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Plants of the Western Slope December 9, 2015

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Photo © Al Schneider www.swcoloradowildflowers.com Glacier Lily

Glacial Lily

Today the sky is clear ... what a nice change! It's been gray day after day, but it isn't warmer. In fact, it feels colder! And I prefer warm weather: that's why we lived in Las Vegas, Nev.! From the dining room window I can see the top of Crag Crest gleaming white in the bright sunlight. The snow is down to the pinyon-junipers. The juncos flit back and forth in the evergreens by the west windows.

And I remember summertime with its glorious wildflowers. We drive up Old Grand Mesa Road with bright sunshine and wildflowers everywhere. Red paintbrush, purple and blue lupines, yellow sunflowers and white daisies. We arrive at the junction with Forest Road 124 and here are my flowers! There's a bit of water trickling down on our left to pool a few feet below the road.

I scramble out of the car and stand in the gravel to admire them. My little garden has a couple dozen blossoms of brilliant gold -- glacier lilies! But now I see more ... there are buds and spent blooms plus many in seed already. Two leaves occur with each flower stalk and some plants support upside-down yellow blossoms ("nodding" in botanese). I can see buds on other plants. On a closer look, I find that the stems range from a few inches tall to nearly a foot.

The lovely turned-back petals are about one-and-a-half inches each. If I were to spread the blossom out flat, it would be about three inches wide ... very large for a wildflower.

The small, reddish-purple seedpods seem difficult to spot, but then I'm looking for the anthers. Sometimes the anthers are reddish (as pictured in Al's photo) instead of yellowish which leads to the botanical label of Erythronium grandiflorum. Greek "erythro" is a prefix meaning red and "coma" refers to hairs as on the anthers.

But other names are numerous! Glacier lily, avalanche lily, trout lily, fawn lily, dog-tooth violet, and adder's tongue. Most references note that the plant may be found in early spring at lower elevations and that it follows the snow melt to appear in June at the base of snow banks, as I've seen it near Eggleston Lake.

And our time was up. I'd found my glacier lilies so I was content to go home. I know that my glacier lilies will be there next spring.

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Surface Creek
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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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