 ft. Similar in appearance to banana yucca except for leaf width, shape of flowers, and fruits that split open when mature. Blooms mid-May to late June. Used by many southwestern tribes in much the same manner as banana yucca.

(Yellow Goat’s Beard)
Aster Family, Asteraceae

Erect perennial up to 40 inches tall. Along roadsides and in meadows from foothill scrub up to ponderosa pine forest, 4,000-8,000 ft. Ray flowers only in bright yellow. Mature seeds extend from base of flower head, each terminating in numerous, pale-brown puffballs of feathery, webbed bristles that facilitate the seeds’ wind dispersal. Blooms mid-June into September.

(White Aster)
Aster Family, Asteraceae

Small, much-branched perennial; herbage with stiff, flat-lying hairs; on dry, often rocky slopes throughout New Mexico, grassland scrub up to ponderosa pine forest, 3,500-7,500 ft. Blooms May through July. Plant used by Navajo dried and pulverized as snuff or drops of cold infusion for “nose problems,” leaves chewed for toothache, infusion of plant and sumac berries taken for kidney disease; pulverized plant applied by Zuni for pain from cold or rheumatism and rubbed on body for swellings.

(Yellow Gaillardia)
Aster Family, Asterceae

Perennial up to 24 in. tall, on roadsides and in sandy open spaces, foothill scrub, and piñon-juniper woodlands, 4,000-7,000 ft., typically in more central mountains. Blooms June through September. Infusion used as a diuretic for painful urination by Hopi. Western Keres rubbed the plan on mothers’ breasts to wean infant; leaf infusion taken and a poultice of leaves applied for gout. A decoction used by Navajo for nausea and heartburn. Ray flowers yellow, tipped with 3 teeth.

Aster Family, Asteraceae

Common perennial frequent on rocky or sandy slopes, sometimes in arroyos, in foothill scrub and piñon-juniper woodland, 5,000-4,500 ft. in more central mountains. Blooms July into October. Used by Navajo, Hopi, and some Puebloan tribes as a bedbug repellent and as a poultice or salve for various skin diseases, pimples, and sore muscles; plant tops used as a brush to remove spines from prickly pears and as a broom.

Cactus Family, Cactaceae

Common in piñon-juniper woodland and ponderosa pine forest, 6,000-8,000 ft.; generally branched, along the ground forming clumps. Flowers yellow to greenish yellow, 2 in. across, 1.5-2.25 in. high, located along outer edge of pads, at or near apical end of pad. Blooms May through June. Pads of several species of prickly pear cactus used by Keres, Acoma, Laguna, and Hopi for food after thorns removed; fruits as a source for red food dye; thorns as needles, for sewing and tattooing; liquid extract used for diarrhea; scorched stems split and applied to cuts and infections.

Figwort Family, Scrophulariaceae

Erect perennial, often forming large colonies in open woods or along roadsides in ponderosa pine up to spruce-fir forest, 8,000-11,000 ft. Flowers along one side of upper stem on erect stalks in groups of 1-3. Blooms June into August.

(Prostrate Verbena)
Verbena Family, Verbenaceae

Prostrate to upright annual, a weed typically on waste ground, foothill scrub to ponderosa pine forest, 6,500-8,500 ft. Blooms May to September. Used by Navajo as a poultice applied to centipede bites.

Plant and flower information from:
Wildflowers of the Northern and Central Mountains of New Mexico Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia, and Manzano,
By Larry J. Littlefield & Pearl M. Burns