Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 20 comments

Chamisa Flowering 0610

For mile after mile along the edges of many main roads that I drove in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona, I saw bushes with yellow to yellow-orange flowers on them. They turned out to be Ericameria nauseosa, known as chamisa, gray rabbitbrush, and rubber rabbitbrush (yes, like its cousin goldenrod, which blooms in the same season, the plant can be used as a source of rubber). I photographed this chamisa group on US 550 north of Bernalillo, New Mexico, on September 25th, when I stopped to check out the bright red paintbrush you saw last time.

In researching this species I discovered there’s a Chamisa Dr. in Austin where houses sell for about a million dollars. That’s not my neighborhood.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2014 at 5:41 AM

20 Responses

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  1. I always enjoy riding down a flower lined road and like your Chamisa, the Goldenrod here makes for a nice border.
    Not a nice enough neighborhood for ‘ya huh? The store where I toil instead of photographing has a few clients in similar neighborhoods. I am always mindful to wipe my shoes at the doorway.

    Steve Gingold

    November 6, 2014 at 6:40 AM

    • You’ve reminded me of paths (and sometimes stretches of two-lane roads) in Austin that are lined with stands of giant ragweed, a distant relative of chamisa and goldenrod, which can grow to be 10 feet tall.

      My neighborhood is nice, just not as fancy as the one that includes Chamisa Dr. I wipe my shoes at my doorway too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2014 at 8:35 AM

  2. Any idea why it’s called nauseosa?


    November 6, 2014 at 7:21 AM

  3. Steve, does it have a strong odor to it?

    Kathy C

    November 6, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    • I didn’t explore closely enough to notice an odor, but I found a website that says: “The species name ‘nauseosa’ refers to the smell given off when the leaves or flowers are crushed, described as pineapple-like by some and foul and rubbery by others.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2014 at 12:17 PM

  4. Love wildflowers, part of the reason for hiking. Your photo really captures the essence of these amazing plants.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    November 6, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    • I wish I’d had more time to explore and get to know these plants, and my two weeks went by quickly. One advantage to being in home territory is the opportunity for sustained looking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2014 at 12:19 PM

  5. It’s a beautiful plant. I’m curious about the name “chamisa.” Is that by any chance a diminuitive of “chama”? I’ve been in the village of Chama, and when I was looking at the map, I noticed that, just west of Chama, there’s a mountain called Rabbit Peak. Since another name for this plant is rabbitbrush — well, it got me thinking.


    November 6, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    • Good question. I don’t know how the Chama that is a village in New Mexico (and another in Colorado) came by its name. The chamisa featured in this post is a respelling, based on the pronunciation of z as s in New World Spanish, of chamiza, which means ‘brush[wood], thatch.’ That word came into Spanish from Portuguese, and there are some interesting English connections that I’ll try to write about in my other blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2014 at 7:37 PM

  6. The chamisa nauseosa went on and on ad nauseam. Well it would have been like that if you had managed to get a whiff of it for miles and miles. It would be like us when we drive past miles and miles of dairy farms. The air is pungent.


    November 7, 2014 at 4:30 AM

    • Had I known at the time that the crushed leaves and flowers are supposed to give off an odor, I would have crushed a leaf just to verify that, but I didn’t, so it can’t be said of me in this case that the nose knows. In any case, I’d rather write in a diary than ride past a dairy, to keep from having to expunge the pungency. I’m doing my best with some wordplay to live up to your phrase ad nauseam, but it would be more fun to go ad museum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2014 at 7:38 AM

  7. I think I must have begun a reply to this photo and then stopped abruptly to attend to something else and then never got back to it. The title ‘Chamisa,’ first reminded me of ‘camisa’ and then … Chiasmata .. and then Chimera! Perhaps my mind is over-stuffed with too much stuff? Nice photo. Nice color. It somehow expresses the warmth of the day which is, at the moment here in central PA, very much appreciated. The thermal slide into winter has begun and we’re windy and chilly, more often than not. D

    Pairodox Farm

    November 9, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    • This picture is from six weeks ago, a time when it was still hot in the Southwest and in Texas. Even now in Austin’s cooling down, we’re still much warmer than you: it’s 57° here at 9:30 on this Sun(ny)day morning. Our thermal slide into winter (I like the way you phrased that) has a slope noticeably less steep than yours, and that’s a big reason that I left the Northeast and came to a place that’s more congenial for my body, at least in terms (or can I say therms?) of temperature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2014 at 9:38 AM

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