What fun it is to be outside this time of year! Not only because the temperature is pleasant, but everywhere you turn your head, there’s a plant to “ooh” and “ahh” because nearly everything is in bloom.
Yes, it is nice to admire these flowering plants, but for some folks, it can also cause adverse reactions to pollen shedding by the male flowering parts of the plant.
Did you know that our bosque, or woodland, translated in the Spanish-speaking world, extends from southern Colorado clear to south Texas and is the most extensive cottonwood woodland (bosque) in the American Southwest?
The southwest cottonwood, also known as Populus deltoides, has many medicinal properties, mainly for inflammation, and many parts of the tree are medicinal (the buds, leaves and inner bark).
Our cottonwood has a flowering habit called dioecious (dye-o-ee-sh-us). What that means is that there are male and female flowering cottonwood trees. So, when you see cottonwood out there, it could be a male or female tree. And sometimes, when the trees are flowering, the male flower may not constantly be shedding pollen at the same given time range as the female flowering stage.
Right now, in areas where the seed is collecting, the white seed fluff we see everywhere appears to be snow from a distance. That’s right! The white fluff you see floating around in the air and blowing into our eyes and noses, sometimes the mouth if you aren’t careful, is the shedding seed of the cottonwood trees. It’s not pollen.
Cottonwood trees have already long been finished completing the male flower pollen shed. The male flowers are called catkins in the botanical world. See the photo of the male flowers.
The female flower is called a pistil. See the photo of what the female flower looks like. The female cottonwood trees are shedding the white fluff carrying the tree’s seed. With adequate pollination from the male tree, these tiny little seeds that are only a millimeter in size and being carried away by the wind will land somewhere and, with adequate conditions, will eventually germinate and grow into another cottonwood tree.
Another native tree that frequently is found amongst the cottonwood groves is the willow. What is also now found out there amidst the natives are some introduced tree species that are now trying to invade. These are the salt cedar, the Russian olive, and the Siberian elm.
These cottonwoods have an ancient history and place here, and some still carry the genetic code from their ancestors from a long time ago. I encourage you to stop by the bosque, take in the fresh air and scent, and appreciate the shade these old woodlands have provided our ancestors, the habitat and homes for animals, and the oxygen we breathe.
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 505-565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
- Ready, Set, GROW! Free gardening classes are being offered virtually. “Challenges of Growing Tomatoes in the Desert Southwest” at 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 17. Registration required, please visit: desertblooms.nmsu.edu/grow.html
- “Program Kickoff” Valencia County Extension Master Gardeners Luncheon: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Saturday, May 13, at La Dos Gringas, 2100 Camino Del Llano, Belen. Please RSVP using this link, tinyurl.com/VMG-Kickoff, or call the extension office.
- New Mexico Agriculture Sustainability Workshop: May 17-18, located in Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center. Register at rsvp.nmsu.edu/rsvp/wsareclass.
- Valencia County 4-H Rodeo: May 20-21, located at the Sheriff’s Posse in Belen. Registration is open to 4-H members only, but spectators are welcome!
- Soil Health Workshop for Small-Acreage Producers: Monday, May 22, located in Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center. Learn soil health principles and different soil management techniques. Registration required, please reach out to the Extension Office for more information.
If you are an individual with a disability who requires auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 505-565-3002 two weeks in advance of the event.
(Joshua Sherman is the New Mexico State University, Valencia County Cooperative Extension agriculture agent.)