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Sunday, December 12, 2010 - Leasburg Dam State Park, Radium Springs NM

Ocatillo, Leasburg Dam State Park, Radium Springs NM, January 22, 2009
Ocatillo, Leasburg Dam State Park, Radium Springs NM, January 22, 2009

Ocatillo in a sea of creosote

Creosote has taken over vast areas of the desert out here in New Mexico. I understand it emits a chemical from its root system that is inhospitable to other plants. And to itself I guess - the creosote bushes seem to be spaced at regular intervals with generally bare soil between bushes. There is the occasional exception like this nice ocatillo.

That plant with the yellow flower sharing space with the ocatillo is a cholla. Ocatillo have a red flame shaped flower at the tips of the stems in the spring - they are quite striking.

Night camp

Site 9 - Leasburg Dam State Park, Radium Springs NM

Teosinte and the Improbability of Maize

The ancestors of wheat, rice, millet, and barley look like their domesticated descendants; because they are both edible and highly productive, one can easily imagine how the idea of planting them for food came up. Maize can't reproduce itself, because its kernals are securely wrapped in the husk, so Indians must have developed it from some other species. But there are no wild species that resemble maize. Its closest genetic relative is a mountain grass called teosinte that looks strikingly different - for one thing, it "ears" are smaller than baby corn served in Chinese restaurants. No one eats teosinte, because it produces too little grain to be worth harvesting. In creating modern maize from this unpromising plant, Indians performed a feat so improbable that archaeologists and biologists have argued for decades over how it was achieved. Coupled with squash, beans, and avocados, maize provided Mesoamerica with a balanced diet, one arguably more nutritious than its Middle Eastern or Asian equivalent.