Houstonia rubra 

Red Bluet/Desert Innocence - Houstonia rubra 
Hillside east of Hillsboro
New Mexico, USA

Innocent is not a word that I generally associate with the desert.  I can prolong this unenlightened effort I suppose and note that definitions of innocent include "lacking or deprived of something" or that the word has its roots in nocēre, the present participle of the word meaning "to harm".  But nay, let us end this agony and get down to business.  The people who named this flower Desert Innocence have cats named "honey" and dogs named "sweetie pie".  Let us stick to the more accepted name of Red Bluet.  Of course Bluet most likely had its origins from “blue”, so we have red-blue for the name.  Oh damn, I am so innocent.

The Red Bluet, Houstonia rubra, is found in parts of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and the states in northern and central Mexico.  It is generally found at elevations between 4,200 and 8,200 feet.  We found the flowers pictured here on hillsides and washes about two miles east of Hillsboro.

In identifying this species I considered H. acerosa var. polypremoides (Narrowleaf Bluet), H. humifusa (Matted Bluet), and H. wrightii (Pygmy Bluet or Wright's Bluet).  It appears to me that the species we are most likely to encounter in the foothills is the Red Bluet and that higher in the range we may encounter Wright's Bluet.

This species has been used for a variety of medicinal applications.  As an infusion it has been used for sore eyes and stomach issues and as a decoction for menstrual troubles.

This species was first described by Antonio José Cavanilles in 1799.  Cavanilles was a Spanish taxonomic botanist of significant import (he named over 100 plant genera, for instance).  Like many of the scientists who described new species during this era, he did so from specimens that were collected in far flung areas of the world - he never left Europe.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023