Mar 152009
 

The days have been fairly cool, and we’ve been blessed with gentle showers of both rain and snow recently. Despite the colder temperatures (and the fact that the mountaintops directly above us are still white capped), the plants have still been proliferating like there’s no tomorrow. It’s that time of year where soon I’ll barely be able to keep up with the changes and growth from day to day, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! We’re still about two weeks ahead of the normally scheduled bloom (as if there was such a thing) and the Mountain Candytufts are in full explosion, and ever so tasty. I know some of you are still buried under many feet of snow but maybe you’ll get some vicarious enjoyment from the greenness of the Canyon.

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I adore this amazing fallen tree and the Nettle Patch that loves it. The shapes in the roots and bark endlessly fascinate me. There’s also lots of baby Beebalms (Monarda pectinata) coming up here, but are still too tiny to photograph.

 

This is going to be an exceptional Nettle year here in the Canyon. They’re coming up places I’ve never seen them and are growing thick and vibrant in all their chosen homes. Last year there was hardly any, so I’m excited to harvest enough for both medicine and food this year. Our native species is the Mountain Nettle (Urtica gracilenta), a feisty annual that grows faster than you can blink this time of year.

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The buds of the red-barked Pointleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens) are swelling every day, and will soon bloom into pink tinged faery bells. By late Summer, the bushes will bear (excuse the pun) fat rusty red-brown berries very much loved by those of the Ursine persuasion. This close relative to Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and allied species) has identical medicinal uses but is much more common in the Southwest than the diminuative Bearberry.

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Unlike most trees, our evergreen and shrub Oaks lose their leaves in Spring rather Fall. For the next few weeks, all our shrub Oaks will be turning brown and dropping their leaves, only to immediately sprout the brilliant pink and purple leaflets that will mellow to a leathery green in coming months.

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The Wax Currants (Ribes cereum) are in full bloom right now. They’re the first shrub to leaf out in the Spring here in the Canyon and also one of the first large-scale flower shows. The leaves are aromatic, slightly bitter and astringent while the flowers are sweeter and milder, but they taste great together as a small pinch of each. The closely related Gooseberries aren’t far behind and will soon be flowering as well.

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The Willow (Salix spp.) blooms are full-fledged as of this week. Their gorgous pollen-laden flowers wave from every river bank, and have caused me to stop dead in my tracks to take a closer look more than once in the last couple of days.

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In the rocky arroyo that runs beside the mesa, the Beebalms (Monarda fistulosa var. menthaefolia) are sprouting damn near everywhere. Their leaves are many shades of purple, magenta, scarlet, green and blue and their taste is already intensely butter and hot-spicy with the high concentration of volatile oils they possess (much more so than most varieties of Monarda, it seems). Being one of my greatest plant loves, I watch every inch they grow and count the days until they flower in a riotous explosion of pink, lavender and purple.

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I found the first Golden Smoke (Corydalis aurea) just yesterday evening (which explains the slightly out of focus picture, it was really too dark to be taking photographs). This cousin of the Western Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) has similar uses and is a wonderful element in many chronic pain formulas (where constitutionally appropriate and with consideration for the many odd alkaloids that live in this plant). The little Poppy family plants tend to grow near Nettles and Alders here in the Canyon, although they can also be found in shady Oak groves along the river.

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Our Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) have just begun to leaf out, and the first tiny buds are appearing as well. Rhiannon and I are waiting in excited anticipation for the fragrant white flowers so that we can drink in their sweet scent and harvest them for medicine.

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The cliffs as seen from the fifth river crossing (there’s seven river crossings into the Canyon) just before the leaves burst from the Cottonwoods, Alders and Willows.

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All Photos (c)2009 Kiva Rose

 

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