Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday ~ Plants of the Plains

In my last wildflower post, I promised I would share some flowers not growing along the edge of my driveway, and this week's flowers are about as far away from my driveway as you can get (as far away as I will get this summer anyway). While we were in Colorado, I was obsessive about photographing wildflowers, so I've got a lot of photos. I thought I'd spread them out over three Wednesdays, divided into three ecoregions: plains plants, desert plants, and mountain plants. This week, we'll begin with the plains. 

I brought two floras, a pocket key, and two pictorial guides with me, and bought a third pictorial guide white I was there, but I wasn't satisfied with any of them. The floras are more technical than my current state of botanical knowledge allows--and I didn't have time to go through the very detailed keys for all of the plants I saw--and the pictorial guides were too incomplete. Any botanists out there want to collaborate on a Newcomb's-style key for the Rocky Mountains? I also didn't take detailed enough photos or notes for after-the-fact IDs of many of the plants (I actually thought I'd remember those details!). The upshot is that I don't have positive IDs for several of the flowers--some I only know to genus, others merely family, but I want to share them anyway, because they're so pretty, and maybe someone out there can help me out.

We spent our first few days in a state park right outside of Denver, with a plains community--dryland plants blooming in a wet year. The first flower, below, is a pea whose name I haven't figured out.

Next, another mystery plant, a sweet little orange-yellow composite on droopy/rubbery stems that grew all over the place. 

And below, two more sunflowers I failed to ID (not off to a very good start, am I?). 

This one I can identify--Canada thistle (Cirsium ravens), an invasive, but pretty, weed. (Aster family).

Wild (or Western) blue flax (Linum lewisii) has delicate petals in the sweetest shade of blue (flax family).

I love poppies of all types and colors and these bright white prickly poppies (Argemone polyanthemos) are no exception. I could see them blooming along the highway all along our drive through eastern Colorado (poppy family)

Here's another flower I couldn't figure out for the life of me. It kind of reminds me of stitchwort, with deeply divided petals, but there appeared to be four petals per flower. Any ideas? Edited 7/23/15: An online search led me to hoary alyssum (Berteroa incana) for this guy, an introduced, possibly invasive plant. (Mustard family).

This plant is so cool--western, or prairie, spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis). It appears so exotic, with its three petals and long leaves like spider's legs (spiderwort family).

The prickly pear cacti (Opuntia polyacantha) were loving the recent deluge of rain that hit Denver this spring. It's so funny that I grew up in the suburbs of Denver and hardly ever saw cactus plants as a child (other than my mom's houseplants and the occasional front yard of an ahead-of-their-time xeriscaper), and yet this is the natural vegetation of this area--not Kentucky bluegrass. (Cactus family).

This is just one of several different species of lupine (Lupinus spp.) I saw while in Colorado. It could take a lifetime of study (or at least more than 11 days) to puzzle them all out. (Pea family).

This show-stopper is scarlet gillia, or skyrocket, or fairy trumpet (Ipomopsis aggregata). It's the biggest one I've ever seen (usually, I've seen tiny ones, truly sized for fairies, growing along mountain  trails). I wish the picture was better, but I was down a steep, sandy slope from this beauty. (Plox family).

These lovelies are called Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella). I love how the ray flowers are fringed. (Aster family).

Finally, another mystery plant, with odd, asymmetrical flowers. Any guesses?

Thanks for coming on Part I of my tour of Colorado wildflowers. Meanwhile, some new ones have come into bloom here in Maine. I'll photograph them this weekend and then maybe alternate weeks between Maine and Colorado flowers, or just sneak them in at the end of next week's desert flowers post.

What's blooming in your neck of the woods?


  1. Beautiful! Love the fairy trumpets... but then again, any flower that has "fairy" in the name has to make you smile. That flax is just lovely. Like you, I love a pretty blue flower. :-) Can't wait til next week. Thank you for sharing.

    What is blooming in our woods? Flox everywhere and the chicory flowers are out and gorgeous, My favorite kind of purple-ish blue!

    1. Oh, I love chicory! I went out early on my wedding morning, desperate to find blue flowers for my bouquet. What I came home with was an armload of chicory...little did I know then that it was a weed that grows on every roadside, but I loved that periwinkle blue then and I still do now!

  2. So lovely to see flowers from different parts of the US, thanks for sharing. We have chicory, St. John's wort, thistle, and queen anne's lace in bloom right now, although I am sure there is more but that is what pops into my head right now. The jewelweed is on the verge of blooming, and the goldenrod isn't far behind. Tomorrow I am taking the kids into the woods with my Newcomb guide so we can spend some time identifying wild flowers. Reece always enjoys it, I hope the girls will too.

    1. Sounds like what's blooming in your yard is the same as mine! Good luck flower-finding with the kids!


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