Wonderful World of Plants

Taos chapter hosts state conference focused on seeds

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Members of the Taos chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico are excited to be hosting their third state conference since the chapter was created in 1999. The conference, scheduled Sept. 14-17, will be based at the Fort Burgwin campus of Southern Methodist University-in-Taos, located about 8 miles south of Taos, near two streams and six plant life zones and across the street from the archaeological study site of Pot Creek Pueblo.

A book by biologist and author Thor Hanson, our keynote speaker, "The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History," prompted the theme for this year's conference. Hanson is a Guggenheim fellow, a Switzer environmental fellow and an independent conservation biologist based in the San Juan Islands. He is the recipient of many research grants, a consultant for conservation and government agencies and teaches field courses. This book won the Phi Beta Kappa award, the Pacific Northwest Book Award and was a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru and the Washington State Book Award. His prior book, "Feathers," also received numerous awards and accolades.

More than 85 people have registered and some of the field trips are filling up. We will examine seeds through archaeological, botanical and cultural lenses in the context of the history and three cultures of Northern New Mexico. There will be speaker presentations all day Sept. 15-16. Workshops, field trips and hikes will be offered on Thursday afternoon (Sept. 14), as well as Saturday (Sept. 16) and Sunday (Sept. 17) mornings. Several of the offered field trips travel into Río Grande del Norte National Monument lands. In addition, conference attendees are invited to a reception at the Millicent Rogers Museum, where the chapter has planted native gardens.

Other activities include a banquet, a silent auction (donations still accepted) and featured guest speakers, like Richard Ford, professor emeritus, University of Michigan; Glenna Dean, former New Mexico state archaeologist; Melanie Gisler from the Institute of Applied Ecology; and Miguel Santistevan, proprietor of Sol Feliz farm and founder of the nonprofit AIRE (Agriculture Implementation Research & Education).

The registration fee for the conference is $100 (banquet $25) through July, increasing to $115 after Aug. 1.

Go to npsnm.org/events/2017-annual-conference for more information and for online registration.

Special seeds

In Taos in September, seeds are the predominant plant feature, so in keeping with our upcoming conference theme, we wanted to discuss a couple of the seeds already showing up in our backyards. Apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa, is a lovely, showy shrub with small, single, yellow-centered, white flowers that turn into fluffy pink plumes, or seed heads. The plant is great in our area, as it is heat and drought tolerant.

Foxtail barley, Hordeum jubatum, is one of our perennial native bunchgrasses. It is also known as bobtail barley and squirreltail barley. It propagates by seed and can tolerate soil types from saline to loamy and clay. It is often one of the first species to show up in disturbed sites or when receding water leaves a newly exposed area. Due to its lovely curves, it is often used as an ornamental plant.

Finally, we've been asked about an unusual, but common plant. Yellow salsify, Tragopogon dubius, has yellow, star-shaped flowers. They often stand alert like sentinels, up to 24 inches tall, with the flower heads folded up tightly before blooming. The flowers open early in the morning, closing as the day progresses. Though not native, they're all over the U.S. When they form a seed head, it's a large, perfectly round ball, much like a dandelion. They are members of the aster family. In Europe, this root is often used in stews and cream soups, like carrots.

Contact information

This column is printed every second Thursday of the month. For suggestions or questions, please contact us at TaosNPS@gmail.com or call (575) 751-0511. Chapter webpage: npsnm.org/about/chapters/taos. Search for "Native Plant Society New Mexico Taos Chapter" on Facebook.

Johnson is an active member of the national Outdoor Writers' Association. She writes this column on behalf of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Taos Chapter.

Taos chapter of NPSNM - upcoming events

Please watch for updates. Monthly meetings are third Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in the boardroom at Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, 118 Cruz Alta Road.

July 22 (Saturday): Amole Canyon hike, off Forest Service Road 7-3, 13.9 miles from State Road 518 and State Road 68 intersection. Meet for carpooling at 8:30 a.m. at San Francisco de Asís in Ranchos de Taos. Wildflowers in meadows and a mixed conifer forest between 8,400 and 8,600 feet can be seen. The hike is easy and is less than 3 miles.

Spaces are still left for this workshop in August:

Aug. 12 (Saturday): Distillation workshop with Wendy Whiteman. The workshop will begin at 10 a.m. and last three to four hours, so participants should bring a snack. This is a hands-on opportunity to learn about the big sagebrush, or Artemisia tridentata, plant that covers much of Northern New Mexico. The event will include a lecture and participation in steam distillation of fresh, harvested sagebrush, which yields both the essential oil and a hydrosol. Whiteman will talk about the plants' physical characteristics, signatures, herbal uses, local folklore and history. Participants take home samples of the essential oil and hydrosol. Instructions on how to use them will be included. The fee is $8 per person. The event is limited to 10 people. Reservation is required. Bring a chair. Contact Jan Martenson at (575) 751-0511 or taosnps@gmail.com.

Aug. 19 (Saturday): New Mexico Native Plant Day. Visit our table in front of Cid's Food Market for information, as well as a book and plant sale.

Aug. 20 (Sunday): Williams Lake trip. Meet at 8 a.m. at the KTAOS Solar Center parking lot to carpool to the hikers' parking lot at the Williams Lake trailhead. We'll walk 2 miles to Williams Lake, focus on sub-alpine and alpine plants and eat lunch at the lake. The hike is moderately strenuous with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. Wear appropriate hiking gear and sunscreen. Bring a lunch and water. Walking sticks are optional. Advance reservation is required. Contact ubelaker@mail.smu.edu or (214) 726-5014 to make reservations.

Aug. 23 (Wednesday): A lecture will occur at 6 p.m. Olivia Carril, co-author of the book "Bees in Your Backyard," will discuss the biology of native New Mexico bees and provide tips on encouraging and providing food and nesting sites for these species. The lecture will take place in the conference room in the Juan Gonzales Taos County Agricultural Center, 202 Chamisa Road.

Aug. 26 (Saturday): There will be a bee walk, also with Carril, from 10 a.m.-noon (location to be determined). Learn to appreciate and identify our local species of bees.

Sept. 14-17: "The Seed: Past, Present & Future." The annual conference of NPSNM will be hosted by the Taos chapter at SMU-in-Taos/Fort Burgwin. Online registration is available on this secure site - or print the mail-in registration form: https://www.npsnm.org/events/2017-annual-conference. The cost is $100 (plus $25 for the Saturday night banquet) until Aug. 1.

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