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 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 Dwarf Fameflower) 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 and Master Herbalist, 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/southeast 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 of the area just north of Sandia Knolls (in Sandia Park, New Mexico) with the approximate pathway to the location.  You need to take Frost Road east from NM-14 about 2 miles to Sandia Knolls.  Turn left into the Knolls on Camino Alto and stay on that road for about a mile to Pinon Heights Rd.  Go right on Pinon Heights Rd. to Gilbert Place (about 1/2 mile) and turn left.  Go down the hill to Gaddis and make a right.  Go to the next street and turn left (this is Canyon Rd.), take the left fork and park at the closed metal gate which marks one entrance to the Sandia Knolls Open Space.

Go through the gate and proceed along the trail to the left past the construction equipment parked there (the land to the right is owned by Reinecke Construction and their two story green house will always be on your right as you go up the trail). You'll cross the arroyo and then proceed on the path that takes you northeast, up above the arroyo, meandering up to the distinct clearing of the gas pipeline that cuts through the Knolls.  There are numerous paths criss-crossing this area before you get to the pipeline clearing, when you get to the pipeline clearing, take the path northeast where the yellow pipeline sign is,  You'll twist and turn up the mountain.  Look among the south facing rock outcroppings for the tiny grey green low succulents as the magenta flowers may not be open. Once you see them, keep walking higher (you should be about even in elevation to the one story dark brown building with the metal roof to the east on Canyon Road - you can see the power poles ascending up the hill along Canyon Rd).

 Here is the Google Map to get to the Sandia Knolls


  1. What a fascinating and beautiful flower. I'm impressed with you persistence to see it blooming and your expertise as well, Vicki....;)

  2. Wow. Such a pretty little flower and so elusive. Glad you timed it right. I am amazed at the variety of the wild flowers.