Snow on Grand Mesa, snow on the San Juans, snow on the West Elks, and again I wonder about how the high country plants survive the cold. In a quick check of the internet , I found that the snow forms a blanket for the plants.
I didn't think about it before, but there's air within the snow flakes and the air makes the snow into good insulation. Any warmth that the plant possesses helps it to survive and there may be warmer pockets of air beneath the snow. Some plants have a specialized leaf that covers the tips of the stem allowing the tip to push up through the snow. Fascinating information, and my mind turns to some of the plants that I've met above tree-line.
On a drive up Cottonwood Pass, we spotted a mossy area just above the road. Moss Campion! Allen scrambled up and collected a tiny portion. We parked in a turn-out. What delicate, little flowers! I had two blossoms, and then I realized that all I was seeing was the top of the blossom: there was a tube below the lobes, and the tube was longer than the quarter-inch-long lobes. And what I took to be moss was actually the short, stiff leaves of the plant itself so the center of the plant is protected and unaffected by the wind. Dried bits of old growth remain within the center as do grains of soil and other debris. This retains the scarce moisture.
And a few years later I marveled at Moss Campion in the San Juan alpine. But this time there was an entire ridge covered with the bright pink-purple and I understood more about this important colonizing, cushion plant of the alpine. In its first years, the plant forms a taproot and after five or so years it may grow to half-an-inch wide! At ten years, the first blossom may appear, and at twenty years there may be a profuse bloom. Given twenty-five years, the plant may be all of seven inches wide. And here was a whole ridge of Moss Campion. I stood thinking about our concept of time and how long this colony had existed.
Now the solstice has passed and the days will grow longer. Spring will come and summer too, so I can again see Moss Campion.blog comments powered by Disqus