New Mexico Art Tells its History

History/Text: Plants & Animals

The wildlife and plant life in New Mexico is extremely diverse. The size, terrain and climate make it one of the more biologically diverse states in the nation. It is home to more than 4,500 different species of plants and animals. Several life zones converge in southwestern New Mexico, making this area one of the more biologically diverse of the southwestern states. The life zones in the state include the alpine tundra, coniferous forests, woodlands, grasslands, desert shrublands, and riparian areas.

Several plants are widely recognized as being symbolic to New Mexico, as they have been adopted by the state to represent its’ diverse flaura:
• The state grass is the blue gramma and was adopted in 1973
• The state flower is the yucca and was adopted in 1927
• The state tree is the pinon and was adopted in 1949
• The state vegetables are the chile and frijole, adopted in 1965.

New Mexico’s plant wildlife consist mainly of hearty, drought resistant trees and plants, including Juniper, Cottonwood, Douglas fir, Russian Olive, Blue Spruce, Ponderosa Pines, as well as lower growing plants such as Russian Thistle (Tumbleweed), Sagebrush, and Prickly Pear Cactus.

The wildlife population in New Mexico is as diverse as its land. In addition to elk, deer, and antelope, there are also white-tailed rabbits, gray squirrels, gray foxes and wolves, coyotes, mountain lion and bobcats. The New Mexico state animal is the black bear, which was adopted in 1963. Birds found in New Mexico include the American goldfinch and crow, chipping sparrow, cactus wren, hummingbird, great blue heron and the common raven. The roadrunner was adopted as the state bird in 1949. The cutthroat trout became the state fish in 1955, but because of river diversions and droughts, New Mexico has lost some of its fish species including the shovelnose sturgeon and the American Eel. Most of the land animal species that currently live in the Rio Grande valley were there before the arrival of Coronado in 1540. The Middle Rio Grande Valley supports at least three turtle species, nine lizard species and 13 snake species. There are over 60 species of mammals in the bosque, most of which are rodents. There are 11 species of bats in the valley, and well over 200 species of birds that use the valley as their home or mating grounds. Throughout the state there are more than 1100 species of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, invertebrates, and fish.

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