Natural Environment Reference


A plant from the nightshade family. The leaves are cured by drying or fermenting and then smoked or chewed. Tobacco is a plant species indigenous to the Americas and, similar to other nightshade species, has a history of cultivation and use for ceremonial purposes among many indigenous cultures throughout the Americas.


The long, malleable branch of a tree.


A bird of prey or raptor that is found on all the continents on Earth except for Antarctica. From the family Falconidae, which includes true falcons (Falco) and aracaras, a genus of falcons that feed on dead flesh. Falcons are unique because their wings are specially shaped to fly at high speeds with feathered plumes on their legs known as flags, and a beak that develops with a tooth specifically designed to kill their prey. All other birds of prey kill with their talons, not their beaks. Falcons are one of the fastest animals in the world and when they dive steeply they can reach speeds of 200 mph.


Pith is the continuous rope-like strand of spongy core tissue comprising the stem structure of many vascular plants.


Butterflies are flying insects with vertically folding brightly colored wings. They are members of the insect order Lepidoptera, which also includes moths and are a part of the superfamily Papilionoidea. Their body structure includes three body parts: four wings, six jointed legs, and antennae. They develop in three stages of their lifecycle: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa), and finally, adult. Some butterflies can live for weeks and some years. They are very like moths, with a light dust covering their body; however, unlike moths, they hold their wings vertically on their backs and are active during the day. Their main diet consists of plant matter. Of the 14,000 species of butterflies in the world, 417 species live in the southwest. This is 40% of all species of butterflies that live in the U.S.

Butterflies for the Zuni can symbolize the coming of an everlasting summer and all the goodness that comes with it. The Zuni define the concept of beauty with the word “tso’ya” and the butterfly with its bright wings and varying flight path is an exemplification of this beauty.


Snow birds are medium-sized sparrows with rounded head, short, stout bill and a fairly long, conspicuous tail. They are also dark-eyed, neat, and flashy little sparrows that flit about forest floors of the western mountains and Canada, then flood the rest of North America for winter. They are easy to recognize by their crisp (though extremely variable) markings and the bright white tail feathers they habitually flash in flight.


Sparrow is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world. A small bird, it has a typical length of 16 cm (6.3 in) and a weight of 24–39.5 g (0.85–1.39 oz). Females and young birds are coloured pale brown and grey, and males have brighter black, white, and brown markings. One of about 25 species in the genus Passer, the house sparrow is native to most of Europe, the Mediterranean region, and much of Asia. Its intentional or accidental introductions to many regions, including parts of Australia, Africa, and the Americas, make it the most widely distributed wild bird.

The house sparrow is strongly associated with human habitations, and can live in urban or rural settings. Though found in widely varied habitats and climates, it typically avoids extensive woodlands, grasslands, and deserts away from human development. It feeds mostly on the seeds of grains and weeds, but it is an opportunistic eater and commonly eats insects and many other foods. Its predators include domestic cats, hawks, owls, and many other predatory birds and mammals.

piñon nuts

Piñon or pine nuts are in fact not nuts but the seeds of the piñon pine tree, which is native to and common in the American Southwest. These seeds are edible and for centuries have provided and still continue to provide a reliable and nutritious source of food to the Native peoples of the area. Piñon nuts are especially abundant in the mountainous areas of New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. As pine cones burst open in the fall, the seeds fall to the ground and can be collected to be roasted, ground, or stored for the winter.


A family of insects with over 20,000 species that relies entirely on pollen and nectar from flowers as its food source. As bees transport themselves from flower to flower, pollen clings to the feathered hairs of the bee and is deposited on other plants, allowing for cross-pollination. Male bees do not live very long, do not collect pollen, and do not assist with feeding and provisions for the young.

Use of neonicotinoids, insecticides carrying nicotene, is severely threatening all bees and causing the disruption of navigation patterns, reproductive ability and the destruction of natural habitat.


An eight-legged air-breathing anthropod that can inject venom or weave silk webs for ensnaring their prey. Spiders spin webs from glands on their abdomens. Female spiders are generally significantly larger than the males. With a strong sense of touch and sight, spiders are distinguished from other insects by having eight, rather than six legs, and a body segmented into two parts instead of three. There are over 40,000 species of spider, they live on every continent but Antarctica and all but one species are predatory meat-eaters. Spiders migrate via a technique called ballooning, where longs strands of silk carry them on the wind. Fascinating creatures, spiders have the capability of amputating their own legs, and shorter legs will grow in their place.


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