Spring is a time of celebration! The Earth’s northern hemisphere leans back torwards the lovely star we call the sun, and we pass the time of the Spring Equinox. This is a moment of balance between our extremes. It is a time where we enjoy equal days and nights, the air warms, and the plants and animals begin to stir. Humans of different places, times, and faiths have been deeply stirred by the beauty with which Spring returns, celebrating it with the Equinox, Easter, passover, and even the ides of March, which was originally the Roman New Year. In the desert, Nature celebrates with a grand display of impossibly bright and diverse wildflowers.
In the calendar of the Tohono O’odham, the tribe indigenous to the Sonoran Desert, March is called C:edaai Masad, meaning “Green Moon.” April is called Uad Masad, meaning “Yellow Moon.” Like clockwork, in March the leaves and greenery begin to reemerge from their Winter;s sleep in seemingly dead branches. In April, flowers suddenly pop their bright heads our from under their covers. Many of these first blossoms are yellow, creating the effect of a great yellow tide taking over the desert landscape in April! Many of these blooms have gifts to give us beyond their beauty.
California Poppy – Eschscholzia californica
“Michael Moore says this flower is known to be a sedative and analgesic, and is gentle enough for children.” Peter Bigfoot (PB)**
“The branches of this shrub are thick yet brittle, and contain a resin-like sap that resembles pinesap. The resinous sap is helpful to use on burns, aching muscles and bones, and herpes sores. Simply chew up the stems and put the saliva on. The dried yellow-orange sap crystals that form on the outside of the stems can be packed in and around a tooth that is aching for relief.
The flower stems that rise above the woody stems are very thin. A tea of the flowers and leaves is a good remedy for lung congestion and cholera, and is also an excellent remedy for springtime pollen allergies.” PB
Paloverde – Cercidium microphyllum (yellow), C. floridum (blue)
“The Blue Palo Verde matures first with the largest and best peas. The yellow Palo Verde matures about two weeks later, with smaller peas. The peas when mature yet still green are good tasting, substantial food, and may be eaten raw or cooked. The Seri Indians of Mexico toasted the hardened seeds and then ground them into flour. These same people also ate the flowers. It is possible a tea of the bark is a remedy for arthritis if taken continually for a few months.” PB
Chaparral, Creosote, Greasewood – Larrea tridentata, L. divaricata
“This is an awesome healing plant. It is one of the oldest living plants in the US, with individual plants dated to as much as ten thousand years old. It defends itself well against bugs, fungus, and disease. As a tea it has a strong flavor, so go light on quantity. I use a pinch or two of the leaves. This tea is an excellent remedy for any type of flu, cold, or virus that is going around. Chaparral has excellent antioxidant and anti-aging qualities. Its antioxidant qualities protect us rom free radicals and cancers. It strengthens our immune system and is effective against infectious conditions and fevers. It is a good blood detoxifier and can be taken internally for bites and stings. For most it is a good remedy for prostate gland and kidney infections. Chaparral also preserves oils to keep them from going rancid, so it is good to add to salves and lotions. One caution: it seems to be harmful if taken for liver infections like hepatitus or other liver disorders.” PB
Desert Marigold – Baileya multiradiata
“A tea of the leaves, stems, and flowers is calming to the nerves and may be used as a remedy for migraine headaches. Only small doses should be used — large amounts can cause nausea.” PB
Desert Senna – Cassia covesii
“The mature yet still green seed pods, dried, make a laxative tea. A tea of the leaves and flowers can be used to relax our nervous system and upper back tension. Start with small amounts and make sure it feels right in your body.” PB
Deer Vetch – Lotus wrightii
“A tea of the green twigs makes a pleasant beverage and gives relief from tight lungs and restricted breathing. It is an uplifting and happy tea, perhaps a remedy for depression.” PB
Fiddleneck – Amsinckia tessellata
“Use the dried leaves and roots before the flower stalk rises more than halfway to blooming size. The tea can be used as a soothing eyewash. It also improves eyesight and helps the optic nerves. It also may help with macular degeneration. Only use when needed. If used continually over time, it can cause liver problems.” PB
As I walk through the desert this spring, the blooming of the flowers creates a great blossoming in my heart. Their sudden emergence and gift of beauty brings hope for a new season following the challenges of winter. The yellows lift my spirits. I am happy they are the leaders. I am humbled to remember that Nature contains so many gifts for us as reflected in the very specific and diverse assistance the plants can give us. So, let this blog post celebrate Spring as carried on by the Yellow Moon!
This is one of our finest seasons here in the Sonoran Desert, where we are ahead of the curve. It is delightful weather here, while much of the land is still in Winter’s grip. So come visit us at the Inns at El Rancho Merlita! Enjoy the flowers, gentle warmth, and our Spring offerings. Hope to see you soon!
The ERM Family
**IMPORTANT NOTE: All of the plant medicine information is from personal experience and also the groundbreaking work of Sonoran Desert Herbalist and Teacher of Self-Reliance, Peter Bigfoot. Most of the quotes are from his book, “Useful Wild Western Plants.” You can find out more about him and his work, as well as classes he is offering at his website: http://www.reevismountain.org/