The top of Grand Mesa has vanished -- again. I stepped out the back door a few minutes ago and that was far enough to know it is cold outside! But I always have my wondrous memories, so I'll visit the Alp lily on this cold winter's day.
It was midsummer at the summit of Cottonwood Pass, elevation 12,126 feet. We walked down to our favorite spot: a more open area with a small grove of subalpine fir trees in the center. Walking over to the grove of fir ... there were delicate creamy-white Globe Flowers. But I smelled skunk. I didn't see any animals ... but there was a colony of the delicate, powder-blue Jacob's Ladder ... that was the source of the skunk smell! These little five-inch-tall flowers are usually smelled before they're seen. And there were yellow Buttercups and white-flowered Anemones.
There were more flowers on the far side of the rocks ... a few steps and we gazed down on a colony of Alp lily. Like its companions, my little plant was less than five inches tall with two narrow, grasslike leaves about as long as the single flower stalk which supported a single blossom ... six petals and six stamens ... a sure clue that it belonged to the Lily Family. The whitish blossom was nearly an inch broad with subtle shades of rose on the underside and pale streaks of lavender above. I checked with Wingate's "Alpine Flower Finder" and there were the smaller leaves along the flower stalk, just as in her illustration. Six yellow anthers rose more than halfway up each petal, with the three-lobed stigma nestled at the center of the petals.
At the very base was brownish material. Remnants of last year's growth? This remnant growth provides part of my plant's botanical name, Lloydia serotina. Latin serotina means "late," referring to this sheath of dried growth, and Edward Lloyd was a 17th century Welsh botanist. Its common names reflect its habitat: Subalpine lily and Alp lily (from the Alps of Europe). This little plant can be found at high elevations from Alaska and through the Rockies and it occurs in Britain as an endangered species.
A breeze played across the colony of Alp lily.
And I had another Cottonwood Pass moment for my winter memory file.