It is fun to go wildflower and native plant hunting in the foothills and mountains, but don’t forget to check out our own backyard here in town! Just this morning, the following plants were seen blooming in the north part of Monument Valley Park. Park at the small lot where Fontanero ends at the park, and start walking north.
Sand Lily & Tufted Evening Primrose –
About 20 yards north of the parking lot on the right, you’ll see a smallclearing/meadow with several sand lilies (Leucocrinum montanum) and tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) blooming. Both have white flowers with the sand lilies being the smaller. The sand lily flowers have six slender petals and are at the base of a strappy leaves that are about 8 inches tall. The evening primrose have four, heart-shaped petals and rise above a basal rosette of leaves. If you are visiting in the sunny afternoon, these flowers may not be open.
Chiming Bells – Just a little further north on the left, you’ll notice the blue flowers of the chiming bells (Mertensia lanceolata). The flowers are in drooping clusters, and the plants are about 8 inches tall now. They may get larger over the next few weeks. This plant can be seen blooming all summer in all sorts of environments, from the plains up to the montane zone.
Honeysuckle – Continue north, passing the soccer field that’s at the bottom of the old reservoir area, and about 10 to 30 yards north of the field on the left, you can see several (I saw three) honeysuckle shrubs in bloom. They are not right next to the trail, but are about 20 feet away. My best guess is that this Lonicera tatarica, a pink blooming escaped ornamental honeysuckle. (So yes, I’m cheating a bit in including it in this article. But it is certainly is worth looking at!)
Chokecherry – There are chokecherries (Padus virginiana) in many places in the park. To see the blooming shrubs I saw this morning, continue north, and then turn left when the trail gets to the top of the loop (the northernmost part of the park). Take the sharpest left (rather than continuing to the part of the trail that is above the creek) and start back south. As you walk south, watch for large shrubs with clusters of creamy white flowers (one flower book describes these as “sausage-like clusters”) covering them. This shrub is an important provider of food for wildlife once it forms its berries later in the season.
Continue south until you meet the cross trail and you can turn left and go up the hill back to the Fontanero parking lot.
Many thanks to Ernie Marx for giving us permission to use his photos (at www.easterncoloradowildflowers.com)!
Contributed by Carey Harrington, Colorado Master Gardener and Native-Plant-Master-in-Training.