plantjournal

Sunday, January 30, 2005

not only green

While green is the color we most associate with plants, the color most of us think we want to see in a landscape, winter in central New Mexico delights with plants in all the nuances of earthen colors. The whole of the plantscape at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge has become a dried arrangement: muted gold snakeweed in shapely masses; the delicate, remnant red stems of Eriogonum; the whites and grays of composites whose flowers have vanished but left artful receptacles; the whispery movement of tan grasses.

Around the herbs and shrubs and grasses in their bare, architectural beauty, frost sparkles on the sand. Below me and miles away, fog floats like a white chiffon streamer over the Rio Grande bosque. Above the fog rise the blue, snow-dusted peaks of the Manzano Mountains.

I breathe in the cold air and soak in the high-altitude radiance of shape and space. The sky and vistas are large, but the plants around me are small. No soaring forests or sprawling meadows, these are compact and frugal desert creatures. But they are as splendid in the quiet colors of dormancy as they are in the green flush of summer life.


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