We are guilty of focusing on the animals because, many times..they are the ones that get the headlines. The old axiom by locals here 'We work in the desert and play in the mountains', is explained very well by the SFNFs Life Zones of New Mexico and with equal focus on Flora & Fauna:
Bosque Wily Coyotes-By James Orr for New Mexico Department of Tourism
What has amazed us here on our mesa in North Central, NM..is that with not many constants, every years Flora and Fauna changes to reflect another part of the overall chain!
What does this mean? For example: If there's a lot of snow melt and there is enough rain here on the mesa, the blooms on the prickly pears and cholla cactus can be amazing. That furthermore, the happenstance of having enough snow melt and rain will make the mesa actually appear green with the snake grasses and other ground hugging vegetation. I digress I know, but why ground hugging? Because the winds of Spring make the ground huggers the most survivable.
Now also..speaking of snakes..that in this instance of having enough snow melt and rain, allows to proliferation of rodents, which then makes it easy for the snakes to thrive, and the birds that hunt ..which then in turn makes it easy on the rabbits that eat the thriving vegetation..and ohh by the way, then..the coyotes LOVE IT when there is an over abundance of rabbits!
Ahh rabbits! You see..on our mesa, rabbits (and there are 2 types of jacks- Regular Garden Variety Jack Rabbits and White Cotton Tailed Jacks) are hunted by a lot of different animals, but the coyotes here are huge and fat on rabbits in wet years, and even survive well in dry ones because of the rabbits. You know rabbits..there will always be enough rabbits because of the way they...um..ah..multiply! :)
There are several packs of coyotes that chime up on our mesa..as the sun sets. And indeed, the Flora and Fauna on our mesa begin as the sun rises with the coyotes and end with the sun setting also with the coyotes. Hear their song below shot just around the corner. Turn up volumn:
If you know what that beast is..please fill out form below and submit!
A fabulous report by New Mexico Wilderness Alliance on the Human Footprint in New Mexico with a very "jump out and grab ya" map by Miranda Grey. The .doc opens in Word and the .jpg map opens in a new browser window. It's HiRes.
The asian ink brush paintings above ..a magnificent representation of our high desert flora here in North Central New Mexico! Can you name them?
Go to Featured Artist William Preston's page to see what they are!
New Mexico Vegetation
Tim Lowrey (Curator UNM Herbarium)
New Mexico has one of the most diverse landscapes in the United States. The topographic and geologic diversity interact with the climatic features of temperature, wind, and precipitation to determine the plant diversity in New Mexico. In terms of size, New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the union while it is has the fourth highest plant diversity in terms of numbers of species.
Plant diversity in a particular region is often described in terms of vegetation diversity. Vegetation has two components: structure and floristic composition. Vegetation structure refers to the physiognomy such as forest, grassland, or shrubland. The floristic composition is the actual taxonomic diversity of the different structural types. For example, all continents except Antarctica have forests but the families, genera, and species in them are very different among the different geographic locations.
Description of plant diversity relies on the use of physiognomic and floristic classification systems. There are five floristic zones (see below) and within these zones there may be some or all of the six major structural or physiognomic vegetation types as defined by Dick-Peddie (1993). These major structural types are: Tundra, Forest, Woodland, Grassland, Scrubland, and Riparian.
Vegetation types are based on growth form and abiotic features of climate (primarily precipitation and temperature), geography (elevation and latitude), and geology (soils, slope, and aspect). In New Mexico the greatest influence on vegetation is precipitation (Dick-Peddie, 1993). The next most important influence is temperature and together with precipitation comprise the primary determinants of vegetation patterning. Other components of climate, geography, and geology such as wind, soil type, slope, aspect, elevation, latitude etc. are considered secondary determinants of vegetation patterns.
Right here on our mesa, we have an abundance of Buffalo Grass, Snakeweed, Prickly Pear Cactus, Cholla Cactus (below), Juniper Trees (Cedar) and Pinon. The Pinon have just recently been overcoming a blight that lasted years ..and they're coming back strong.
Down in the Rinco del Cuervo there is a lone Ponderosa Pine! Over here only a few hundred yards and down in the Arroyo there's a stand of Cottonwoods, evidently signalling a spring just below the surface of the dry wash. The wash only 'ran' once in 6 years!
Cholla-This common cactus looks relatively harmless, but it is wise to enjoy this New Mexico flora from a comfortable distance. The chollo has fine, sharp needles reminiscent of porcupine quills, and victims often claim, like the porcupine, the cactus somehow manages to throw those pointed barbs into nearby flesh.
Picture By: Mike Stauffer for the New Mexico Department of Tourism
Cholla Cactus Interesting Fact: Pack Rats know the value of a cholla cactus spine and use many of them to finalize their 'hut' ..and it makes an excellent protection for them!