Photo by G.A. Cooper, courtesy of Smithsonian Institution
African Rue originated in North Africa and in the deserts of Asia, where it was used in the production of red dye. It was first recognized as an invasive species near Deming, New Mexico in the 1920s. The plant is highly toxic to both humans and animals if eaten, although dehulled seeds do produce an edible oil that is very similar to cottonseed oil.
African Rue can be recongized by its numerous, dense branching stems, which are bright green, smooth and fleshy, like its leaves. In the spring and summer, it produces small, five-petaled white flowers that grow at leaf axils along the stem. When crushed, the plant has a bitter, acrid taste and emits a very unpleasant odor.
Did You Know?
Not all sand dunes are alike. Dunes may take many forms, depending on the amount of sand available, the strength and direction of prevailing winds, and the type of vegetation in the area. Four types of dunes can be found in the white sands dunefield.