If ever the word “spangle” is to be applied to a western wildflower, surely this is the one.
Multitudes of little white flowers on wiry stems spangle the grasslands (or, if you prefer the noun form of the word, that works too: little white flowers like spangles in the grass).
For many years I thought the petals had tiny lavender-pink dots on them, but but those are anthers, the pollen-bearing portion of the stamen. If you look close at the upper photo, you can see them hovering over the petals’ surface. Looking at the flowers through a macro lens helps, too, which is another benefit of this project.
Like the Harebells I featured last week, Sugarbowl are turning up in clusters, an unexpected abundance. I appreciated that this particular plant also shows off the seedheads, which are a delight in themselves.
The flowers make me smile whenever I see them, whether they’re in a bunch or just one.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when I discovered, in researching this post, that the common names “Skyrocket” and “Gilia” refer to more than one species of plant. The genus name (as I’ve recently learned) is Ipomopsis. You’ll often see populations of Scarlet Gilia as red spikes jutting out of the bare dirt of road cuts in the southwest; those are likely I. aggregata.
With help from Susan Tweit, the Southwest Colorado Wildflowers website and the Colorado Native Plant Society Group on Facebook, I’m reasonably confident that the flowers pictured here are Ipomopsis tenuituba, or Slender-Tube Skyrocket, which tends to occur at higher elevations. The pollen-bearing anthers are tucked inside the tubes, which are long and slightly curved.
A few years ago, I found a white-flowered example of this plant growing along the road where I regularly walk. It was destined to be plowed out by the grader, so I gathered the seeds and put them someplace safe…the location of which I forgot.
I’ve been kicking myself for years for misplacing those seeds, but I think I finally figured out where I put them. The plant pictured above is blooming behind the retaining wall on the east side of the house, where we can admire the flowers from the kitchen window.
They’re typically single pompoms of yellow popping up around the grasslands, but the plants sometimes branch and find more elaborate forms. The one above is on a rich patch along the pasture fenceline, next to one of Jake’s poop piles (he’s very organized, likes to keep his sh*t together).
Western wallflower is the workhorse of early wildflowers: they always turn up. They might not grow tall when the weather’s been dry, but they grow. Then, as the petals begin to drop, the long spikes of the seed pods take shape.
Although it looks softly inviting, this plant’s covering of fine hairs is more bristle than fuzz. If you yield to the temptation to touch one, you’ll only do so once, at least on purpose: the experience is closer to stinging nettle than velvety lamb’s ear.
For that reason, I’m not keen on them growing in my little yard area or along paths where I walk a lot, but I have a friendly tolerance of them elsewhere. There are obviously plenty of pollinators who know how to handle a close approach.
Off the wildflower topic, I’ve seen these very exotic looking black moths occasionally, and this photo provoked me to try to figure out what they’re called. It’s a Veined Ctenucha Moth.
As charming as this flowering shrub is, you’d think I would have learned its name long ago, but I didn’t look it up until last year. “Ninebark” comes from the belief that the shrub’s shredding bark consisted of nine layers.
Near the house, they are low bushes under the pines, but I’ve seen them in the neighborhood as enormous mounds, bright green in summer, but looking more like a snowball cannon about to go off in a year like this.
This was a rare treat; I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this cool-looking little plant before.
The plants are parasitic, and this one is most likely dependent on the fringed sage (Artemisia frigida) you see growing at the base (silvery green foliage around the pink stems).
For scale, the cluster was no more than four inches high.
There’s some ambiguity on the name (yes, I know, that could be the title for this entire series), but I’m leaning toward clustered rather than single-flowe broomrape. Evidently one way to determine which species is which is to uproot the plant and compare the relative length of the underground tuber compared to the stem. Even if I could find this plant again, I’d never t dig it up, so I’m calling it clustered broomrape and enjoying the heck out of the fact that I came across it.
My field guide gives the common name as “Common Harebell,” but in my opinion there’s nothing common about them (okay, other than that they’re common (as in frequently seen, particularly this summer)).
Pretty, pretty, pretty:
And this year, more than I’ve ever noticed before, growing in dense clumps…
…with more to come.
I tend to think of this bunchy upright succulent as a loner, but right now I’m seeing crops of stonecrops:
Another one of those large flower groups that prove troublesome to those of us who haven’t learned to key out plants.
These are some of the first flowers we see in spring, but like so many of the native plants, they know how to take advantage of precipitation; our May and early June snowstorms encouraged them to keep blooming.
All pictured here have dime-sized flowers, and in places they are flowering with great enthusiasm.
The most common fleabane up here enthusiastically throws runners across bare ground.
The plants above are exercising their spreading habit near one of the gates in the horse pasture, where we’ve been mowing to deter a mixed population of kochia and lamb’s quarters. We use the string trimmer to selectively hit the weeds when they’re six or seven inches tall, leaving other plants to set seed. Both kochia and lamb’s quarters are annuals, so pulling them would be the ideal method, and I do that too, but since this is in an area we see on a daily basis, we can hammer the whole population in a few minutes as needed, minimizing how much these weeds re-seed. They are steadily losing ground as the native plants and grasses move back in: what was a sacrifice zone in the pasture is recovering. Those little runners are very talented at catching grass seed, which helps the re-vegetation process, too.
A different species forms discrete clumps: