Spermolepis organensis

Organ Mountain scaleseed

Meg G. Freyermuth



“Nobody knows what life is.”


On clear winter nights, she would stare at Orion’s sword, and as her spine tingled and her brain turned to fuzz, it felt as if the feathered leaves of a Spermolepis species were stuck inside her skull. Soft, like the down of the scaled quails she stirred out from under their mesquite burrows during her afternoon quests for flowers, or the faint gray breast of the Loggerhead shrike that watched her from a soaptree yucca as the sun set and Lehmann’s lovegrass blew in the wind. “It looks like someone losing their hair,” her father once said about the invasive grass that none of us love, with its never-ending sprawl; she wished this place could really lose this grass, like the holotype of Spermolepis organensis that she discovered was missing…


We base our botanic knowledge off of collections, physical recollections of what we’ve seen in the places we’ve been. If a collection does not exist, the existence of the plant may come into question. A tiny, random relative of the carrot growing occasionally (or not) on the northeastern bajada of the Organ Mountains is quite a big deal—a reminder of our minuscule existence and fleeting knowledge, a reflection of our disappearing, fragile collections and our short lives. We’re like the seeds of ephemeral plants, sprouting and branching into patterns of starbursts, constellations like Orion suspended on peduncles: little specks spiraling out of control, a vanitas of dusty collections.


“I follow the stars / I carry my scars”1


She felt stuck in a web of random chaos. What she thought might be destiny was a thick mush, and she was a worm trying to work through it. Coming full circle only means starting the revolution over, rewriting and retelling a messy story of an inconspicuous plant that some guys found and some other guy named. But this one is lost and NOT found: the more she uncovered, the less she knew. We’ll never know the simple homeland like we’ll never know the Organ Mountains’ scaleseeds. Fruitless searches are common in the desert.


In wet years, Spermolepis organensis should come up in forgotten places. A magnifying glass is needed to determine S. organensis; with its fruits shining like the orbs lighting Orion’s sword, she imagined these baubles threaded together by thin branches to be so smooth she might see her face in them, as if she was staring greedily into Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored balls. Here, we can all be Narcissus getting lost in ourselves infinitely in those lonely places only we can inhabit when the crisp winds blow in winter rains, coming just for little Spermolepis organensis stuck in the disturbed quicksand, playing scales over a grazed land that nobody cares about.


She kneeled on the wild, fuzzy bajada as the wind blew her hair. She didn’t know anything except that she felt empty, freer than a feather on a bird in passage.


“Your stories are yours alone.”




1 From the song “I Knew I Could Fly” by Our Native Daughters, 2019.




Meg G. Freyermuth is a visual artist, writer, musician, and volunteer, who lives and works in her hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Freyermuth grew up hiking and exploring the land that is now Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (OMDPNM) with her family. She was the first Artist-in-Residence (AiR) for the OMDPNM in September 2015, and is passionate about supporting the arts and natural environment of her community.