From our ’dobes to the top of Grand Mesa five life zones occur from about 5,000 feet elevation to 10,000 feet. Each zone can be characterized by specific vegetation.
My presentation at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center will center on these life zones. With every 1,000 feet elevation upward there is the temperature drop of about three degrees.
Therefore, each life zone has specific plants, birds and animals. But I found that including the bird and animal life resulted in too many pictures and too much information! So in my presentation I’ll deal only with vegetation. Native plants and flowers.
Although I devote a great deal of energy and time to the birds, especially to the sandhill cranes, my first love is botany (read native plants). It never ceases to amaze me that these plants survive, even flourish, without any human help! On our ’dobes there is little water, the soil is alkaline and saline, the summer temperatures are hot and the winter temperatures are cold. Yet the plants manage. This is the domain of cactus and salt brush.
Going up the Mesa from Delta we find pinyon-juniper woodlands, then stretches of Gamble oak. Next come our groves of beautiful aspen and then the “high county” of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. Of course, one may climb the Crag Crest Trail and find plants of the tundra or alpine. Sadly, that is now beyond my capacity.
Although the high country plants may have more reasonable soil, they must survive freezing temperatures for several months. And during that time water is unavailable to them — it’s frozen! How do the evergreens cope when they’re covered with snow and ice? How can the delicate flowers such as Colorado columbine and glacier lily exist through the cold? And so my fascination is endless.
It is beneficial to our community that the Grand Mesa Visitor Center is again sponsoring the evening programs and I’m delighted to be participating in them again. I do hope that you can come up to the Visitor Center atop Grand Mesa on Saturday, June 21, at 6 p.m. and share these wondrous flowers with me.