Loose Ends: Wildflowers

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MEEKER | The first Colorado wildflower I fell in love with was the columbine. Often during long tedious hikes, I would catch a glimpse of a bunch of them taking a little shade underneath the soaring, slim aspen trees and change my outlook. My backpacking trips in the Flat Tops, West Elks, and Mt. Zirkel included more sightings of flowers than I had on my grandparents’ weekly walk in a small wooded preserve near our town.

Hikers are now reporting that the high country is in bloom and say that this year’s crop is stunning. Although our trips started in the high country in July after most of the snow had melted, our late spring trips to groves of trees in the national forests whetted my interest in a wide variety of western wildflowers.

I spotted clusters of fireweed, indian paintbrush, arnica, harebells, and yarrow the more I hiked, as well. I soon discovered the delicate glacier lily blooming in early July. The teardrop- shaped petals make them harder to see, but even the sight of one makes the day’s flower viewing complete.

What is it about the late spring flowers that cause so many people to stop and point them out with astonishment, then ask everyone walking by if they know the proper name?

“Oh look, there’s a wonderful purplely bluish one.”

“No, not that small cornflower blue. It is darker, and really purple. Wait, here is another one but it has more lavender, don’t you think?”

The couple trying to identify flowers spent quite a while peering out into the small meadow.

I talked with a gentleman on this trail earlier in my walk, who took a quick picture and gave me its name in a few seconds. He had an app on his smartphone.

“Prairie spiderwort,” I told them, after explaining I had been trying to figure it out. They looked crestfallen. It was as if putting such a plain name on such an elegant plant dampened their enthusiasm a bit.

I am not sure what magical sounding moniker would have satisfied them. I was tempted to make something up until I noticed the couple move on to another clump of purple petals and tell two more walkers the name of the plant with great authority. It made their day.

By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times