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Plants of the Western Slope Feb. 8, 2017

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Photo by Al Schneider Alp lily along Lizard Head trail.

Alp Lily

It's still trying to snow ... I can't see Jeff's (our neighbor to the south) or Sharla's (our neighbor to the north). But yesterday I had a glimpse of the San Juan Mountains (at least there were angry clouds where I knew those mountains were!) How I yearn for summer, or spring at least! But wishing doesn't make it so. I turn away from the gloomy scene and decide to travel to one of our favorite spots -- Cottonwood Pass in summer!

We were at 12,126 feet elevation at the summit and there were cars and people everywhere. So we drove a half-mile down the other side on a narrow, dirt road. We stopped and began our walk down the steep path, and I always felt like I was walking on the edge of the earth and that if I should slip, I would roll forever. Down, down, down! But ahead was our favored spot with a stand of subalpine fir nearby. Flowers everywhere! Cream-colored globe flowers, buttercups, yellow potentilla and white-flowered anemones.

And here was a colony of Alp Lily. I hadn't seen such a fine display since the Native Plant Society's trip to the Yankee Boy Basin and that goes back a good way! This little plant was less than five inches tall with two narrow, grass-like leaves about as long as the single flower stalk. There was a single blossom with six petals and six stamens, so I knew that it was of the lily group. The lovely, whitish blossom was nearly an inch broad with subtle shades of rose on the underside and pale streaks of lavender above. There were more delightful lilies around ... I counted a dozen.

The plant's name, Lloydia serotine, is for Edward Lloyd, the 17th century curator of the Museum at Oxford University and the discoverer of this plant in Wales where it was considered endangered. This little plant can be found at high elevations from Alaska and throughout the Rockies, but it doesn't seem to be present in our Artic regions as one would expect. The common names are often indicative of the plant's habitat and so it is with our plant. It is also known as Alp lily (from the European mountains) and as subalpine lily. It's such a precious little plant. I wonder if it would be more impressive if it were bigger? But it's time for dishes, and I'll have to leave this high country.

THINK SPRING!!

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Surface Creek
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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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