Mistletoe and Tumbleweed
March 23, 2019
“I wonder what the green clumps of foliage are on the trees”, Lou asked as we walked along the dry Rio Grande River in early January. We got the answer to that question three months later on a ranger-led hike of Camp Robledo. On that hike we discovered that Camp Robledo is not and never was a camp at all. Rather, it is an ecological plot of land restored to the natural state it was in during a period of time when the Camino Real was the only pathway into the wilds—when Onate brought wagonloads full of Spanish settlers from Mexico into a new territory. Standing there looking over the endless prairie grass and native plants of the time, we thought......”Hmmm, this is what they saw for miles and miles as they traveled.....we could do that!” Realistically, could we? “No, not really”!
What Lou, Pat, Susan, and Bonnie learned from Alex Mares, our ranger, on the 4-hour hike:
Camp Robledo is the only ecological site in the Southwest which is in its native state and looks like it did when the settlers were driving through,
Salt cedar trees, decorative shrubs imported from overseas, have wreaked havoc to the natural habitat salinating the ground and choking out natural undergrowth,
The control of the Rio Grande has been a death knell to the many native poplar trees which relied on the flooding to restore nutrition,
Tumbleweed was imported from Russia as type of winter wheat to hold the soil along the Rio Grande from erosion; it multiplied and multiplied.
The clumps of green, of which Lou wondered, are a parasitic growth which will only grow on weak trees, and this parasite, the mistletoe, sucks the life out these trees. Mistletoe growing on a tree is a sign that it is dying.
So, you wouldn't think that mistletoe, a winter icon, and tumbleweed, a desert icon, would be together in New Mexico---but they are living side by side.
Lou and Bonnie Janelle (LBJ) are career professionals who are currently pursuing life-long interests in photography and digital imaging techniques, respectively.