Diversion of Plant Species in the Southwest

            There are many species plants and trees throughout the Southwestern region of the United States. I could ramble on and on about the hundreds of species located in Arizona, New Mexico, etc., but I would rather explain to you in detail the top fve native plants in the southwestern region. According to the website http://www.nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife/Gardening-Tips/Using-Native-Plants/Southwest.aspx, the top five native plants of the Southwest are:

  1. Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

This tree can range between the sizes of a small shrub or a small tree. They contain “leaning” trunks and have large willow-like leaves. These trees produce a large flower, and long string like pods. Below is a picture of a Desert Willow. 



The Desert Willow is planted for two main purposes. The first being ornamental and the second being as an erosion-control plant. This plant can limit if not, eliminate erosion among the soil. 

    2. Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)

This tree is an evergreen tree, with a straight trunk and contains long, slender branches. Junipers produce bright blue fruit that often resembles a pine cone. Below is a picture of a Rocky Mountain Juniper.



The Rocky Mountain Juniper is planted for ornamental reasons. Also many different animals eat the small, bright blue berries produced by the tree. 

    3. Blue Paloverde (Parkinsonia florida)

This is a small tree that is usually leafless for the majority of the year. They contain a blue-green trunk. During the summer, this tree produces bright yellow flowers and flat bean pods. Below is a picture of a Blue Paloverde.



As stated previously, the Blue Paloverde is leafless almost the entire duration of the year. The way this tree survives is through the process of photosynthesis…but rather than photosynthesizing through its leaves, it photosynthesizes through its branches and twigs! Like the Desert Willow, this tree can prevent erosion along drainage areas. Different animal species snack on the berries, leaves, and twigs produced by this tree. 

   4. Teddybear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii)….(personally my favorite, due to the name!!)

This is a very small-stocky tree. It contains short branches that are covered in golden spines. The flower produced by this tree are usually orange or yellow, and can even contain small streaks of a lavender color in the pedals. Below is a picture of a Teddybear Cholla.  



Despite its name, this tree is one of the non-friendliest trees out there. Due to its golden spikes, this tree is the most dangerous and respected cacti in the southwest.

   5. Skunkbush Sumac (Rhus trilobata)

The Skunkbush Sumac is a shrub with highly aromatic 3-parted leaves and produces clusters of red berries. These berries contain a sticky secretion. Below is a picture of a Skunkbush Sumac.



The fruit produced that ripens in the fall, feeds many birds throughout the winter. This tree is widespread throughout the southwestern region, and was used by many natives. The name “Skunkbush” came from the scent the plant produces when it is crushed.

Due to our changing climate, these plants that we all know and love…could diminish. Although these plants and trees are used to the hot weather of the Southwest, global warming could cause temperatures to soar. The old techniques that we have learned from natives such as basket weaving and fruit picking from these plants, would become extinct! The food produced by these plants, would no longer exist, and many different animals could die off due to that very reason. It is important we know about this future, but it is also important to not become depressed about such results. There is still time to fix everything. With your help, our world will be treated with the respect it deserves.

Anika Gorham


2 thoughts on “Diversion of Plant Species in the Southwest

  1. Your first paragraph needs to connect the topic of how plant species native to the desert southwest will be impacted by climate change. Instead, your first paragraph launches into a list of plants that are native to NM without explaining why you are writing about this. Finally at the end of the post you include one short paragraph about this connection, but do not lay any ground work about how these plants are in jeopardy as the climate has begun to warm and dry. Avoid spending words when they do not provide information, “I could ramble on and on about the hundreds of species “.

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