The wildflowers are listed clockwise from top left. Illustration by Chris Philpot.
Known locally as añil del muerto (“bluing of death”), this cheery yellow flower fills vacant lots and other disturbed lowlands throughout New Mexico. Many think of it as a weed, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “a weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” When their blooms cover several acres, fall has arrived.
Purple daisies, or asters, decorate desert floors and forests throughout the state. Identifying a specific variety of these common flowers will challenge even the most avid field botanist, so just enjoy their beauty.
Southwestern prickly poppy
You can’t miss this delicate poppy with large, tissue-paper-thin white petals, an eye-catching yellow center, a sage-colored stem, and leaves with tiny spines. Look for them in meadows and where soil has been kicked up, like cow pastures and along roadsides.
Four- to seven-foot-tall magenta flowers bloom in late summer and continue into fall. Spreading by its roots allows it to be one of the first plants to recolonize burned land. Find it en masse in montane forests—such as in the Animas Mountains in New Mexico’s Bootheel and the Guadalupe Mountains to the east—where light reaches the ground.
Five white petals fused together form the deep floral cup of this August bloomer. Decorative purple specks and splotches make this a striking standout in high-altitude tundra and meadows throughout much of the western two-thirds of the state. Watch for sphinx moths buzzing by to sip their nectar, and marmots and pikas eating them like ice cream.