The Great Evergreen Wildflower Hunt
It's Spring! If you've been hiking, biking, running on the trails with me in the spring, you will know just how much I love this time of the year. I stop all of the time checking out the freshly sprouted flowers, bushes and mushrooms. This really increases our running time, I admit, but what is out there is truly amazing, and I am so excited to discover all of the fascinating life forms reinvigorated by the simple fact that the earth is tilted a little more directly towards the sun. Yay science!
I am so blessed. Three or four days of the week, my job is to head to Elk Meadow or Alderfer’s Open Space with Izzy, the running dog. She must get out or she will literally eat our house. Like any reasonable hound dog, she has a lot to do as soon as we hit the trail. Her nose is to the ground, her tail is curled high into the air. With my intentions of killing it that day, but stopped within seconds of beginning our "run", I always find some life cycle miracle just waiting to be noticed. Between Izzy and I you might say we are delighted, enchanted and down-right obsessed with the outdoors!
A few weeks ago, a day after some rain, Izzy and I headed out together like normal. The air was crisp and misty. Bergen Peak was socked in with low rain clouds. She and I were off at our turtle’s pace, with her smelling the mounds of freshly dug dirt, created by a ground hog or other miniscule rodent, and me with some pulled muscles and ankle pains, we were making our way up the trail.
The Pasque Flower
Once my mind was calm, I began studying the landscape among the forest trees, peering through last season’s dried pine needles and brittle perennial plant branches. That’s when I spotted them, even more than a few weeks previous, forest floors spotted with troops of pasque flowers. One of nature’s coolest, wildflowers, literally, is in full bloom right now. We spotted some of the season’s first flowers a full month ago. Staying true to its name, the pasque flower, Easter in Spanish a fact which my daughter loves to point out, poked its head through the dried undergrowth on that very day of this year.
Pasque Flowers, Pulsatilla patens, May 8, 2018, Elk Meadow
The pasque flower in the Rocky Mountains is a fuzzy lavender ball formed by its six petals loyally sticking together as the flower inflates, increasing its size daily, fighting its way through surface of any stubborn snow, only opening once it is strong enough. This flower of spherical force emerges from the tiny plant before any leaf dares. This ball must be strong enough to withstand the forces of nature, the snow and the ice. The soft fur covering the petals serve this plant by keeping the heavy moisture away from the petals and lending the strength needed to pop its head through the blankets of snow. Such an amazing little guy! Seeing a colony of pasque flowers, after realizing what they have been through to even exist, lends hope that the cycle of life continues.
A Pasque Flower Battling the Elements, Elk Meadow, May 4, 2018
My daughter has inherited my love for wildflowers and she delights in the appearance of pasque flowers. We have finally learned that we shouldn’t pick flowers, but she finds pasque flowers absolutely irresistible.
“Mommy, please can I feel the soft fur of the pasque flower, please? I promise I won’t hurt them!”
Of course she can, who am I to stop a transfer of energy from one special being to another. But only a quick touch, as the pasque flowers can be an irritant to the skin.
And as of today, I am happy to report that with the cool moist air we've had, the pasque flower lives on. Check it out in both Elk Meadow & Alderfer’s but go hunting for these little guys soon because their flower petals have already begun to fly away with the wind after their month-long showy display.
Addi will tell you, "pasque" means Easter in Spanish!
The Pasque Troops standing tall in all of their glory!
The Star Lily
One flower that certainly gets taken for granted is the star lily. And boy, howdy, it shouldn’t! Tough too is this one! These flowers, located on the sun exposed mountain sides, can withstand the cool days of spring and the hottest days of summer. Some call this the sand lily as many of these plants in our area grow in the nutrient deplete decomposed granite sands. These star lilies were absolutely blooming their heads off that morning in Elk Meadow, and they continue to flourish there and in Three Sisters.
Star Lily, Leucocrinum montanum, Elk Meadow, May 8, 2018
The Leather Flower
Addi and I made a very exciting discovery a few weeks ago. Hiking up a steep part of the trail at Elk Meadow, we spotted purple petal tips poking out of a small ragged green plant. “Hey, I recognize this!” I delighted to Addi, “This is one of my favorites!!!” The beginnings of a leather flower, aka, sugar bowls, aka Hairy clematis! Like the pasque flower, it too has a fuzzy plant and fur covered bloom that protect from the challenging elements of spring. Often these are lone flowers that get over-looked at first, but then enchant the discoverer with it’s perfect sugar bowl shape.
Leather Flower, Elk Meadow, May 4, 2018
Leather Flower, Clematis hirsutissima, Elk Meadow, May 8, 2018
Also Known As Sugar Bowls, Elk Meadow, May 8,2018
I revisited this flower a few days after our initial discovery, and a few of its petals were missing. Likely with the spring rains and hail storms, this particular flower has likely lost its bloom for the year. But don't fret! I have found several leather flower plants in Elk Meadow in full bloom. Also, visit the trail head at the first entrance of Three Sister's and head up the Evergreen Mountain East trail. Half a mile up are 3 leather flower plants with their blooms still shrouded in their protective sepals, just waiting to burst out in delight. Another option, is to come by my house. Last year I found a few leather flowers growing out of the bottom of a boulder, and now there are 5 little plants this year. Even with our hail storm, these flowers are still growing strong!
Leather Flower, at my house, May 13, 2018
The last flower featured in this first post, one that I absolutely love, is the larkspur. These guys are in full bloom right now at Elk Meadow, so much so that one is likely to take them for granted. These flowers are a stunning purple but might not be so appreciated not only because of their abundance but also because of their ragged, wilted appearance. Realizing that the scruffiness of the larkspur's flowers and leaves is the result of being beat up by harsh spring winds, blanketed in spring snow and then baked in the spring sun as the snow melted might give way to a new appreciation for our beloved Colorado larkspur. Vive Delphinium nuttallianum! But, alas, they won't! Check them out now because come the end of June, or even sooner, these flowers will be gone.
Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum, & an Izzy cameo, Canis lupus familiaris, Elk Meadow, May 8, 2018
Evergreen is A-BLOOM with WILDFLOWERS!
In Elk Meadow & Three Sister's NOW!
Pinnate Leaved Daisy
About this Series
My name is Jodi Crutchfield, and I am the owner of 7220 Soap Company. This is my website so I figured I would add a blog post this summer about one of my passions... Wild Flowers!
I will add a post frequently as the season continues because I can't stop hunting for wildflowers. I do hope to take you to some of the well-known places in Evergreen and some of my favorite hidden spots as well.
In nature, please do the following:
• Leave no trace.
• Pack it in, pack it out.
• Leave everything as you find it. Flower-pressing is not acceptable anymore, friends!!! Leave flowers blooming and take from them nothing but their photos. If you remove them, you would likely transfer seeds to a new environment which would disrupt it in unpredictable ways. Also, removing flowers reduces their abilities to propagate and survive in their natural habitat.
I am delighted with, enchanted by and obsessed with wildflowers, but I am no expert. My purpose with this series is to share my knowledge and create a forum where we could inspire each other to be outside in nature and to experience the amazing cycle of life in the seasonal blooms. Let me know if I get something wrong, if you have something to add, or if you have any questions. Happy Wild Flower Hunting!