Identifying blooms is easy, fun

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— Besides the spectacular scenery, Steamboat residents are blessed with a profusion of wildflowers along the hiking trails throughout Routt County. In my first years here, two-hour hikes would stretch to three and four hours as I stopped with my wildflower identification book to find a name for a beautiful flower by the side of the trail.

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

n Glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) -- 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.

n Spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata) -- A delicate white and pink flower that blooms in Alpine meadows from snow melt through mid-summer.

n Starry Solomon-Plume (Smilacina stellata) -- Last year, I found lots of this attractive plant with its lance-shaped leaves in shady areas along the trail to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

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

n 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.

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

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

n Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argenteus) -- I love the foliage of this plant, although 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.

n Ballhead Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum capitatus) -- The lavender, round heads of this flower play peek-a-boo from their hiding place beneath its deeply lobed leaves. It is one of the first spring flowers to bloom.

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

n Mountain Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) -- This fragrant plant, similar to the Alpine Forget-me-not, blooms in April and May

n Mule's Ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis) -- These large bright yellow sunflowers bloom profusely in dry, exposed areas throughout the county.

n Heart-leaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia) -- The distinctive heart-shaped leaves of this plant bearing a single sunflower bloom is found throughout 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.

Botanist Karen Vail has compiled a list of wildflowers that grow in the Yampa Valley area, and better yet for us hikers with less-patient companions, it is arranged by season and color to help speed up identification. You may pick up a copy of this compilation at Yampatika in downtown Steamboat Springs.

To reach Deb Babcock call 879-0825

or e-mail gardeners@co.routt.co.us

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