Apaches are here

12 Dec

Apache Plume, Fallugia paradoxa

Every once in awhile you might find something that grabs and titillates you. Even the word ‘titillate’ aptly describes the inner response at a novel discovery, like a twanging string that tickles you. Perhaps it is the kid inside me, but life can be full of discoveries; they can be small, monumental, or as insignificant as fireworks on a plant stem.

This was what grabbed me off the hiking trail on a morning stroll down into Saltgrass Draw. ‘What is that?!? It looks like miniature fireworks!‘ So I let curiosity lead me astray and off I went to pursue a patch of plants with pinkish-lavender fuzziness towering over a chaotic mess of short green leaves and twiggy stems. As I got closer, the more intrigued I became.

Soon I was on my hands and knees with the fuzzy threads in my face. Then I noticed small seeds at the center of the fireworks and the little fine hairs on each threadlike plume. Images of fireworks in the air or some marine creature’s tendrils waving in the water popped into my head. Delighted with my find, I photographed several of them and pinched one off to press between my field notebook. Lacking a guide book (both with me and on this trip), I would have to wait until I returned north to identify it. Meanwhile, as is my penchant for unofficial names, I dubbed my find the ‘Fireworks Flower,’ even though it was past the flowering stage.

Of course, like nearly all traits of plants (and most animals), those fuzzy little plumes are an evolutionary adaptation to propagate by using wind as dispersal. How plants and animals adapt to their environments are the quintessential model of the plasticity of life on this planet. And, while the majority of plants in the Chihuahuan Desert proudly sport their thorns to deter predation,  the Apache plume is one of a minority that do not have thorns. Yet, they can grow in a wide range of soils and terrain with wind dispersing their seed wide and far.

More  details and information on the Apache plume can be found in the uploaded file on Project Noah. And I think some seeds may find their way into a small area on nearby El Punto.

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