Sunday, September 8, 2019

Denver Area--Spectacular Native Plants

The Garden Bloggers Fling, a conference of people who blog about gardens, was in Denver in June 2019. What do garden bloggers do at a conference? Look at gardens! The Denver area is hot in summer, cold in winter, and dry all the time. Most standard East Coast garden plants do not do well, unless protected and watered. Plants native to the region do not need the same care. Here is a gallery of beautiful natives I saw in gardens in northern Colorado during the Fling.

blanket flower, Gaillardia
blanket flower, Gaillardia
The stunning plant above is blanket flower, Gaillardia (sunflower family, Asteraceae). There are common species in the grasslands and mountain meadows of Colorado. Between the various Gaillardia species, they are native all across North America. This is probably the cultivated hybrid, Gaillardia x grandiflora. A hybrid of two species, it has doubled its chromosomes (is polyploid) and consequently has larger flowers. Horticulturalists like crossing species for the new combinations and because polyploidy generally makes flowers larger. (Blog on blanket flower link).

Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly milkweed
Butterfly milkweed, also called pleurisy root, Asclepias tuberosa
This is one of the three species of milkweed recommended for supporting monarch butterflies in Colorado, butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa (dogbane family, Apocynaceae). Isn't it handsome?

wild geranium, Geranium species
wild geranium, Geranium species
I don't know which species this is, but little purple geraniums, in the genus Geranium, (geranium family Geraniaceae) are native to North America. (See blog about them link.)

spiderwort, Tradescantia and beardtongue, Penstemon
spiderwort, Tradescantia and beardtongue, Penstemon
This is a native duo. To the left is spiderwort, Tradescantia species (dayflower family, Commelinaceae) a native--there are several species--across North America. The flowers range from deep blue to pink, through the pale shades as seen here. To the right is beardtongue, Penstemon species (now in the plantain family, Plantaginaceae) often just called penstemon as a common name. There are 250 species and all are native to North America (counting northern Mexico). Fifty-six species are native and wild in Colorado, so there are lots of choices of what to grow.
sulphur flower, Eriogonum umbellatum
sulphur flower, Eriogonum umbellatum
This is one of my favorites, sulphur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum, knotweed family Polygonaceae). The flowers are truly that spectacular a yellow.

Apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa
Apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa
Apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa (rose family, Rosaceae) is a handsome shrub of southern Colorado with lovely wispy seed heads. Here, you can see a honeybee taking nectar from a flower in the middle and at least two much smaller insects on other flowers;

fleabane, Erigeron
fleabane daisy, Erigeron
There are 44 species of spring-blooming "asters" in the genus Erigeron in Colorado. The name fleabane follows them from Europe (where they were in fact used to repel fleas) and daisy relates it to a familiar flower (and its in that plant family, Asteraceae). Many are white with yellow centers, but some, like this one, have pink to purple ray florets around the yellow disc florets (in the center). These flowers are large enough that is likely a cultivated hybrid.

That is the second plant in this post that I think is a horticultural variety or hybrid. I'm trying to support native species and I don't know quite how I feel about natives that have been bred, adding and weeding out traits, to make them better for gardens. Native plants spread, often aggressively. Or they get native diseases. Cultivated varieties are often less aggressive and more disease-resistant. Those characteristics are good for the gardener. It is also true that to have native plants for sale to homeowners, someone needs to propagate them, which is easier if the plants are somewhat domesticated, for example, hold their seeds rather than self-scattering and transplant well. Since most of our yards and public spaces are dominated by plants brought from elsewhere (Europe, South America, for me elsewhere includes the Eastern U.S. and California) it is probably too soon to worry about how wild the natives are.

Colorado four o'clock, Mirabilis multiflora
Colorado four o'clock, Mirabilis multiflora
The Colorado four o'clock (Mirabilis multiflora, four o'clock family, Nyctaginaceae) has bright magenta flowers. It is a bushy, deep-rooted perennial, very hardy once established.

beardtongue Penstemon and mountain nine bark Physocarpus monogynus
beardtongue Penstemon and mountain nine bark Physocarpus monogynus
The purple is beardtongue, Penstemon species, very likely the same one shown above, while the white shrub behind them is mountain ninebark,  Physocarpus monogynus (rose family, Rosaceae).

cactus

I do not know this cactus. It is not native in the northern counties of Colorado. But it was growing well in a garden in Boulder County. I think it is kingcup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, Colorado's state cactus. It is spectacular. (But do not forget, somebody has to weed around those spines.)

These are gorgeous garden plants native to Colorado. Every region has beautiful natives. We don't all have to grow the same plants or adjust our yards to mimic the growing conditions elsewhere.

Revel in local plants. They are worth the hunt to find them.

Comments and corrections welcome.

Why do I keep giving plant families? Because there are too many plant species and genera for any one person to know, but the 400+ families are almost manageable, so if you don't know the genus, you might know the family.

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing
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  2. Love that you give the plant family and its English translation- really helps in making connections among plants. And thanks for showing us photos of some of the flowers you saw at the Denver Garden Bloggers Fling.

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