September 2, 2012
The elusive Cloudcroft Phacelia (Phacelia cloudcroftensis) flowered in mid July – much earlier than expected. Daniela Roth, the new NM Division of Forestry botanist, performed extensive searches for this rare plant this summer. She has found more than 250 adult plants! Recall that last year our NPSNM Rare Plant Field Trip found 14 adult plants and about 60 seedlings. During the previous year only 4 adult plants were found. Daniela found about 200 plants along Hwy 82 between mileposts 12 and 13 in the Sacramento Mountains in the same general area where plants of the previous 2 years had been found. Daniela found an additional 62 adult plants about a half mile from Cloudcroft along two parallel trails (T5001 and T5002). This population extends the known elevation range of the Cloudcroft Phacelia to 8500 feet. The Phacelia is known to have another population in an unnamed canyon south of Bent. On previous occasions former NM Division of Forestry botanist Bob Sivinski found no more than about 3 plants in this location – more than 11 miles from the Hwy 82 population. But in 2012 Daniela found no Phacelia plants at all in this location. On the opposite side of this mountain range she found only a single adult Cloudcroft Phacelia plant in Ysletano Canyon.
There is a consistent feature of the habitat where Daniela found the Phacelia this year: limestone gravel often in a disturbed environment. The Cloudcroft Phacelia is an annual plant that responds to moisture when it is available. Therefore, the plant may still be seen in the Sacramento Mountains this year. Last year, the plant was found as late as September 25.
So if you are out hiking trails or otherwise exploring in the Sacramento Mountains keep an eye out for this plant in disturbed gravelly locations. Look at the photos on the New Mexico Rare Plant website. You may discover the Phacelia and add to our knowledge of the distribution, reproductive success and habitat preference of this species. If you find the plant, count the number of adults and seedlings and take notes on the condition of the habitat. Then report your findings to Jim McGrath at firstname.lastname@example.org or Daniela at email@example.com.
Jim McGrath, Conservation Chair, NPSNM