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.