A few of the sign posts signaling the arrival of Autumn here in Santa Fe, New Mexico have been sighted. We begin with a flowering native commonly referred to as Rabbitbrush, Chamisa, and Rubber Rabbitbrush, the latin is Ericameria nauseous and/or Chrysothamnus nauseous.
I find Chamisa particularly interesting to watch through the seasons. In early Spring the little, elongated leaves begin to emerge with a gorgeous sage/teal color which stays through Monsoon season until late Summer when you start to see the golden yellow flower pods. In late August early September the flowers begin to open with the landscape around Santa Fe turning gold.
Chamisa is a drought tolerant, perennial with great value to the pollinators and animals that browse and forage. The leaves, flowers and seeds are all food sources as well as a source of shelter for small animals, hence the name rabbitbrush.
I’ve witnessed chamisa to be quite tolerant in the harsh desert climate where water can be scarce while the heat and wind intense. Another lovely feature of chamisa is that it provides us with a hydrosol and essential oil.
The cholla (pronounced “choy-ah”) cactus, also called cane, jumping and walkingstick cactus (Cylindropuntia imbricata), is another one with variety through the seasons. From my observation, in general, the fruits begin to turn yellow gold in late Summer/early Autumn and maintain this hue almost right up until May when the cholla seems to awaken with a very short window of spectacular magenta flowers. There is some variation from plant to plant, as I have seen some of the stalks go to seed and some of the fruits dry up. This is one that I am still getting to know, and as you may recall helped in bringin forward the Perfumed Bestiary series.
I’ve been told that The Shed in downtown Santa Fe, cooks with the fruits of cholla.
This beauty comes in many colors and has a cycle which is not quite as striking through the four points of the season wheel. Below is the peach colored blossom from June with of photo of how it looks now in September.