The high desert near Albuqurque, NM. is an alien landscape for a native Northeasterner. The trip was taken in the fall, for the birds, but the plants demanded attention..everything is of interest to an eclectic naturalist.. On a jeep tour, I asked what the “bushes” were..
Because my time was limited, and there was no botanist along, I can only say with certainty that this catctus, along with the Prickly Pear is of the Opuntia genus..and the Rabbitbrush, or Chamisa is of the family Asteraceae and genus Ericameria..
The pads of the Prickly Pear are modified stems (the Cholla’s look more stem-like) and the thorns, as with the Cholla are modified leaves. The Prickly Pear also has tiny spines called glochids, either yellow or red and hard to see as well as to remove from the skin, hence “prickly pear”..
Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis) is important grass because its dense, shallow root mass can quickly absorb any rain that might fall and holds down the soil to keeps it from blowing away.
Yucca is in the same family as asparagus..Asparagaceae..
A very common plant is the Four Wing Saltbush, Atriplex canescens, seen here along Highway 25, covered in its eponymous fruits, which have four wings..
“Saltbush” refers to the alkaline soil it prefers, the salty toil it can tolerate..and the somewhat salty taste of its stems. The family name Chenopodiaceae is derived from the Greek words meaning Khen meaning “goose” and pous meaning “foot; some memebers of this family have “goosefoot” shaped leaves. Four Wing Saltbush is a good browse for wildlife and livestock..
I did not have the presence of mind to take a close-up of the fruit..
This brief botany shall end with an image, which sums up the resilience of desert life:
I thought of the wilderness we had left behind us, joyous in its plenitude and simplicity, perfect yet vulnerable, unaware of what is coming, defended by nothing, guarded by no one~ Edward Abbey