A walk across the northern slopes of White Sands Missile Range might appear to many as little more than a brown, dry meadow interspersed with colorful wildflowers.
But for 25 members of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico Albuquerque Chapter, their encyclopedic knowledge of native flora warranted frequent stops for examination and discussion of blue grama (official state grass), soaptree yucca, spiderwort, san verbena, larkspur (poisonous to sheep), pineapple cactus, fendler's hedgehog cactus, woolly plantain, Tahoka Daisy and more.
The above plants were discovered only a short distance from a caravan of cars parked beside a hilly dirt road in Mockingbird Gap on a May 18, 2019, expedition led by Dave Anderson, a retired WSMR botanist.
In addition to providing the common and Latin names for every plant encountered, Anderson shared his vast knowledge of WSMR plants gained from several years and hundreds of treks into the test range that encompasses 3,200 square miles, roughly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware.
But on this day, the field trip only included Mockingbird Gap and the Malpais Spring. To cover it all would probably take a lifetime.