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Plants of the Western Slope March 30, 2016

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Photo ©Al Schneiderr, www.swcoloradowildflowers.com

How Strange

We're sitting here looking at the Grand Mesa with its storm clouds and swirling winds. But our greening lawn and the pasture across the road are bright with sunlight. And the television screen is another world! Snow! We congratulate ourselves that we don't live on the Front Range and I shiver when I remember the storms that I experienced as a child growing up on Colorado's eastern plains.

But we're here on the Western Slope and now, during the commercials, I'm remembering wonderful things that I have seen here. There were water lilies on the Grand Mesa (Nuphar luteum ssp. polysepalum) and they were an exciting discovery for me. First, they aren't "lilies" at all, but the people who came to the early West were not botanists! If the plants were aromatic, they likely called it a "sage" or a "mint." If the plant had any distinguishing characteristics, the people chose a label that would reflect that trait (like our autumn flowering Gum Weed that is actually in the sunflower family). In any event, the plant was described by George Engelmann in 1865 from a Ferdinand Hayden collection that was taken along a tributary of the Columbia River in 1860.

I think of circumstances of those times past. But I can't imagine a time without my computer, without the television, or my phone. But I can see the beautiful flowers as clearly as I did on that summer day. I wondered how deep the water was but of course I wasn't about to find out! The entire shoreline was soggy! I'd think at least more than three feet but one of the interesting details included on the Southwestern Colorado Wildflower website is that the stem is over 40 inches long. I remember being astonished at the huge leaves and the website states that they are from three to 10 inches. From the roadway, I couldn't really count the sepals or the petals, but my Rocky Mountain Flower Finder said that they were there.

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Crane count this evening (Thursday, March 24) is 160 new sandhills. Total = 7939

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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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