Sunday, July 18, 2021

Under the Forest in Boulder, Colorado

I walked in the forest of the hills above Boulder Colorado in mid-June. 

view of the Flatirons, Boulder, CO

Forests grow different plants from fields and prairies. It is same principle as the shade/full sun recommendation for plants for the garden; forests are shady, fields and prairies give short plants full sun. A whole set of conditions follow from shade vs sun: under the forest it is cooler longer and, often, moister. If you want shade or sun to be "better," you have to consider the climate. In a dry climate, shade conserves water. In a rainy climate, the warmth and lower humidity of full sunshine are a relief. 

Here are a few of the plants I saw in flower as I rambled through low elevation (5000') forests on the western edge of the city of Boulder.

Most of the chokecherries (Prunus virginiana, rose family, Rosaceae) were through flowering but I did see this one in full bloom. Birds love and spread chokecherries. The flesh of the small cherry is edible but the seeds have unsafe levels of cyanide, so they're usually too much work for humans to prepare. 

blossoms on chokecherry
choke cherry, Prunus virginiana

Shady eroding slopes were lush with pussy toes (Antennaria species, sunflower family Asteraceae). There are eight species in Boulder County. The name pussytoes is descriptive of those heads, which go from flowering to being full of seeds without changing their look much. 


The plants spread, making a good ground cover. Here is a closer look: 

pussy toes, Antennaria
pussytoes, Antennaria

Also on the ground were clusters of cinquefoils (Potentilla species, rose family, Rosaceae). The name cinquefoil is from "five-leaf," in French and Latin, which is a good description of the common cinquefoils of Europe, tormentil and creeping cinquefoil, Potentilla erecta and P. reptans. They have leaves which, like a hand, divide into five leaflets. The name is a little weird in Colorado, where the leaves of our cinquefoils (there are 32 species!) may divide up into as many as 25 leaflets. This plant had particularly large handsome flowers (and seven leaflets per leaf).

cinquefoil, Potentilla
                                                              cinquefoil, Potentilla 

Also in the rose family was this, the delicious raspberry (Rubus deliciosus). There are nine raspberry/blackberry (both raspberries and blackberries are in the genus Rubus) species in northern Colorado and this one was not one I knew. The flowers and leaves were quite large and handsome. And the name describes the fruit, but I was too early for berries.

delicious raspberry, Rubus deliciosus
delicious raspberry, Rubus deliciosus

Little meadows added special views. A few 

meadow, Boulder, CO

A lovely day, seeing wildflowers, forest scenes, and beating the heat...

trail through forest

Comments and corrections welcome. 

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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