Kim Fuller
newsroom@vaildaily.com
VAIL CO, Colorado

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July 20, 2012
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Eagle County blooms peak in July

The path from the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens to the Vail Alpine Center rests quietly along Gore Creek, but everyday walks are awakened with nature's summer blooms.

Dale Versteegen, community programs coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, said the dry conditions this year have changed the way some wildflowers are growing, but not too drastically.

"The biggest change that we have seen is things are appearing two weeks earlier than last year," Versteegen said. "The ground temperatures are warmer than last year so the plants are able to bloom."

He also said the flowers in bloom are not lasting as long because of the lack of water, but that the recent rain could help some of the flowers reestablish themselves.

Versteegen said that, generally, Colorado wildflowers are used to the state's variable climate.

"Plants respond to the photoperiod (length of day) to determine when it's time to bloom," Versteegen said. "Due to this, the changes that we see from year-to-year are not always as drastic as we might think. The plants are accustomed to dealing with variations, such as high or low water availability, high or low water temperatures and high or low sun exposure."

Jaymee Squires, staff botanist and director of graduate studies for Walking Mountains, said that in most areas, there are less flowers in general.

"I've seen a lot of flowers that seem to have dried out before going to fruit or seed," Squires said. "I wouldn't be surprised if there is a poor berry crop this summer as well."

Squires said the best place to see flowers in the area is going to be any place near water. She recommends the East Vail trails, as well as Shrine Pass.

"As for how long the flowers will survive this season, it's almost impossible to say," Squires said. "If we start to get more daily rains, we might even get a crop of late bloomers. Everything is dependant on the whims of Mother Nature and what she blows our way."

Take a wildflower walk with the Vail Alpine Center and you'll learn a lot, but you should really take a hike to see what every region has to offer. Colorado has an almost countless amount of wildflowers, so don't venture into nature without seeing these blooms in their July prime.

"Typically, the height of the season is late June through the end of July," Squires said. "I wouldn't be surprised if this year brings more surprises."

Wild Geranium

Regions: Foothills, montane and subalpine; found in woodlands and meadows.

Characteristics: Flowers are usually soft while with pale pink to lavender streaks. The flowers can have just a few stems and flowers with sparse leaves, but they can also come from a thick plant with multiple flowers.

Cinquefoil

Regions: Foothills, montane and subalpine; found in meadows.

Characteristic: The five petals of this yellow flower give it its name, and it's generally easy to find due to its three-month flowering season. The flower's shrub grows about three feet tall and wide, and thrives in meadows with moisture.

Scarlet Gilia

Regions: Foothills and montane; found in semi-dessert and mountainous areas.

Characteristics: Multiple red, trumpet-shaped flowers bloom from a single, upright stem. Height of the plant can vary from one foot to more than five feet tall. The flowers can range between colors of red, orange, white and pink, and are pollinated by hummingbirds.

Tansy Aster

Regions: Foothills, montane and subalpine; found in meadows and mountainous areas.

Characteristics: Two layers of fine, blue or white petals define this flower. The narrow petals surround a yellow center coming out from a long stem. The flowers generally grow communally with stems streaming out from a dense bush.

Harebell

Regions: Montane and subalpine; found in meadows and mountainous areas.

Characteristics: Large, blue and purple bell-shaped flowers stand on their own, unlike similar-looking mountain bluebell flowers. The flowers rest on a long stem, with the open end of the "bell" generally facing the earth from the weight of the flower on the thin stalk.

Columbine

Regions: Montane and subalpine; found in meadows, woodlands and mountainous areas.

Characteristics: The flowers range from yellow to violet, but Colorado's state flower most often graces this state's soil with blooms of deep blue and bright white petals. The distinct flowers have a crown of white petals around yellow seeds, surrounded by spears of color that jut out around and behind the center of the spectacle.

Elephant's Head

Regions: Montane and subalpine; found in meadows, wetlands and woodlands.

Characteristics: Long stems hold rows of bright purple, pink or white flowers, each that resemble the head of a very small elephant. The flowers have long pointed beaks that curve slightly upward - resembling the elephant's trunk --and the lateral petals of the flower look like an elephant's ears.

Wallflower

Regions: Montane and subalpine; found in meadows, woodlands, semi-dessert to mountainous areas.

Characteristics: Mustard-yellow bunch of petals make this flower easy to spot along trails. The stems stand up to 10-inches high, and are surrounded by a tight bonnet of fiery blooms.

Old Man of the Mountain

Region: Alpine; found on alpine tundra.

Characteristics: These oversized sunflowers stand strong above tree line, and their distinct stature is hard to miss. This is one of the largest tundra flowers, and the round, yellow petals surround sun-like centers

Alpine Buttercup

Region: Alpine; found on alpine tundra.

Characteristics: These bright yellow blooms seem to carpet Colorado's tundra walks. Their petals are creamy and sweet-sheets of buttermilk spread in thick bunches on the mossy surfaces of a mountainsides.

Alpine Forget-Me-Not

Region: Alpine; found on alpine tundra.

Characteristics: You're not likely to forget them simply because they're so petite and striking. The flowers themselves are no bigger than a child's pinky nail with bright blue blooms with vibrant yellow centers.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 20, 2012 03:30PM Published Jul 20, 2012 03:24PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.