It’s been two weeks since my last update. The rain is much appreciated by plants both native and alien in Monument Valley Park (MVP). I’m now visiting and posting what’s blooming in two separate areas in the northern part of the park.
Area 1 –
Park at the small lot where Fontanero ends at the park, and start walking north.
Still blooming are the wild onions (Allium textile), the evening primroses (Oenothera caespitosa), the early purple vetch (Astragalus shortianus), and even a few of the puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) have made a comeback after the mowing. (See the previous post for more on these.)
You can see western spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) in the same area as a few of the wild onions. Look near the rock-lined drainage ditch right by the parking area, and you’ll see the blue-purple flowers on the north side above the rocks (west side of the trail). These little beauties really have an unusually shaped flower. Note that the leaves on the ones by the drainage area have had their leaves chopped a bit by the mower.
Another super colorful flower is making its appearance near the drainage ditch this week, Cowboy’s Delight or Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea). You might first notice it’s deeply lobed leaves if the flowers are closed. But keep your eyes open for the orange flowers on a stalk almost like a little 6 inch hollyhock.
Fringed Sage and Prairie Sage
Walk just a bit north of the drainage area, and on the west side of the trail you’ll encounter two types of native sage. Prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) has lovely gray-green leaves. And while it isn’t technically blooming this week, like the cultivated varieties in our gardens, this artemisia is recognized mostly by its leaves all season. The leaves flat and broader than the other sage you’ll see, Fringed Sage (Artemisia frigida). When you look at the fringed sage, you’ll know it’s name comes from its fringy gray-green leaves. The plant has a mounded, soft appearance.
If you keep walking north, you’ll see more of the fringed sage in the small field on the right (where the puccoon, vetch, and evening primrose are). You’ll also see a few spiderwort in the field as well. In this same little field, you’ll see a couple of other new plants blooming this week.
There are a few of these alien weeds popping up in the small field. (Remember, this field gets mowed, so if you don’t see this one, check out my notes on Area 2 below.) It resembles a large dandelion. You may notice this one coming up on occasion in your own yard or garden.
Another alien weed you’ve probably seen in your own garden is red filaree (Erodium cicutarium). It gets going pretty early in the spring, so there are some impressive patches of it in the park. Look for a patch of very low growing, 5-petaled pink flowers. Look more closely, and you’ll see deeply cut foliage. As the plant grows larger, it will become more mounded. When it starts going to seed, you’ll see long, storkbill-like seedpods.
In this same field, you can’t miss the low growing white daisies. The spreading daisy (Erigeron colo-mexicanus) is white on top of the petals and pinkish underneath. The leaves are a bit hairy. Even though it seems to be taking over, it actually is a little native daisy (and not an alien).
Area 2 –
From the same parking lot where Fontanero ends at the park, walk to the south and head down the hill. When you get to the dumpster on the left, take the trail to the right through the low stone walls. Say hello to the squirrel just a few yards north on the left side of the trail.
You’ll see a few occasional wild onions along the trail edge, and then about 30 yards from the stone walls there is a good patch of them on the right a few yards off the trail.
You’ll also see some (unmowed!) common salsify off the right side of the trail. (The crickets were really loud on this part of the trail!)
About 100 yards from the stone walls, there is a nice patch on the left side of the trail with lance-leaved puccoons (remember these bright yellow flowers with 5 petals joined at the base?) and more onions.
Go just a little further north, just before another side trail joins from the right and look on the left side of the trail for more western spiderwort and evening primrose. (There are also some lilacs finishing their bloom just ahead of this point on the left.)
From this point, you can enjoy a longer walk by continuing north and looping back to the parking lot (a mile total) or you can take the side trail that joins on the right to loop back to the hill below the parking lot.
Text and photos by Carey Harrington, Colorado Master Gardener and Native-Plant-Master-in-Training.