Wonderful world of native plants

Designing a conservation strategy for rare plant species

By Jan Martenson
For The Taos News
Posted 9/11/18

Did you know 235 rare and endangered plant species live in New Mexico? Of these, 109 species occur only in New Mexico and nowhere else in the world.

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Wonderful world of native plants

Designing a conservation strategy for rare plant species


Did you know 235 rare and endangered plant species live in New Mexico? Of these, 109 species occur only in New Mexico and nowhere else in the world. Eighty-eight rare species are found in the ecoregions of the Southern Rockies and the Arizona-New Mexico plateau that comprise Taos County.

On Sept. 19 the Taos Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico will host our state botanist and endangered plant program coordinator at our monthly meeting (see details in the calendar box). Daniela Roth will be describing a recent publication entitled "New Mexico Rare Plant Conservation Strategy - A Guide to Conserve Rare and Endangered Plants in New Mexico." This strategy was developed by the Forestry Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department in coordination with the Rare Plant Conservation Partnership, which includes state, federal and tribal agencies, nongovernmental organizations and interested citizens.

In her presentation, Roth will introduce the purpose of the plant conservation strategy and focus on its goals, objectives and function. "The overall goal of the New Mexico Rare Plant Conservation Strategy is to protect and conserve New Mexico's rare and endangered plant species and their habitats through collaborative partnerships between stakeholders and interested parties to aid and improve the conservation and management of rare plant species," she said.

Born and raised on the French border in southwestern Germany, Roth fell in love with the great American West at the age of 19 and decided to immigrate to the United States. She received her bachelor's degree in botany and wildlife from Oregon State University and a master's degree in fire ecology, studying the impacts of forest conversion on tropical dry forests in Mexico.

From 1997 to 2009 she worked for the Navajo Natural Heritage Program, promoting rare plant conservation and documenting rare plant occurrences from the backcountry of the 17 million acre reservation of the Navajo Nation. Prior to coming to New Mexico, she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the conservation and recovery of rare and endangered plants inhabiting the spectacular landscapes of southern and central Utah. In 2012 she was hired as the state botanist and program manager for the endangered plant program within the state Forestry Division.

Calling on photographers and artists: deadline looms

Sept. 30 is the deadline for the NPSNM "Snap That Plant" contest. We encourage photographers of all ages to join us in showcasing New Mexico's native plants.

Submit your native plant images growing in their natural habitat or in gardens, being used as food or medicine, interacting with people, animals or insects -- you name it. We want to showcase our community members' talents and highlight the beauty of the Southwest. Creativity is welcome.

For full information on the contest and how to submit your photos on-line, visit npsnm.org/summer-photo-contest.

And if drawing is more your speed, NPSNM is creating a native plant coloring book. Sara Digby, outreach coordinator for NPSNM, offered these details: "We are seeking illustrated outlines of New Mexico native plants and wildflowers, and would love to include a drawing from you. Artists will be featured with your information (if desired) and if you would like, please sign your art.". To learn more, go to the website npsnm.org/native-plant-coloring-book, or send an email to npsnm.pr@gmail.com. The deadline for submitting drawings is also September 30.

Visit the NPSNM Facebook page to see some drawings submitted thus far. They'll make you want to pick up your crayons or colored pencils.

Celebrating the yellows

Annual sunflowers have been blooming since mid-July and the chamisa started developing its yellow more recently. However, I was worried that one of our sunny-faced wildflowers wasn't going to make a show this year due to the drought.

But the bit of rain we've received in the past month or so has been enough to wake up the cowpen daisies. Other common names are golden crownbeard (named because of its hairy seeds), butter daisy and gold weed; Spanish common names include flor de Santa Maria, girasolcito del campo, and girasolillo. Its Latin name, Verbesina encelioides, was given because of the resemblance of its triangular leaves to those of verbenas and to honor the 16th century naturalist Christopher Encel.

It plays a role as both a nectar source to butterflies (skippers, painted lady and variegated fritillary), native and honey bees, and as a host plant to caterpillars. It is a native annual in North America but has spread throughout the world and has become an agricultural pest in some Pacific Island nations.

With its outer ray flowers and central disc flower identifying it as a member of the composite (aka aster) family, it joins our other native composites - chamisa/rabbitbrush, broom snakeweed, annual sunflowers - in brightening our late summer landscapes. We've all observed seemingly barren fields of dirt suddenly transform into a cheery bright yellow landscape when the monsoons finally hit, presenting us a brilliant contrast to our intense blue skies and signaling the beginning of the end of summer.

How to contact us

This column is printed every second Thursday of the month. For questions or suggestions, please contact us at TaosNPS@gmail.com or call (575) 751-0511. Get in on the fun and support the education and outreach efforts of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico by joining: npsnm.org/about/join

Martenson is the president of the Taos chapter, Native Plant Society of New Mexico and a board member of NPSNM.


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