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new mexico weed with spiny round seed pods

Tree & Shrub

This list of trees and shrubs is intended to provide guidance for choosing a tree or shrub which will grow in Las Vegas, New Mexico yards. This list of species is for residential yards, not City Parks which are regularly watered during the summer. The list is not exhaustive.

Before selecting a tree, think about the purposes of the tree you are going to plant: do you want it for shade, privacy screen, windbreak, beauty, wildlife value? Due to unpredictable late frosts, fruit producing trees are not recommended as a food source. It is highly recommended that you read the Tree Owner’s Manual for information about what to look for when buying a tree, correct planting, watering, and pruning methods. A tree is an investment in both time and money. You can find the manual online.

Before buying a tree, determine where you are going to plant it, based on the purpose of the tree and these additional factors. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter; if you plant them on the south and west side of your home, they will help with cooling during the summer. Because they lose their leaves, they allow the winter sun to help warm your house. Reduce winds by planting trees and shrubs on the windy side of your home. Do not plant a tall tree under electric lines (height and width are listed in the descriptions). the Public Service Company of New Mexico recommends that a tree which is 25 feet tall at maturity be at least 15 feet from a power line; a 30 foot tall tree should be at least 30 feet away from a power line. Trees with large brittle branches should not be planted over a target such as a roof, car parking area, gazebo, etc. Trees with shallow or invasive roots should not be planted near buildings, sidewalks, plumbing, or sewer lines. Mature tree sizes are approximate; please understand that size and growth rate depend on growing conditions.

In general, urban soils in Las Vegas are mostly alkaline clay. Clay soils hold water. Avoid planting trees in clay where occasional puddles of water collect (the roots may rot).

Newly planted trees need water to become established (usually 2—3 years). Although the trees listed here are mainly drought tolerant, that does not mean they can survive a long-term drought. We have all noticed the recent death of many native Pinon and Ponderosa trees in Las Vegas. Extended drought, heat, and drying winds have stressed these trees and made them less able to fight off insects. Evergreen trees need some precipitation in winter. [Note: sometimes trees sold on the Internet as drought tolerant may actually need moderate amounts of water.] One method of watering is to dig several 12-inch deep holes under the drip line of trees. Most trees have roots about 15—18 inches below the top of the soil. The drip line is the area directly below the ends of branches; as the tree becomes wider, the drip line moves away from the trunk. Fill the holes with water which will drain directly into the root area; evaporation is decreased and deep watering is possible because the water does not spread out over the surface of the soil. The Las Vegas Tree Board highly recommends you collect any water which comes off your roof. Mulch is described below.

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Plant for Success.

The planting hole should be twice as wide as the root ball. It should be dug a few inches lower than necessary to loosen the soil but put the soil back in to achieve the right height. Look for the bulge just above the root system; this root collar should be slightly above the soil surface. Many trees die or do poorly because they are planted too deep. If you have a bare root, slightly spread out the roots. If the tree roots are in a ball, remove any wire, burlap, plastic. Fill half the hole with soil, firming it with your hands; add some water at this point and continue filling the hole until the soil is level with the ground. Gently firm the soil and water again. Make a ditch just outside the planting hole. Do not let the trunk or stem sit in water because it can rot. You can instead dig five 8—10 inch deep holes around the tree and fill these holes with water. Then apply mulch.

Organic mulch will save water by reducing evaporation; it also keeps the soil and roots cooler in the summer. Do not use rock or stones as mulch because they absorb and retain heat (Knopf). Organic mulch breaks down and slowly enriches the soil. Mulch should be 4—5 inches deep, and at least 5 inches away from the trunk or stem. As the tree grows wider, the watering holes or ditch and the mulch should be extended.

Proper pruning is essential. Never top a tree: it permanently weakens the tree and shortens its life. Improper pruning will result in more pruning problems in the future. A certified arborist is recommended for proper pruning to protect your investment. The Tree Owner’s Manual shows proper pruning techniques.

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Trees and shrubs are listed alphabetically by the Latin name, which is the name you should use when you buy the tree. Common names are listed second and are not as accurate because there can be more than one common name, or the common name may be used for more than one tree. Trees and shrubs are listed together because there is often no clear difference between a small tree and a large shrub. The index lists common names with their more precise Latin names.

The USDA has Las Vegas listed in Zone 5 meaning that plants are cold tolerant to about -20 degrees. In the last 50 years, there has been at least one winter with thermometer readings of -50�š. Mature trees in Lincoln Park did not die but suffered frost cracking along their trunks. Because most trees live a long time, you may wish to choose trees that are rated for USDA Zone 4 or even 3.

For more information, a bibliography and reliable internet sources are provided at the end of this paper. You may also call the City of Las Vegas for the number of a Tree Board volunteer.

Urban Forager | In This Wicked Weed, the Devil’s Trumpet Blows

Jimsonweed has been on my radar ever since I researched it for a presentation on wild weeds and fungi last year, so I was intrigued when I discovered some spiny seedpods recently in an alley in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Originally thinking they were empress tree pods, which are similarly sculptural but smooth, I brought them back to my workspace, where a friend helped to correctly identify them as Datura stramonium, or jimsonweed, and their source (the garden of a local artist around the corner).

Jimsonweed, a k a Jamestown weed, mad apple, devil’s trumpet, locoweed, stinkwort or thorn apple, is a strikingly gothic-looking plant with seedpods that could have inspired the creator of “Little Shop of Horrors.” It has toothed leaves, stems that are reddish-to-dark eggplant in color and lovely trumpet-shape white or lavender blossoms, as long as a finger, that open at dusk. Found along roadsides, ditches and open fields in most states, including New York, where it grows as far south as Staten Island, it’s listed as a noxious weed in Pennsylvania and banned in Connecticut. An informal poll of writers from the Writhing Society at Proteus Gowanus described the plant as smelling like peanut butter, skunk cabbage and someone’s childhood cottage, but the first time I sniffed it, I thought of tahini.

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Much of the literature and testimony surrounding Datura stramonium and related species, including D. meteloides, D. wrightii and D. innoxia, point to its psychotropic, hallucinogenic and narcotic properties, where it is inextricably linked to shamanism (in Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan”) and even zombies (from Wade Davis’s “Passage of Darkness” and “The Serpent and the Rainbow”).

Some of the no-joke side effects from ingesting jimsonweed read like a 1970s public service announcement warning against angel dust and PCP: dilated pupils, racing heartbeat, hallucination, delirium, combative behavior and in severe cases, coma and seizures.

In 1676, British soldiers sent to Virginia to quell Bacon’s Rebellion ingested Datura stramonium in a boiled salad and remained in a stupor for 11 days. More recently, in 2008, a family in Maryland was poisoned when they mistook it for an edible garden green and ate it in a stew.

Written testimonials for Datura on the Erowid Web site , under titles like “Truly the Devil’s Weed,” “Nightmares in Flux” and “This is Madness,” include delusions of phantom cigarettes, conversations with imaginary friends, amnesia, blurred vision, a desire for cold showers and other irrational behavior. It’s no wonder that Amy Stewart devoted an entire chapter to it in her book “Wicked Plants.”

According to Daniel E. Moerman’s “Native American Medicinal Plants,” some American Indians use jimsonweed topically for wounds and inflammation, and there are reports of it being used as a treatment for asthma. But because of the plant’s more negative plant-human interactions, most folks are understandably wary of it, and many parents have been advised to root it out of backyards and gardens.

Jimsonweed is now in full flower across the city and in some cases sprouting mature seedpods, but I’m content to admire its beauty from an arm’s length.