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?
Unlike most other birds, which have three front toes and one back toe, the roadrunner has two front and two back toes, allowing it to run down its prey. Look for its distinct X-shaped tracks on the white sands.