Springing forwards and backwards

25 Mar

Most deserts are known for their extreme weather, especially temperatures. The northern Chihuahuan desert is no exception. We have had an unusually cold winter with prolonged periods of below-average temperatures. Of course, that parallels the rest of the country as well. However, here we have had temperatures in the 90’s during the day and in the high 30’s at night. Spring usually arrives with a pattern of more consistent temperatures and less extremes. This year, spring continues the vacillating extremes of temperatures. In many cases, new growth on plants have been damaged by repeated bouts of frost after days with high temperatures (high 80’s to near 100 degrees).

Regardless, many flowers are popping and leaves are emerging on trees, shrubs, perennials and even cacti. The yuccas have been sending up their giant flower masses throughout the southern Big Bend area for a few weeks now, and the coveted bluebells carpet many roadside areas. I have been capturing some of the lesser known flowers the last week or so, which also provides me with an opportunity to practice macro-photography. I will post some of those photographs here.

Feather Dalea (Dalea formosa)


Bowl Flax (Linum berlandieri)




Velvety Nerisyrenia or Mesa Greggi (Nerisyrenia camporum)


2 Responses to “Springing forwards and backwards”

  1. Dragnfli March 27, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    Ephedra, also know as Mormon Tea. Makes you wonder about the Mormons.

    • Macrobe March 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

      Yes, there are a few North American species of the Ephedra genus referred to as Mormon or Nevada Mormon Tea (there are ~50 species worldwide). The ethnobotany surrounding the Ephedra species that grow in the North American continent are vague and scant, although a few state that the Zuni Indians and the Mormons made a tea from the stems. I do wonder if this was more because that is all that was available to the Mormons in the arid areas for them to make tea, and it is decaffeinated (caffeine is a no-no with Mormons).

      It is the Asian species, Ephedra sinica, that contains the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. These compounds are a stimulant in mammalian physiology, chemically resembling the hormones/neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine. Ephedrine is distilled from, and was eventually synthesized, from this species. Both ephedrine and epinephrine are beta-adrenoceptor (beta adrenergic receptors) agonists, and involved in the sympathetic nervous system. Also a part of the classic ‘flight or flight’ response. However, the herb contains a cocktail of alkaloids that can sometimes have diverse and even conflicting effects, similar to that of yohimbe (a bark that is used for its alpha-adrenocepter antagonist effects; but it contains antagonist and agonistic compounds).

      The species that grow in North America contain less than 0.1% of the ephedrine and similar alkaloids found in E. sinica, which can test as high as 4-6% in dried extractions.

      Caveat: My research in 1996-2000 was in biochemically active substances in Pausinystalia yohimbe and Ephedra sp. 😉

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