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Plants of the Western Slope August 31, 2016

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Photo by Evelyn Horn Goldenrod along a ditch in Delta County.


My, but it's nice to be home again. I was writing about my shorebird trip to the state of Washington that included the varied thrush and the backyard chestnut-backed chickadee, the Caspian tern and the fantastic Harlequin duck. It was a marvelous time! Memories for a lifetime!

But now I'm looking at the interesting flowers here at home and there are plenty of them! The serviceberry and majohia shrub are putting out fruit and the ornamental pear is over-laden!

But my concern at the moment is the ditch-bank goldenrod. It's in full flower and it can be found throughout our valley. Worldwide there are about 130 species with 60 in the eastern United States and 30 here in the West. So, which goldenrod is this one? According to William Weber's "Flora of Colorado: Western Slope," my plant is Canadian goldenrod, or properly Solidago canadensis. The Latin term solidago means "whole" or "to strengthen and make whole" from the plant's many medicinal uses. In his "Wild Edible Plants," Donald Kirk describes the use of the leaves as a potherb, a tea, a preparation for a multitude of ailments and goldenrods are included also among the dye-plants.

There are many ways of pollinating -- by bees, ants and by birds or merely by the wind and an amazing number of plants are wind-pollinated (sagebrush and Russian olive to name just a couple). And they are the ones that make us sneeze! So I'm standing here by the goldenrod and I'm NOT sneezing! It is insect pollinated.

In our area, we have huge goldenrods along our waterways (including ditch banks) but as you drive up Grand Mesa there are more species that can be differentiated by leaf and flower structure. Often these large plants seem to have one-sided clusters of flowers. You might find missouriensis, multiradiata, velvutina, gigantean, but at the top of the mesa you might find the dwarf goldenrod, Solidago nana, with its flowers in a single, six-inch-tall spike. At first glance you probably won't notice that the tiny flowers have both ray and disk flowers. Or if it doesn't matter to you, just enjoy our abundant goldenrod! They are spectacular right now!

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Surface Creek
Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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