This picturesque meadow of penstemons is located on the Gothic Road in Crested Butte and was still in full bloom in August when this photo was taken. The heavy rainfall has made for a longer bloom season for many flowers.
Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner
Epic rainfall has made this 2014 wildflower season a bonanza. Survey a high meadow and you’ll quickly observe the floral landscape is nearly as prolific as in late spring. Climatologists from the University of Maryland believe it will stay that way until late September. Take a gander yourself; the Colorado canvas is still painted in masterstrokes of amethyst, lavender, periwinkle, fuchsia, and purple.
There is always the ubiquitous penstemon. Normally gone by mid-summer, many varieties of the penstemon family’s 273 variations still hug hillsides at higher altitudes, nestled among stands of pine. The western slope of Cottonwood Pass and Carpenter’s Peak in Roxborough Park was still populated with deep purple varieties as recently as late August.
A local favorite, quite vigorous now, is the horsemint. This pinkish floral explosion of petals is found in clumps of 10 or 20 blooms per plant. Splendid poms can be seen in full riot on Spruce Mountain hillsides in Larkspur, prospering best on north-facing slopes. Purple daisies enjoy the same seasonal and soil conditions as horsemint and often they crowd each other or intermingle.
While columbines are gone and silvery lupines wane, gayfeathers are in their season. Frilly and fanciful, their common name captures their essence well. Bright alpine fireweed is equally brash and equally bright now but found in sunnier areas. Petite bellflowers ring silently almost everywhere, happy in both shade and sun.
Other indigenous wildflowers are not to be overlooked. When growing close by, they complement by contrast and brilliance. My “off-color” favorites are Indian paintbrush, red and rare white fairy trumpets, and red-eyed daisies (gaillardia). When all mingle together in fields of aromatic sage set against a mountain backdrop, Heaven itself cannot be far away.
Our colorful friends won’t tarry forever. Consider your own “Sound of Music” hike in Douglas County’s vast open spaces. With any luck there are several weeks to capture the beauty with your senses or camera lenses.