Here along the creek it may be hard to remember that you are in a high desert in New Mexico. During the summer, the leaves, shrubs, and vines form a thick, shady canopy. If the air is warm there will be many rich fragrances in the air. Some moisture-loving plants that flourish in the canyon include narrowleaf cottonwood, box elder, and canyon grape.
Unfortunately for hikers, the lush streamside environment is also ideal for two plants you’ll want to avoid: poison ivy and stinging nettle. The oils of poison ivy can cause a long-lasting itchy rash. Scratching can spread the irritating oil to other parts of the body, so skin areas that may have brushed against the leaves should be washed. Stinging nettle leaves have sharp hairs that inject tiny amounts of formic acid into the skin. This produces a stinging sensation. Luckily the effects of formic acid are short-lived and can be lessened by cold water.