Hiking in Estes Park, Colorado at 7,500' elevation on the east side of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, last June, I climbed a rocky slope and shared the plants and views a couple weeks ago (link). The next day I walked downhill and along a clear, turbulent stream. The plants were quite different.
|Stream, Estes Park, Colorado|
The difference wasn't elevation as much as habitat. The stream provided water in the soil and humidity in the air. These supported leafy trees that cast shade and trapped the water that evaporated off the stream. And finally, streams periodically flood, leaving silt to build and enrich the soil along their banks. So for all these reasons, the streamside plants were different from the hillside plants.
Some places it was marshy and there were big stands of plants like this iris, the Rocky Mountain iris, Iris missouriensis, iris family Iridaceae.
But I was following a trail near cabins and houses so the path was raised or the wet areas drained to keep it dry. Mostly I saw dryland plants that liked this moister, protected environment.
This is golden banner, Thermopsis montana, also called false lupine and yellow pea, pea family Fabaceae. It spreads to form big patches in shady spots. The flowers are a very bright yellow and attract bees and butterflies. Its flowers always make me smile; so very yellow.
|Thermopsis montana, golden banner|
This lovely fan of leaves is false Solomon's seal, or starry false lily of the valley, Maianthemum stellatum, in the butcher's broom family, Ruscaceae. It produces just a few star-like flowers out beyond the final leaf. The genus is called mayflowers and I think a better name for it would be starry mayflower (stellatum, in its scientific name, means starry). Naming a plant by what is isn't seems to me a bad way to make a name. Solomon's seals are species Polygonatum, in the lily family, Liliaceae. Solomon's seals are widespread but not one of the three native and two introduced species of Solomon's seal is found in Colorado. So the name says "looks like Solomon's seal but isn't" but in Colorado you wouldn't know Solomon's seal looks like. (And so, Coloradans tend to call this plant Solomon's seal, which makes more confusion.) People might know lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis, to know its "not lily of the valley" but lily of the valley is a European plant that, although you can find it in Colorado gardens, is not common and has not escaped here as it has in the eastern U.S. So Maianthemum is named for not being two plants Coloradans probably do not know. Bah. Maianthemum stellatum is a moderately common plant of shady moist spots in the Rocky Mountains.
|Maianthemum stellatum, false Solomon's seal|
|Richardson's geranium, Geranium richardsonii|
|Rocky Mountain iris, Iris missouriensis|
|purple locoweed, Oxytropis lambertii|
|columbine, Estes Park, Colorado|
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