Plants of the Western Slope July 26, 2017
By Evelyn Horn
Published Wednesday, July 26, 2017 11:30 am
Our driver stops and we all gasp. What incredible beauty lies before us! Every color, every shape is here before us -- red tones of paintbrush, the purple hues of Colorado columbine, brilliant yellows of mountain sunflower, the unmistakable whites of bistort and globes flower. I feel overwhelmed by the brilliance of the display. And our driver looks at us in amusement. He picked this spot to stop so that we could have a look. Good choice, my friend!
Ben (her birth name is Alma) and I had talked of this trip for years. And finally, here we are with our special guest, Sue Hirshman. Sue has kept track of the black swifts of Box Canyon (near Ouray) for years. Her efforts were published in important periodicals.
Our plan was to rent a jeep and driver to take us for a day of alpine exploration in mid-summer when the alpine flowers were at their height, and it seems like we were right! Down a little waterway, lined with Colorado columbine, is a little trickle of crystal clear water. I'm thirsty!
Flowers and colors are everywhere. And I'm enchanted! But now we've stopped for lunch in the shelter of spruce and fir. Below us is a lower flat area -- filled with plants, plants, plants! A whole little valley of plants! My sandwich has lost its charm, for the plants call to me, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I hurry down the rocky slope and stop at the very edge of the plants. But what catches my eye are Parry's primroses. Thousands of them! As far as I can see. I sit in the dirt roadway in a state of amazement.
Each flower is set off by oblong, bright green leaves, two to 12 inches long. The numerous individual flower stalks all originate from a single point toward the top of the stem. At first glance, the two-inch-wide flowers appear to be flat, but a closer look reveals that each blossom is actually a funnel-shaped tube that flares out at the top into five separate lobes (or limbs in botanical terms). At the top of the 3/4-inch-long tube (where the petals flare out), a bright yellow area forms the attractive "eye" of the blossom. But these showy plants are described as foul smelling. No matter: I wouldn't pick it. It belongs here.