HHC: Kwi I’ivakithak Mashath
March 16, 2018
Huhugam Heritage Center
The name for this month references the kwi (Mesquite tree) “leafing out” and is nature’s way of letting us know that spring has begun.
Many wildflowers are making an appearance throughout our community. Wildflower seeds can lay dormant for many years waiting for just the right amount of rainfall to germinate and grow.
Our Hekiu O’otham named everything in our present natural environment including wildflowers. In the Akimel O’otham plant classification system wild annuals have their own category and are descriptive of their appearance, or a characteristic of their behavior.
A few common wildflowers on the landscape are: thohavs – White Brittlebush, the O’otham root word thoha means ‘to become white’. This plant is mentioned in the O’otham Creation Epic as being a bed for the infant Ban (Coyote).
This is one of the first desert-plants to bloom in early spring, most notable along the I-10 corridor. Chu:v tha:thad, chu:v thadpo – Owl-clover, the O’otham name for this plant translates to ‘jackrabbit’s foot and jackrabbit’s foot-hair.
It can be found growing along roadsides or in shallows where rainwater collects. Chi:no hi:thpa – Desert Larkspur, the name for this plant translates to ‘Chinese queue’ due to the shape of this plant’s blue flowers resembling the oriental hairstyle.
This wildflower is usually found along the tho’othonk (foothills) Ho:hi e’es – Mexican Gold Poppy, the name for this wild annual is appropriate as ‘Mourning Dove’s plants or flowers’ since the ho:hi and many animals eat the seeds after the seed pods mature and burst open.
Thash ma:hag – Desert Lupine, the name for this plant thash ma:hag literally translates to ‘sun hands’ or ‘hands toward the sun’ and references the heliotropic [to follow the sun] qualities of this plant. The O’otham observed how the leaves of this plant resemble an open hand and how they follow the sun throughout the solar day.
S-oam e’es – Desert Marigold, this plant’s name translates to “yellow plants/flowers”, and are evident along most major roadways. Hevel hiosig – Parry’s Penstemons, the name of this plant translates to “Wind’s Flower”, and can be found along the foothills and sandy washes. Their stalks and showy flowers can be often observed blowing in the wind.
The wildflower seeds can be collected after the flowers mature and dry out. Some plants develop seed pods which can be collected before they burst and for other wildflowers the whole seed head can be collected. This month’s word match focuses on wildflowers, we encourage you to learn these words and use them in your everyday lives.
This is also a good time to observe wildflowers in our natural environment before they go dormant.