The Wonder of Desert Wetlands & The Healing Power of Plants

Beautiful, mature Cottonwood in the Wetlands.
Beautiful, mature Cottonwood in the Wetlands. | Source
Broad-leaved Cattails in the Wetlands
Broad-leaved Cattails in the Wetlands | Source
Bullfrog lounging in the mossy pond at the Wetlands.
Bullfrog lounging in the mossy pond at the Wetlands. | Source
Desert Grassland Whiptail Lizard along the trail in the Preserve.
Desert Grassland Whiptail Lizard along the trail in the Preserve. | Source
Dragonfly in the uplands portion of the Preserve.
Dragonfly in the uplands portion of the Preserve. | Source
Sign in Northern New Mexico.
Sign in Northern New Mexico. | Source

The Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve is under the stewardship of the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, and is located just south of the City Different.

This 35 acre Preserve is home to three distinct zones or plant communities: dry uplands, transitional, and riparian/wetland.

Wetlands in the desert are always a wonderful surprise. This wetland preserve was created by groundwater that naturally flows from the mountains in higher elevations, as well as from the Santa Fe River. Seeping to the surface through volcanic and other less permeable rock, and rising up through springs, this water supplies the large ponds at the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve.

This precious and bountiful water also attracts and supports a variety of plants and wildlife. Cienega means marsh in Spanish, and the community just south of Santa Fe is called La Cienega.

The Preserve is named in honor of a remarkable woman who came to New Mexico in 1889. Leonora Scott Muse Curtin was an avid naturalist who was fluent in Spanish. Through her keen interest, she developed a profound appreciation for the medicinal and nutritional value of plants and herbs.

Leonora Curtin was fascinated by and quite respectful of the Curanderas of the area who utilized plants to treat injuries, sicknesses and diseases.

According to a very engaging Docent, whom I met while visiting the Wetlands, Curtin became a serious student who spent much time in the mountain villages studying and researching the healing herbs of northern New Mexico. She wrote an extensively researched book entitled, Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande (see Amazon link below).

The natural curative properties and powers found in a wide variety of plants has intrigued me for a long time; and living in New Mexico has only heightened my respect and deepened my beliefs that Nature can provide all we need to live healthful, balanced lives. This has once again been powerfully re-affirmed as I daily experience the healing benefits of antioxidant rich healthy chocolate. For more information about The Healthy Chocolate, made from ethically sourced Rainforest cacao, and cold-processed to retain what Nature intends, you may visit

Respecting the land and walking gently upon it is good for our more fragile ecosystems and good for our souls. Observing and learning its lessons affords us many insights and some truly great gifts.

Centuries later, the sacred healing practices of the Curanderas are still based on a vibrant faith, extensive knowledge of plants, the traditional ways and personal experience.

Yerberas or herbalists and remedios or herbal remedies are still widely respected and used for their efficacy. Here in the high desert these traditions are still observed and many, many families and communities rely upon their local Curandera.

Just as the numerous wetlands of New Mexico continue to provide beauty, sanctuary and support for a profusion of plants and a plenitude of wildlife, through their year-round, life-giving moisture.

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Comments 2 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Wetlands are amazing ecosystems. As a former science and geography teacher, I have taught about wetlands for years and I never get tired of reading well-written material about them. Great job!

Linda Compton profile image

Linda Compton 4 years ago from The Land of Enchantment Author

Dear Billybuc, thanks for such kind & generous words! I am a real novice, yet my appreciation is deep and true. Cheers, Linda

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