Wonderful World of Native Plants

Trees are also native plants; forest ecologist to speak in Taos

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Do you find that you are sometimes unable to see the forest for the trees? At the Oct. 18 meeting of the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Toby Gass will present "Spruce-fir: Another Kind of Forest." She will discuss the forests of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir that cover the higher elevations of the Sangre de Cristos.

The ecology of these forests differs greatly from that of the ponderosa. We have all heard so much about how frequent fire is needed to reduce tree density. Is that always true? Is it OK if some forests burn to a crisp, with hardly a tree left? Are dense forests full of dead, downed wood OK - or are they always a sign that something is wrong? Come hear how and why these two types of forests differ so much and learn to distinguish a spruce, a fir and a Douglas fir at the same time. We meet at 6 p.m. in the boardroom of the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, 118 Cruz Alta Road.

Gass, a forest ecologist, earned a Master of Science degree in forest resources and a Ph.D. in ecology after working on the Santa Fe National Forest for a decade. Much of her work and research was focused on the Pecos Wilderness, particularly the high-elevation forests. She served as manager of the Pecos Wilderness for the U.S. Forest Service from 1997 to 2002. She has also worked for the National Park Service throughout the country and has conducted research or worked in piñón-juniper woodlands, along ocean coastlines, on islands in the Great Lakes, on a registered Hereford ranch and in the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon. She lives in Santa Fe.

A well-received conference

From the initial keynote presentation to the final field trips, hikes and workshops, the nearly 190 attendees at the annual conference of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico enjoyed all that the Taos chapter offered. The three-day conference, held on the campus of Southern Methodist University-in-Taos at Fort Burgwin, provided the perfect setting to discuss native plants.

Since it was late summer with few plants in bloom (exceptions: Parry's gentian, Gentiana parryi, at Williams Lake; desert four o'clock, Mirabilis multiflora, near Pilar; and spotted gayfeather, Liatris punctata, at Fort Burgwin), the conference was themed around "The Seed - Past, Present and Future." Thor Hanson, author of "The Triumph of Seeds," kicked off the meeting with examples from his book on how seeds are essential to human life. The author had us enthralled, even though he told us that the caffeine in our morning cup o' joe functions as an insecticide in the wild!

Various national, regional and local speakers imparted their wisdom on native plants: seed dispersal, collection and restoration; piñón collection; dryland cotton growing; reforestation; native seeds for agriculture; wildflowers; curanderismo in Northern New Mexico; and saving seeds in seed banks, among other topics. A number of students from around the state also presented posters on their seed projects.

A reception at the Millicent Rogers Museum showcased not only Southwestern art and culture, but also the native plant garden started and maintained by the Taos chapter of the NPSNM.

Without the support of local businesses and individuals and all our volunteers, the Taos chapter of the NPSNM would not have been able to conduct such a successful conference and teach many from throughout the state about the importance of native plants.

Volunteer opportunity

Do your interests combine Southwestern cultural art and native plants? The Millicent Rogers Museum, in collaboration with NPSNM/Taos, needs a few plant lovers to continue management of the cultural courtyard and front native plant gardens. This caretaking involves seasonal trimming, weed control, water monitoring and creative opportunities to add plants per the NPS signage program. These spaces are shared with MRM volunteers, who provide seasonal floral decoration. Visitors to the museum overwhelmingly express appreciation for the garden experience. Currently engaged in the MRM board, Richard Rubin (who has been overseeing the gardens in recent years) is available for orientation. Contact Carmela Quinto, MRM curator and volunteer coordinator, at (575) 758-2462 or carmelaquito@millicentrogers.org.

Have you missed a talk you want to hear? See the complete list of videotaped monthly meetings at this website: tinyurl.com/mhds73l.

NPSNM - TAOS CHAPTER, upcoming events

We are entering our period of winter dormancy. Monthly meetings will resume in March 2018, third Wednesdays of the month at 6 p.m., in the boardroom at Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, 118 Cruz Alta Road.

Contact information

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

Martenson is the president of the Taos chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico. Adams is a member of both this chapter and the Colorado Native Plant Society.

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