Oxalis alpina

Alpine Woodsorrel - Oxalis alpina
Sawyers Peak Trail, Black Range, New Mexico, USA

On August 25, 2014, we took a walk along Sawyers Peak Trail, heading south from Emory Pass.  It was not a long walk but at 3.5 miles (round trip) we did venture out onto the east side of the ridge, looking down into the Percha drainage.  The trail is better than this time last year, last year it simply was not possible to see the trail in many places because of the tall grasses that the Forest Service had seeded with following the Silver Fire.  This year there are still healthy stands of grass but the trail is more clear.  There is only one major washout along this section of the trail.  

I had problems getting started, there were myriad wildflowers, numerous species and many individual plants.  It was a riot of color and the camera functioned as an anchor, stopping my steady progress up the trail.

Oxalis was blooming profusely.  In identifying these plants to species I considered O. metcalfei and O. violacea. O. violacea was eventually ruled out because the plants we were seeing had "two distinct orange tubercles at the apex of the sepal" (not visible in these photographs).  In the Vascular Plants of the Gila entry (one of the first sources I review when identifying plants in this region) there is a distinction between O. metcalfei and O. alpina - the distinction being that O. alpina (Alpine Woodsorrel) grows at higher elevations.  It is with some difficulty that you get to elevations in the Black Range that are higher than the Sawyers Peak trail.  But I found specimen records which reported to be O. metcalfei at higher elevations in the range.  Then a bit of luck, I began to wonder if the two had been lumped into one species, which after more research proved to be the case.  I still do not know if there is some distinction between O. metcalfei and O. alpina (subspecies? variants less than subspecies?) but at least I can call the plant to species.

© Robert Barnes 2015-2019