Monday, September 1, 2014

The Elusive Showy Flameflower

I finally found blooming Showy Flameflowers (Jercinovic, page 354)  last week.  I have led wildflower walks for the Forest Service since 2009 and have never found any blooming Showy Flameflowers  My old neighborhood is east of Albuquerque on the "green side" of the Sandia Mountains.  I used to live in the Sandia Knolls neighborhood at the southern end of the Monte Largo Mountains. There are numerous trails on the north end of Sandia Knolls that ascend the Monte Largo and provide some scenic wildflower views especially after our abundant rainfall of the past two months.

Last September (2013), I was hiking there and found numerous small grey-green succulent plants which I recognized as Showy Flameflower (alternately called Fameflowers) Phemeranthus brevicaulis.  But they were past their blooming period (they usually bloom in July and August), and so I resolved to come back in 2014.  On August 27th, my friend, Beverley McFarland and I went to look for them in the same place I found them the year before. We knew they only bloom 1 or 2 hours in the late afternoon so we started climbing the trail at a about 2:00PM.  After an hour, we found them among a sunny and rocky slope facing south but the tiny plants were closed up and the flowers were not open.

Showy Flameflower Phemeranthus brevicaulis
 We saw so many of the tiny succulents but no flowers.  Then about 3:15PM we saw one with an open flower.

The flowers were just beginning to open in the late afternoon sun.

As we continued to walk for the next hour, we found hundreds of the Showy Flameflowers with their flowers opened up for the insects to pollinate them.  We were so happy because these flowers are so elusive that most people hiking along these trails would not be aware of the beauty that these members of the Purslane Family contain. They are very tiny plants growing among rocky outcroppings.

As we walked down, we enjoyed an abundance of Sunflowers, Red Penstemon, Sanvitalia, Bahia,  Peppergrass, Mullein, Toadflax, Globemallow, and lots of yellow and purple asters..

Beverly McFarland

Me among the sunflowers

Annual Sunflower

Wooly Mullein

Copper Globemallow

Yellow Ragweed or Bahia Bahia dissecta


Red Penstemon
If you would like to find the Showy Flameflowers, go in the late afternoon (after 3PM) and in the next week or so as the flowers will soon be done blooming.  Here is the Google Earth Map

and Geocache coordinates (PK5839T) for parking at the trailhead as provided by Chris and Bruce who visited them Friday.  Here is the Google Map to get to the Sandia Knolls , go to Canyon Rd from Gaddis, from Gilbert Place.  There is a locked gate to the Open Space trail into the Monte Largo Mountains on Canyon Road in Sandia Park.