Getting prepared for the start of the field season means more forays out onto Public land to dust off my Botany skills. This included a trip down to the Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks National Monument outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. This is a stunning BLM-managed Monument which provides an intimidating jagged ridge line (see photo below). Although most well known for the abundance of beautiful granite and rhyolite formations, the Organ Mountains are (arguably) the most botanically diverse range in New Mexico, including several endemic species.
My little jaunt into this Monument took me up 4000 ft to the highest peak in the range, the Organ Needle. As I hiked creosote desert shrub-land transitioned into fields of wildflowers, oak and juniper woodlands, and ponderosa pine forest. At the summit I was rewarded with an outstanding view north in White Sands National Park and south into Mexico and Texas.
Of course the hike took me twice as long as it should since I was stopping every few minutes to admire/key the myriad forbs, grasses, shrubs and trees that accompanied me along the way. My favourite of the day was the beautiful (and delicious) Desert Onion as seen below.
As well as botanizing to my heart’s content I have also been preparing for the upcoming AIM training in Grand Junction, CO next month. One of my responsibilities as an instructor is to gather and process soil samples for the 70 participants to train with. While this does involve exciting expeditions out into the field to source these soils, it also requires hours of tedious sieving and quality control. Below is my makeshift workstation.