Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday ~ Mounain Flowers

As we drove from one desert (Mesa Verde) to another (Black Canyon), we had to travel up and then down again, passing through lust high mountain passes. As soon as we were into the montane area, I saw columbines blooming along the highway, and as soon as we came to a rest stop, I insisted we stop so I could photograph them. I had to do a little scrambling over the hillside to find a few specimens, and in the meantime, met a few other familiar blooms, including:

Chiming bells (Mertensia spp. Borage family) are always such a pretty sight.

Geyer onion (Allium geyeri, Amaryllis family) is a flower I've never noticed before; pink and sweet.

Have I mentioned how much I love Indian paintbrush (Castilleja spp. Broomrape family).

We saw quite a lot of arnica throughout the mountains. I didn't get a good enough picture of the leaves to positively ID it, but I think this one is heart-leaved (Arnica cordifolia, Aster family).

These big, leafy plants I always called "skunk cabbage," but it turns out they're Colorado false hellebore (Veratrum tenuipetalm, Lily family).

This is a flower I got to know well when I worked for the Forest Service one summer: Subalpine larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi Buttercup family). They can grow quite tall and the flowers are the prettiest shade of purple-blue.

And then finally, there they were, Colorado's state flower and really one of the loveliest blooms I can imagine, don't you think? Colorado columbine (Aquilegia coerulea, Buttercup family).

A few days later, after a little more desert, we spend a couple of days in Rocky Mountain National Park, with mountain flowers blooming everywhere we looked, including more columbines, but lots of others as well.

Pussytoes are amont my favorites that bloom around our house and these pink pussytoes (Antennaria rosea, Aster family) were a delight to meet.

Monkshood (Aconitum colubianum, Buttercup family)  is another favorite of mine, maybe because of the Brother Cadfael murder mystery imagery the name conjures. The flowers' color and the tall growth habit of the plant is very similar to larkspur.

There are somehwere around 18 or so species of lupine (Lupinus spp., Pea family) in the state. This one was a fun shade of candy pink and it was furry all over.

I just met twinflower (Linnea borealis, Honeysuckle family) on a birdwatching trip in northern(ish) Maine this summer, so it was fun to rediscover it in Colorado. They're tiny, sweet little things.
Somehow I missed the serviceberry bushes blooming at home this spring--here they're the first thing to bloom and are called "shadbush" or "shadblow" because they're reported to blossom at the time the shad run (I don't know anything about fish--including whether or not shad still exist in Maine--so I can't confirm this). I guess they're on a different schedule in Colorado (where they're called "sarvisberry"--at least in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness area), because there were a few still in bloom in Rocky...or I'm mistaken about the ID, but I think it's Amelanchier alnifolia (Rose family).

I always love to come across a fragrant wild rose (Rosa spp., maybe woodsii Rose family).

Now this is possibly the coolest flower ever: elephant heads or elephantella or little red elephants (Pedicularis groenlandica, broomrape family). Each little flower has two lips--the upper one narrow and elongated, like an elephant's trunk, and the lower one three-lobed, the outer lobes like the flaps of an elephant's ear.

These sweet little buds are mountain laurel (Kalmia micropphylla, Heath family).
Marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala).

This pretty white flower goes by the less-than-attractive name of sickle-topped louswort, or parrot's beak (Pedicularis racemosa alba,, Broomrape family).

I first met penstemon flowers when I spent a summer in Idaho in college, and it was love at first sight. These purple beauties are called dusky beard tongue (Penstemon whippleanus, Plantain family).

It's always a treat to find orchid growing in the wild. These white bog orchid (Platanthera spp., Orchid family) grew in several wet areas we hiked through.

Anyone know what these little guys are? I'm not having any luck with either my books or the web, and I don't have a really good close-up of the flowers.

I'm pretty sure this one is cutleaf blanketflower (Gaillardia pinnatifida, Aster family). A number of them were growing in the meadow near our campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park--a kind of dry/prairie like area between mountain ranges.

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium, Evening primrose family) also grew throughout the campground (these flowers love disturbed areas, such as after a fire, but also a new campground is fair game).

And finally, more Indian paintbrush (Castilleja spp. Broomrape family) for your viewing pleasure. There are around a dozen species in Colorado. Next time, I'll come prepared to puzzle them all out. But for now, I'll just admire their lovely forms.


  1. Is the one you couldn't find a saxifrage? None of the pictures look exactly right, but the leaves look possible.
    We saw a magenta Indian Paintbrush on Trail Ridge Road yesterday. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of it.

  2. Wow, what a great group of wild flowers. So much variety. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The colors are so vibrant... I'm just amazed at the diversity...


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