Sunday, June 30, 2024

Middle Elevations in Rocky Mountains in late June

Summer moves steadily up the mountains. As you rise up above the plains of Colorado into the Rocky Mountains, the plants that are done flowering at 5,000 feet elevation are in full bloom at 8,000 feet, but are still in bud at 11,000 feet. Of course not all the plants are able grow from 5000' to 11000' elevation, but many do. 

These photos were taken in a ramble around Lily Lake, at 8,931' elevation.

Lily Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lily Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Plant story-- Eriogonum alatum, winged wild buckwheat

This is a post about a plant almost nobody has ever seen, let alone noticed. Winged wild buckwheat, Eriogonum alatum (buckwheat family Polygonaceae) has its range at low elevations on both sides of the Rocky Mountains and into Utah. Lots of people live in that area, but nothing like the number who live on the East or West Coast, so the number of locals who could know it is limited.  

Winged wild buckwheat, Eriogonum alatum in flower
Winged wild buckwheat, Eriogonum alatum in flower
(yellowish, center)

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Plant Story--Pussytoes, Antennaria

Pussytoes (Antennaria species, sunflower family, Asteraceae) are cute little plants, easy to recognize when flowering, inconspicuous when they are not. There are about 45 species of Antennaria, mostly in North America plus a few in Europe and South America. The U.S.D.A. plants database gives 36 species of Antennaria in North America, counting Alaska, all of them native. 

Antennaria pussytoes
Antennaria pussytoes

When flowering, they send up clusters of round flowers, easily imagined as cat feet. (Catsfoot is another common name). The non-flowering plant is a cluster of quite small oval gray-green leaves on the ground, often below the grasses, and so quite inconspicuous. 

Sunday, June 9, 2024


 This flower is a pink. But it is clearly not very pink.

Dianthus, pinks
pinks, genus Dianthus

Pinks, the genus Dianthus, got their common name several hundred years ago in England. The word pink is not just the name of a color. Its older meaning is of a zig-zag edge. My mother had scissors that cut the edge of a piece of cloth in a zig-zag pattern so it would not ravel, called pinking shears. 

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Periodical Cicadas--Cicada Tourism

I flew to St. Louis to see the periodical cicadas, brood XIX, 13-year periodical cicadas. Why? Because they are a wonder of the world. No other organism spends 12 or 16 years underground to emerge, mate and lay eggs in the 13th or 17th year, with all of the periodical cicadas in an area synchronized at these very long intervals. Nothing in the world comes even close to it. How could this evolve? They are found only in the eastern U.S. from just west the Missouri River east almost to the Atlantic Ocean, from Wisconsin and New York south to Louisiana, Alabama, northern Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and nowhere else in the world. I somehow was never in the right place at the right time to see them emerge. 

periodical cicada, St. Louis, MO
periodical cicada, St. Louis, Missouri