Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Colorado favorites

As I go through my thousands of old slides, I keep discovering forgotten treasures.  This time, I bring you a batch taken on a family vacation to Colorado twenty years ago.  Most of these are from the high semi-desert scrublands, edges of the great plains, or the lower foothills of the state, and represent an informal transect from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Recall that we are already almost a mile high as we approach the actual mountains.  Surprisingly, only a few species were found in the high alpine meadows during this August trip.
The bright red flowers of Sphaeralcea coccinea (Hibiscus
Family, Malvaceae) have brush-like masses of stamens
that dust the heads of the hummingbirds as they
probe for nectar within the center of the flower.

Summer is a great time for wildflowers in Colorado, even in the lower, drier areas, as there is summer rain there.  In California at this time the wildflower show has already retreated to the high alpine meadows. So we see many amazing things, including bright red blossoms of
Sphaeralcea and
Ipomopsis, indicating that many hummingbirds must be passing through the state.
The Garden of the Gods, near Colorado Springs, provides some of the most striking scenery in Colorado, and a good place for wildflowers.

One of the common yellow evening
primroses, probably Oenothera villosa

Commonly known as "Butter and Eggs,"
Linaria vulgaris is a common, though
exotic, relative of the Snapdragon.
The red flowers of Ipomopsis aggregata, in the Phlox Family (Polemoniaceae) hang downward in order to exclude nectar feeders other than the agile hummingbirds.
Liatris punctata (Asteraceae).

Ratibida columnifera (Asteraceae).

Wild sunflowers, Helianthus annuus, occupy an open roadside. Note that the light is coming from behind the flowers, dispelling the myth that sunflowers turn during the day to follow the sun.

Geranium caespitosum provides a daintier decoration for open

Mentzelia multiflora (Loasaceae) has some of the largest
individual flowers in the southwest, looking almost like a small

Some common western species of the genus Verbena, called Blue Vervain,
have thick, spike-like inflorescences.  This appears to be V. stricta or V. hastata,
callled Blue Vervain, is common in the prairies.
Erysimum asperum is a member of the
mustard family, Brassicaceae.

Harebells, Campanula rotundifolia,
are a common sight in many parts of the

Verbena bracteata 

Geranium richardsonii
Thlaspi montanum, called Candytuft or Mountain
Pennycress, is in the mustard family (Brassicaceae)
The oxeye daisy, Leucanthemum

Gentianopsis thermalis provides an elegant surprise in the
"lowlands" of Colorado.

The flowers of Pedicularis groenlandica (Orobanchaceae) have
always reminded me of little elephant heads.

Pedicularis racemosa has quite a different appearance from
it's elephant-headed cousin.

Convolvulus arvensis is a common member of the Morning
Glory Family.
Verbascum thapus flowers close-up.

Verbascum thapus, the common mullein, is found in the lower
mountain areas.




Where the trees end, the alpine meadows begin. Flowers are mostly
whites and yellows here late in the season.
Cerastium beeringianum forms patches throughout the

Castilleja occidentalis makes itself home in
the high alpine meadows of the western

Geum rossii (Rosaceae) provides bright splashes
of yellow in the meadow.
Sedum debile  (Crassulaceae) fills in spaces between large boulders.
Sedum debile flowers close-up. This species has rounded
leaves, as opposed to the pointed leaves of S. lanceolatum,
which is also found in the Rocky Mountains.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oregon Excursion

At the Meadows Ski Area on the slope of  Mt. Hood.
In the summer of 2000, I attended a botanical conference in Portland, Oregon,and as always, took the opportunity to explore for wildflowers in the vicinity.  Though I had been in the northwestern section of Washington State many times, I found much that was new in the somewhat more southerly state of Oregon.

Wildflower gardens abound on the slopes
of Mt. Hood.  Here we have purple-blue
lupines, asters and other flowers.
I first headed to the Mt. Hood area.  The volcanic
mountain is a slightly downsized version of Mt. Rainier to the north.  At 11,250 feet, it is a little more than 3000 feet shorter than Rainier, though the wildflowers are all well below either of these snow-capped peaks.  The particular area accessed by road near the Meadows Ski Area seems to be drier and warmer than Paradise on Mt. Rainier, and in fact, at 4500- 5000 feet, a bit lower than Paradise.  Wildflowers were abundant and diverse however in the many open meadows.

Mimulus lewisii, the pink monkey flower,
is common along streams.

The Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja angustifolia is also common.

Calochortus subalpinus is common in meadows.
Another monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus,
is also found along streams.

Lotus corniculatus is a common member of the legume family, Fabaceae.

The second phase of the excursion was along the Pacific Coast, where the coastal bluffs and forests have their own set of wildflowers.  The highlight of the coast was a visit to the small Darlingtonia State Natural Site, dedicated to the preservation of the "Cobra Lily," actually a carnivorous pitcher plant, Darlingtonia californica.  Having already sought out the carnivorous plants of Florida, I was eager to see this one in person.

Phlox diffusa (Polemoniaceae)
As usual, I have attempted to identify all the plants as accurately as possible, but welcome corrections from experts or local wildflower enthusiasts.

A boardwalk leads past a population of the unusual pitcher plant, Darlingtonia californica,
("Cobra lily")

The carnivorous leaf traps of
Darlingtonia are covered by a snake-
like head. 
Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis, is
common along the coast.

Hypericum perforatum (Hypericaceae)
Oenothera biennis (Onagraceae) is an
attractive Evening Primrose found along
the coast.

Myosotis scorpioides, in the Boraginaceae,
is common in the  coastal forest.

A grove of white birch trees provides a
contrasting color pattern in a forest
near Saddle Mountain.

Wild blueberries are to be found throughout the woods of
coastal Oregon.

A colony of Sedum oregonum hangs
from the rocks on a road cut.
The red huckleberry, Vaccinium
, provides a tasty treat to birds
and other wildlife.
Anaphalis margaritacea (Asteraceae)

Fuchsias are native to the cool mountain
forests of Central and South America,
but adapt readily to the cool, damp
climate of the Oregon coastline.
A thallose liverwort is almost unnoticed on the ground.