Sunday, September 6, 2015


"Nobody sees a flower
- really --
it is so small
-- we haven't time --
and to see takes time
like to have a friend
takes time."
-- Georgia O'Keefe --

The Colorado blue columbine, state flower of Colorado since 1899, is my personal favorite. When discovered by pioneer botanist Edwin James in 1820, it was an abundant wildflower, prolific between the elevations of 6000 and 12,000 feet. Misguided picking by admirers necessitated the first state law to protect columbines in 1925, led by the efforts of the Colorado Mountain Club. Colorado's Recreation Land Preservation Act of 1971 provides for a fine up to $500 for those who "...willfully cut down, break, or otherwise destroy any living tree, shubbery, wild flowers, or natural flora...." This photo was taken just west of the summit of (appropriately) Columbine Pass in the Weminuche Wilderness.

These aspen (or showy) daisies were found on the rim on the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. It is thought that the translation of its Greek name ("soon becoming old") refers to the fact that the narrow rays wilt almost at once after the flower is picked.

The tall one-sided penstemon, often over a foot high, was brewed by Native Americans into a wide variety of medical concoctions, supposedly good for numerous ailments. Penstemon refers to the presence of five stamens, four of which are pollen producers. The photo was taken at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Akin to garden iriises, the western blue flag or wild iris possesses a horrible taste and thus is avoided by grazing livestock. This is fortunate since it is toxic. Native Americans supposedly made a deadly arrow poison from this plant. Pioneer botanist Thomas Nuttall discovered it in the 1830s along the Misouri River in Montana or the Dakotas. This photo was taken in the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico.

The poisonous monkshood is a relative of the larkspur. The poison, called aconite, is used today as a heart sedative and was once used to reduce fever. The European species is called wolfbane and is reputed to have been used around one's neck to ward off werewolves. This was photographed in the Weminuche Wilderness.

This wild rose plant was photographed on Isle Royale National Park. About 100 species of wild rose are known to botanists because they hybridize so easily.

Narrow leaf paintbrush, which is the state flower of Wyoming, has green flower pedals which protrude from the red bracts, just the opposite of the normal color scheme of petals and leaves. This was photographed in the Weminuche Wilderness.

This example of scarlet paintbrush was photographed in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. It differs from its cousin above by blooming on an unbranched stem.

The wood lily or Rocky Mountain lily is a rare flower, but one of the most spectacular single blossoms among the wildflowers. Their rarity is due in part to their beauty which leads to picking by worshippers, which precludes reproduction because when picked, even its bulb dies. Also, their habitat -- open and wet mountain meadows -- is man's favorite choice for human housing and livestock grazing. This blossom was photographed on Isle Royale National Park in 1993.

This prickly pear cactus in bloom was photographed in Illinois! The Sand Ridge State Forest is a remnant of a prehistoric incursion of the Sonoran Desert into the Midwest and abounds with flora and fauna of the desert.

Ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) and  Hawksbeard or Devil's Paintbrush (species of Crepis.)  This photo was taken on Isle Royale National Park.

This photo was taken at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado.
Aspen sunflower (Helianthella quinquenervis)

This was photographed in the Big Blue Wilderness in Colorado.
white flower = a species of Valerian (or Z. H. says perhaps in carrot family?)
purple flower = Mallow family? ( or Z. H. says perhaps paintbrush, a color variation of rosy paintbrush?)

This was photographed in the Smokies. A species of Eupatorium, E. fistulosum -- Hollow-stem Joe-pye Weed  (identification courtesy of Milo Pyne, an ecologist with The Nature Conservancy)

This was photographed in the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado.
yellow flower = Alpine Avens (Acomastylis rossii)
pink flower = Rosy Paintbrush (Castilleja rhexifolia)? 

(The yellow butterfly was the original subject of this photo.)
yellow flower = Alpine Avens
yellow/white flower = Hymenoxys acaulis (or Z. H. says perhaps Erigeron)

Wildflower textual information from Rocky Mountain Wildflowers by Kent and Donna Dannen, Tundra Publications, 1981.

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