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Friday, April 20, 2012

Yerba De La Negrita

The weather services predict high winds for the Llano Estacado. In order to escape the pummeling, Cooper and I head out early for our daily trail running adventures. We find the Llano Estacado wild flowers in resurrection mode. Pale Evening Primrose batches litter a landscape of scruffy prairie straw. Purple Locoweed form elegant jumbles of light catchers. Yucca babies wriggle with delight in the rarified high plains air. Western Salsify reaches out for morning sunlight and Engelmann’s Daisies muse over the summer days ahead. Broadleaf Milkweed prepare for Monarch butterfly visitations. I do not resist the enthusiastic stride my heart desires.

A few miles into our trek, we halt for a breather and total immersion in the morning serenity. Cooper's demeanor speaks volumes about his disapproval of the 68°F heatwave. He is not keen on departing from our shady stopover. While we relish our respite, I glimpse fiery splashes of Scarlet Globe Mallows on the trail ahead. These beauties are a common plant on the dry grasslands of our Western prairies. It is also known as Yerba de la Negrita and Caliche Globe Mallow. This perennial, capable of spreading from rhizomes, is highly drought resistant and thrives in sandy or gravelly soils. Flower colors vary from white to pink to purplish, to orange. The flowers have five notched, broad petals, arranged in terminal clusters. Here on the Northern Llano Estacado I encounter only orange specimens.

Archaeologists have found pollen and seeds of this forb at Chaco Canyon, Pecos, and even on the Rio Grande near Zia and Santa Ana. This beautiful and resilient plant has a longstanding role in the Native American healing arts...botanical medicine. It has uses as a salve for sore muscles, sores and wounds, a diuretic, a tonic to improve diet, a remedy for urinary tract irritation and bronchitis. The inhabitants of Picurís Pueblo (P’iwwel in the Tiwa language) pounded the roots into a pulp, mixed it with water and used it as a cast for broken bones.

Pollen (Pale Evening Primrose)

Purple Locoweed Extravaganza

Yucca Baby (Plains Yucca)

Phewy, 68°F Heatwave (Cooper)

Yerba De La Negrita (Scarlet Globemallow)

Engelmann's Daisy (engelmannia peristenia)

European Invader (Western Salsify)

Taking A Breather (Cooper)

Asclepias Reborn (Broadleaf Milkweed)

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