Juniper, “the plant we love to hate”

A lot of people in this region of the country have some commonly stated misconceptions about Juniper species, colloquially referred to as “cedar”, though there are no true cedar (Cedrus spp.) native to North America.

The first misconception is usually along the lines of, “Juniper sucks water from the soil and is a water hog.” Not quite so. Juniper is very shallow-rooted and is not considered a phreatophyte plant, so therefore that line of thought does not hold water (pun intended). Continue reading “Juniper, “the plant we love to hate””

John Ernest Weaver, American botanist and prairie ecologist

“Nature is an open book for those who care to read. Each grass-covered hillside is a page on which is written the history of the past, conditions of the present, and the predictions of the future.” – John Ernest Weaver Continue reading “John Ernest Weaver, American botanist and prairie ecologist”

Otero Mesa – the last of the desert grasslands

When I speak with friends about desert grasslands, a look of confusion registers in their faces.  Some people probably think desert and grasslands go together like oil and water.  That’s only because they haven’t seen desert grasslands; and it’s not their fault, there’s not many of these unique ecosystems left in the Desert Southwest due to overgrazing and other shortsighted land management practices.

One of the last surviving and best examples of a Chihuahuan Desert grassland is the 1.2 million acre Otero Mesa grassland area, located about 40 miles northeast of El Paso in Southern New Mexico.  As usual, there is a war between environmentalists who want this area preserved as a National Monument or wilderness area and oil and gas people seeking short term profits from a land whose fragility they know nothing of. Continue reading “Otero Mesa – the last of the desert grasslands”

Josiah and Valer Austin – ecologically restoring the desert southwest

In my previous post, I mentioned how deserts can contain a great deal of biological diversity.  Rather than boring a general audience with a tedious scientific lecture that may make them back away from wanting to learn more about ecological restoration, I am posting a link to an article about Josiah and Valer Austin’s ecological restoration work in the desert southwest. Continue reading “Josiah and Valer Austin – ecologically restoring the desert southwest”

The unbearable ubiquitousness of mowing

Mowing (noun) – that droning sound that disturbs what little peace and quiet is left in this fragmented world.

Without a doubt, mowing, next to indiscriminate pesticide use, is one of the most over-used land management practices.  And much of it is done without any thought at all as to the changes it instantly imparts on plant communities.  Just the other day, I saw a crew push-mowing a 1 acre field of 3ft tall native grass down to the nub.  I bet whoever owns that lot, was complaining a year ago that there was no grass. Continue reading “The unbearable ubiquitousness of mowing”