Jemez Mountain Herbarium Reaches Milestone

By Chick Keller

In 2005 I was given several boxes of professionally mounted and labeled plants that were collected in the Santa Fe National Forest by a student from University of Wyoming, which had been given to the Office of the Santa Fe National Forest. There were some 1,100 sheets — some 750 from the Jemez Mountains. In addition, I had my own informal herbarium at home. On advice from people at UNM herbarium, I purchased a herbarium cabinet and a binocular, zoom microscope. The Native Plant Society of NM reimbursed me for the cost of the cabinet ($1,000) and people in town for the microscope (~$2,000) — the major part donated by The Animal Clinic in Los Alamos. The Forest Service also included some herbarium equipment. LANL was closing down its 15-year effort to collect plants and sent me three more cabinets full of plants as well as a wealth of herbarium paper supplies — folders, mounting sheets, and more. PEEC paid for a set of flower identification books and I added my own. And so, the Jemez Mountain Herbarium was formed.
At the time, there were about 650 species of plants known in Los Alamos County. I asked Dorothy Hoard how many she thought were in the county. She replied with the optimistic number of 1,000. I thought not. How could people have been collecting plants for so many years and missed 350 species and varieties? We bet a pizza.
Sadly Dorothy is gone, but this summer we indeed surpassed the 1,000 mark!
This was the work of many people. Perhaps the most active were Terry Foxx, Craig Martin, and Roy Greiner, but there were some 15 or so others who have brought in plants that are now in the herbarium.
In addition to finding so many plants not previously known in Los Alamos County, we have been concentrating on the entire Jemez Mountain region — from San Ysidro to Ghost Ranch, Cuba to White Rock Canyon. This past year we published in a scientific botanical journal a list of 161 species previously not known for that area, seven of which had never before been seen in New Mexico! We have found a few more since then.
A herbarium is important to the knowledge of plants.  It is a repository of the real specimens that can be used for a variety of reasons — extending knowledge of the range of plants, writing plant identification books, such as the ones Terry and Craig are working on, helping beginners learn plants, and finally proving that indeed the plants named were correctly identified.
In addition, it is great fun — the search and discovery, recording their beauty (we have started including photographs), and helping others know and appreciate our natural surroundings.
Read more about Dorothy Hoard in the March 2014 edition of PEEC’s Nature Notes.

Valles Caldera Rim Trail

Valle San Antonio from the north rim. Redondo Peak on skyline at right. Valle Grande in far distance, left. Click photo for larger view.

By Dorothy Hoard, January 2014

The Valles Caldera is a volcano in the Jemez Mountains of north-central New Mexico. The caldera is about 15 miles long by 12 miles wide, with a rim about 75 miles around.

The Valles Caldera is the type locality for Resurgent Dome Calderas. It is where geologists studied and described the features that make up the structure.

The rim of the Valles Caldera is the ridgeline right above Los Alamos. Many people used to hike there before it became public land in 2000 and was closed to public access.

Each year, thousands of motorists pause along State Road 4 to view the Valle Grande, presuming that it is the entire caldera. It is not. The best way to comprehend the scope and structure is from the rim. Unfortunately, the resurgent dome, in this case Redondo Peak – second highest point in the Jemez Mountains, obstructs a sweeping view of the entire caldera. This fact necessitates a series of viewpoints around the rim and a trail connecting them.

About 60 percent of the rim is on the Santa Fe National Forest and open to the public. The remainder is on the Valles Caldera National Preserve and is closed to public access. Of interest to Los Alamos hikers is the closed section between Cerro Grande and Cañada Bonita behind the VCNP fence, which has many excellent viewpoints. The east rim and parts of the north and south rims were severely burned in the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. Dead sticks of trees are depressing, but the fire opened up the views. In the long term, when the snags fall and aspen groves cover the slopes, a rim trial will be a true asset.

Advocates hope to establish a trail around the caldera rim.

A hardy band of hikers completed a reconnaissance of the 75-mile rim in January 2014 and produced reports, trip reports, and proposals. To view the results of the rim recon, visit

Big Trees of Los Alamos County 2013

By Dorothy Hoard, July 2013

Measuring a big Douglas Fir.
Measuring a big Douglas Fir.

This is a sad list to compile. Beginning in 2005 an intrepid group of interested people located big trees in Los Alamos County, excluding Los Alamos National Laboratory lands. They found the biggest evergreens in Cañon de Valle and at Cañada Bonita. The Las Conchas Fire in 2011 killed most of those trees and many of the second and third runners up. This list seems a pale shadow of our previous champions, but they are our trees to love. Read more Big Trees of Los Alamos County 2013

Big Trees of Los Alamos County 2011

By Dorothy Hoard, June 2011

Below is a list of the largest trees as of early 2011. Most of these trees were lost in the Las Conchas fire of June 2011.

Name Circ. Height Location Finder
Aspen 73″ 97′ Cañada Bonita Y. Delamater
Boxelder 56″ 52′ Entrance of Bandelier D. Hoard
Cottonwood, Narrowleaf 121″ 100′ Los Alamos Canyon Y. Delamater
Cottonwood, Rio Grande 123″ 86′ Ashley Pond (planted) D. Hoard
Fir, Douglas 163″ 164′ Cañon de Valle R. Greiner
Fir, White 124″ 147′ Cañon de Valle D. Hoard
Hackberry, Netleaf 52″ 24′ River Trail, White Rock Canyon B. Shankland
Hawthorn, Cerro 5″ 12′ Upper Crossing C. Keller
Juniper, Alligator 59″ 24′ Burnt Mesa Game Pit D. Hoard
Juniper, One-seed 101″ 11′ Anniversary Trail east D. Hoard
Juniper, Rocky Mountain 56″ 15′ Frijoles Canyon N rim Y. Delamater
Oak, Gambel’s 46″ 60′ Los Alamos Canyon C. Keller
Pine, Limber 81″ 23′ Kinnikinnick Park C. Keller
Pine, Piñon 56″ 37′ Canyon Rim east Trailhead L. Aicher
Pine, Ponderosa 148″ 114′ Cañon de Valle R. Greiner
Pine, Southwestern White 170″ 150′ Cañon de Valle Y. Delamater
Spruce, Colorado Blue
Spruce, Englemann 131″ 101′ Cañada Bonita R. Greiner