Southwestern Plants and Landscape Tour-by Sylvan Kaufman, Science Advisor

Every once and a while it’s good to get away from a familiar place and explore a new one. Adkins Arboretum sponsored its first five day tour to see the landscapes of New Mexico, at least those within a couple hours drive of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The plants and scenery of New Mexico are about as different as you can get from the Eastern Shore’s. The culture is very different too! Eleven intrepid adventurers arrived at the Albuquerque airport during a southwestern heat wave, but it did not stop them from wanting to see and do everything possible.

We saw the Rio Grande the first day and learned about the Cottonwood gallery forests along the river, the cryptobiotic soil crusts, and desert plant adaptations at the botanic garden. At the welcome dinner the waiter brought out samples of red and green chile sauces for everyone to try – leading to an ongoing question at every restaurant about which one was spicier. The next day did bring some familiar plants to light. We visited an unusual (for New Mexico!) wetland and were welcomed by the familiar site of blue vervain (Verbena hastata) in bloom, a common species in the Arboretum’s wetland (see wetland photo). This wetland is managed by the Santa Fe Botanic Garden, a small organization that not only gave us a guided tour of the wetland, but also showed us their arroyo restoration project where their future garden will be and set up a fabulous day of touring private gardens in Santa Fe! The generosity of the garden hosts and beauty of their very individual gardens was impressive (see arroyo restoration photo and private garden photos).

No trip to NM would be complete without learning something about the native peoples of New Mexico. We went to Bandelier National Monument and had a great tour focusing on the people that lived there and how they built their pueblo (see group photo). One interesting point – the term “Anasazi” is now out of favor. It was a term the Navajo used to refer to the Pueblo people and meant “ancient enemy”. We unloaded our box lunches at another private garden that overlooked the Rio Grande Valley from atop a high cliff before heading off for a tour of Seeds of Change, a retail seed company some of you may be familiar with.

On the last day we headed up to the Pecos Wilderness, around 8500 feet. Here fields of wildflowers bloomed and we took a leisurely plant/bird/butterfly watching stroll along a mountain stream (see aspen photo). We got back in time for everyone to do last minute shopping before our farewell dinner on the patio at SantaCafe, one of Santa Fe’s best restaurants.

In the evenings there were free concerts on the Plaza in Santa Fe and we also happened to be there during a classic car show. Several of us visited the new history museum downtown to learn more about the Spanish settlement of NM and some went to the Georgia O’Keefe museum. Everyone made new friends on the trip and I heard lots of people say they’d be back to NM to visit again. If you’re reading this and were on the tour – add your favorite story!

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