Something magical has been spreading across New Mexico this September… I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

 

treasure trove of gold coins

 

And I’m not the only one stunned by it. I go out each evening to walk and find, despite distressing world news, I’m smiling. And there’s many more people out there on my walks, and they’re smiling, too. It’s as if we can’t help ourselves — which, in fact, we can’t.

We are under the spell of gold — gold coins.

Coins made up of pistils, stamens, and soft jagged petals.
Coins scattered densely across seemingly every field, empty lot and fence row in Santa Fe County. Coins known in Latin circles as Verbesina encelioides.

 

I’m talking about Golden Crownbeard.

 

new mexico gold: golden crownbeard and purple aster flowers in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

Also known as the Cowpen Daisy.

 

New Mexico gold: cowpen daisies with a windmill in the background, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

…. or American Dogweed…

 

new mexico gold: yellow american dogweed flowers, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

…and Butter Daisy….

 

new mexico gold: goldweed flowers, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

…or South African Daisy….

… and Gold Weed….

… and Wild Sunflower.

 

new mexico gold: wild sunflowers grow in frenchy's field, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

To me, they’re known as the OMG-I-Can’t-Believe-How-Gorgeous-Those-Golden-Flowers-Are-What-The-Heck-Are-They-They-Are-So-Incredibly-Beautiful-I-ve-Never-Seen-Fields-of-Gold-Like-That-I-Just-Can’t-Get-Enough-Of-Them.

 

new mexico gold: golden crownbeard flowers growing in abundance, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

My neighborhood nursery Plants of the Southwest describes Golden Crownbeard on their website as “a showy, fast-growing annual with a profuse display of bright golden daisies in fall. Marvelous along fence rows, in meadows or at the back of a casual garden. Sow anytime. Zones 5-8.” I read elsewhere that the Cowpen Daisy is “excellent for reclamation and pollinator conservation mixtures. Provides nectar to bees and butterflies.

 

new mexico gold: wild sunflowers in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

According to the Native American Ethnobotany Database, the Hopis used an infusion of the plant as a treatment against the fever and itch of spider bites, while the Navajo used the dried leaves as a treatment for stomach ailments. Further, they brought good luck, for the seeds were nourishing, and the petals, if chewed, boded a successful hunt — and protected one from lightning.

 

new mexico gold: september evening in frenchy's field, an explosion of golden crownbeard, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

I don’t know if these flowers will do any of that, but I do know that THIS YEAR, at least, the cowpen daisy is capable of inducing endless smiles and cheerfulness. For the flower is positively E X P L O D I N G across New Mexico, including in the usually dusty dirt pit of field at the center of my neighborhood park.

 

new mexico gold: cowpen daisies silhouetted against a deep purple-grey september evening sky, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

Come late summer in New Mexico, we all welcome — with a mixture of joy and wistfulness — the first sunflowers that pop up along the roadsides, a sure sign that autumn is on its way. And so when I first glimpsed this gold color on the landscape, I assumed it must be the roadside sunflowers.

 

New Mexico roadside sunflowers in Ute Park, photo by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

 

But I’d never seen whole fields of sunflowers in New Mexico before. Upon closer inspection I realized these are not the roadside sunflowers I’ve known for decades. Though related — both are Asteraceae — of the aster or daisy family — these fields of gold are a different flower altogether. And I am utterly intoxicated by their magical properties of imbuing joy.

 

new mexico gold: cowpen daisies catching the last of the day's sun, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

As I write this, the gold of the cowpen daisies across the landscape is becoming burnished as their petals dry and fade, disintegrating into the earth….

… just as a different trove of gold coins begins to scatter in the mountains high above the fields ….

 

new mexico gold: aspens turning gold in the santa fe national forest, in santa fe, new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

and another, along the valley waterways….

 

new mexico gold: golden autumn cottonwoods along the rio grande river below pilar in new mexico photographed by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

swelling again the treasury of my imagination with golden autumn riches…

 

new mexico gold: ain drops and aspen leaves in the santa fe national forest, photo by new mexico artist dawn chandler

 

Ahhhhhh…… September in New Mexico….

 


 

All photos — except the top image of gold coins — by Dawn Chandler.

 

Read more about autumn in New Mexico here.

 


 

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Very Artfully Yours ~

Dawn