16 julio, 2024

Flora and fauna of Chihuahua: outstanding species

The Flora and fauna of Chihuahua It corresponds mainly to arid and semi-arid areas of southern North America. The state of Chihuahua is the largest in Mexico with an extension of 247,087 km2located northwest of the country, on the border with New Mexico and Texas of the US.

The predominant ecosystems in this territory are the desert, grasslands, scrublands, tropical deciduous forest, and oak and pine forests. These ecosystems develop both in plains and in mountainous areas that constitute the relief of Chihuahua.

The dominant climates are steppe and desert, with low rainfall, hovering between 200 and 400 mm annual average. While the average temperatures vary between 16 and 20 ºC.

Chihuahuan Flora

Agave noa (Agave victoriae-reginae)

It is a succulent plant about 30 cm tall with very compact, erect, hard, thick, rosette leaves ending in a thorn. The leaves are light green with white margins and the flowers are borne on a 1 m tall central stem.

They are creamy orange in color, and only occur once in the life of the plant, which then dies. This species is endemic to northern Mexico and is threatened with extinction, since it is extracted to be used as an ornamental.

Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

It is a tree up to 37 m tall, with a light-barked trunk up to 1.4 m in diameter. Its leaves are heart-shaped and green, being a deciduous plant, that is, its leaves fall in autumn.

It is propagated both by seeds and by vegetative shoots from its roots. So several nearby trees can be clones of the same individual.

Cypress (Cupressus arizonica)

It is a coniferous tree of the Cupressaceae family, which can reach up to 25 m in height with a smooth trunk of 50 cm in diameter that is found in small patches of scattered forests. Its characteristic conical crown has gray-green or bluish-green scale-like leaves, and its reproductive structures are woody cones or strobili.

Oak (Quercus chihuahuensis)

In Chihuahua there are about 14 species of oaks (quercus), which are hard-leaved trees typical of temperate climates with a marked dry period. The Chihuahua oak, like the other species of quercus of the region, grows in mixed forests of oak and pine.

This tree reaches up to 10 m in height and has simple green leaves on the upper side and yellowish gray below.

Governor (Larrea tridentata)

This is a typical desert evergreen shrub to 1-4 m tall with dark green leaves. These leaves contain resins that give the plant a bitter taste and characteristic smell.

It reproduces both by seeds and vegetatively, in such a way that it produces clones that form circular colonies. Over time the older central part dies off and the periphery continues to grow, forming an increasingly separate ring.

In this case, the entire shrub ring is the same individual that can reach up to more than 11,000 years of age.

Izote or yucca (Yucca spp.)

In Chihuahua, izote species abound, such as yucca baccata, yucca desmetiana. yucca elata and yucca grandiflora, among other. These are plants of the Asparagaceae family that are characterized by their stems that have rosette leaves at their ends.

They are succulent plants with long, erect leaves like swords, with a pointed apex, well adapted to arid conditions.

Sweet mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)

This plant is a tall shrub or short tree, reaching a height of no more than 9 m. It has stems with cracked dark bark and arching branches with spines up to 4 cm long at the bases of the compound leaves.

It has small yellowish-green flowers in clusters that give rise to long, narrow legumes, being common in wooded grasslands and semi-arid scrublands.

Razors (Bouteloua spp.)

They are species of grasses from 0.5 to 1 m in height, typical of medium-sized open grasslands and predominantly wooded grasslands in many areas of Chihuahua. There are various species such as hirsute bouteloua, Bouteloua breviseta and Bouteloua eriopodaamong other.

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

This shrub of the fouqueriácea family is characterized by having a series of straight, apparently dry stems, up to 10 m high. These stems are succulent and spiny, leafless for most of the year, and when the rains come in they produce small oval leaves and red flowers at the ends.

Mexican Stone Pine or Mexican Piñon (Pinus cembroides)

It is a medium-sized pine, 8-20 m tall with a cracked, dark brown trunk about 50 cm in diameter. It presents the characteristic needle-shaped pine leaves, in this case in pairs or trios, yellowish green in color.

The reproductive structures are yellowish-brown globose cones when mature, producing edible seeds or pine nuts. These seeds serve as food for wildlife and humans.

Chihuahuan wildlife

pronghorn or pronghorn (antilocapra americana)

It is similar to an antelope although it does not really belong to this group, but to a family of which only this representative species remains. It is an animal about 1.5 m long and about 1 m high.

Its coat is light brown to gray, with a characteristic white color on the back. It has a pair of short-branched, laterally flattened horns, which in males can reach 43 cm in length.

Bison (Bison bison)

In the past, the American bison inhabited the prairies throughout North America, being abundant in Chihuahua and throughout northern Mexico. Unfortunately, it is a species that was on the brink of extinction due to excessive hunting and actually disappeared from Mexico.

However, in 2005 this species was reintroduced in Chihuahua, thanks to the donation of 23 specimens from the United States of America. This occurred in the natural protected area El Uno or Janos Biosphere Reserve, located in the north of the state and in 2018 there was already a population of 184 specimens.

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis)

It is a ram or mouflon of the bovidae family, whose males have large horns that are first curved backwards and then pointing forwards. These horns can weigh up to 14 kg, being an animal that weighs 143 kg.

The bighorn sheep lives from Canada to Mexico, where the Mexican subspecies lives in the mountains and rocky areas of the northwest.

Dwarf owl or dwarf owl (Micrathene whitneyi)

It is a small owl, only 15 cm tall and with a 15 cm wingspan, which inhabits the scrub and forests of Chihuahua and feeds on insects. It is a migratory bird, spending the winter in Mexican lands and moving to Arizona and New Mexico (USA) for spring and summer.

Coyote (Canis latrans)

This canid inhabits large areas of North America and Central America, with a body length of 90 cm and a height of 60 cm, showing a gray to light brown coat, with black areas. It is a hunter, but given its proximity to human-inhabited areas, it has adapted to eating garbage and hunting domestic animals.

Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

In the past this subspecies was very abundant in Mexico, however today it is practically extinct, although efforts are being made to increase its population. It is the smallest wolf subspecies, reaching about 1.35 m in length and 0.80 m in height, light brown to gray in color with black areas on the back, chest and tail.

Black bear (Ursus americanus)

This omnivorous mammal (eats both meat and vegetables) lives in oak and pine forests. In Chihuahua the subspecies is common Ursus americanus amblycepsreaching the males up to 280 kg in weight and almost 3 m in length.

Its fur is generally black, but it can be gray or brown, and its claws are black, in the form of 50 mm long hooks.

Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)

This species of prairie dog differs from others in that it does not hibernate (does not go into winter rest). It inhabits the grasslands forming large colonies that dig interconnected burrow and tunnel systems.

Its body is light brown with the end of the black tail, a little over 40 cm long plus 10 cm of tail, and it feeds on seeds and roots.

Cougar (Puma concolor)

After the jaguar, this is the largest cat in America, inhabiting from the extreme north to the extreme south of the continent. Despite its large size, this feline does not roar, it only purrs like domestic cats.

Its color is uniform, and can be light brown or sand. It inhabits both oak and pine forests, as well as in the scrub and desert areas of Chihuahua.

Rattlesnake (Crotalus spp.)

In the state of Chihuhua there are 12 species of rattlesnakes. Among them the diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), the gray rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus) and the black-tailed rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus).

They are poisonous snakes whose venom is hemotoxic and in some species is deadly to humans, such as the diamondback rattlesnake. In other cases, such as the black-tailed rattlesnake, its venom does not kill.

The characteristic of these snakes is their rattle at the end of the tail, which consists of remains of hardened skin shedding. These remains form this structure that when shaken sounds like rattles.

References

Estrada-Castillón, E. and Villarreal-Quintanilla, JA (2010). Flora of the center of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Mexican Botanical Act.
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Government of Mexico. Janos Biosphere Reserve. Taken from: gob.mx
Tanner, W.W. (1985). Snakes of western Chihuahua. The Great Basin Naturalist.

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