Deb Babcock: Wildflowers are a way to beat the short season |

Deb Babcock: Wildflowers are a way to beat the short season

There are an abundance of local varieties that grow well in Steamboat

Deb Babcock

— With an abundance of water this spring, and cool weather making the growing season a little later than usual, we can expect a profusion of wildflowers all coming out at the same time this year.

Master Gardener Eileen Grove and I were poring through our lists of local wildflowers the other day, putting together a list of them that the Forest Service hopes to sell in a wildflower seed mix soon.

Here's an abbreviated listing of wildflowers you'll find in bloom during the next month or so as you hike the lower-elevation trails where snowmelt has occurred.

■ Glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) — This is a bright yellow delicate flower on a 6- to 15-inch stalk. Six petals curl back to display purplish anthers. Found in a wide variety of environments from sagebrush meadows to forests.

■ Spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata) — This is a delicate white and pink flower that blooms in Alpine meadows from snowmelt through mid-summer.

■ Starry Solomon-Plume (Smilacina stellata) — In past years, I have found lots of this attractive plant with its lance-shaped leaves in shady areas along the trail to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

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■ Little Larkspur (Delphinium bicolor) — This deep blue flower is found in area grasslands and forests during May and June.

■ Sugarbowls (Clematis hirsutissima) — This low-growing perennial grows in dry grasslands to montane forests. I found them around Trappers Lake in June. The two-toned dark purple and maroon flower is quite lovely.

■ Sagebrush buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus) — This shiny, almost plastic-looking, bright yellow flower is one of the earliest to bloom in sagebrush and grasslands.

■ Woodlandstar (Lithophragma parviflora) — A very small, delicate flower, this plant features several white, starlike flowers and blooms in spring to early summer.

■ Silvery lupine (Lupinus argenteus) — I love the foliage of this plant, though it is not a good one to have around livestock as the flower and seeds are poisonous to them. The beautiful blue flowers begin blooming in late June.

■ Ballhead waterleaf (Hydrophyllum capitatus) — Peekaboo. The lavender, round heads of this flower hide beneath its deeply lobed leaves. It is one of the first spring flowers to bloom.

■ Alpine forget-me-not (Eritrichium nanum) — Found in June along the Stillwater reservoir trail, this small, deep-blue flower lasts a long time.

■ Mountain forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) — This fragrant plant, similar to the Alpine forget-me-not, blooms in April and May.

■ Mule's ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis) — These large bright yellow sunflowers bloom profusely in dry, exposed areas across the county.

■ Heart-leaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia) — The distinctive heart-shaped leaves of this plant bearing a single sunflower bloom is found across the area. Many were blooming along trails on Mount Werner last spring.

As you hike around our beautiful area, take time to stop and study the wildflowers.

Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

Double check

When sowing wildflower seeds in your garden or yard, be sure to check the packet for the list of flowers. Some seed packets contain flowers that are considered noxious weeds and so should be avoided. The extension office can help you with choosing a mix that’s right for this area; or visit the Forest Service office for the new local mix they are creating for sale.

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