As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m now visiting and posting what’s blooming in two separate areas in the northern part of MVP.
One note before looking at the specific areas – I’ve noticed hundreds (maybe more!) of wild onions (Allium textile) coming up in other areas of the park now, so you may see them if you take a longer walk. The Cowboy’s Delight (Sphaeralcea coccinea) is also showing up in other areas. With their bright orange flower color, you think they’d really jump out, but their small size really keeps them hidden a bit.
Park at the small lot where Fontanero ends at the park, and start walking north.
Most of what was blooming last week is still going here. The list is long, so rather than list them all again, please see last week’s post.
There is one addition that I hope will still be there if you go:
Four O’Clock (Oxybaphus nyctagineus)
There is one specimen actually growing right in the rocks of the drainage area right near the parking lot. The little hot pink flowers make this stand out pretty clearly. Sources say it drops the petals pretty quickly after blooming, leaving what looks like a green flower behind. (See www.easterncoloradowildflowers.com/_s_3frame.htm) It is a native but considered a weed in many areas.
From the same parking lot where Fontanero ends at the park, walk to the south. BEFORE you head down the hill, you will notice two very exciting new bloomers this week:
New Mexico Locust (Robinia neomexicana)
This plant is technically native to (take a guess) New Mexico, but that’s pretty darn close to here, so we’ll count it as a native. It can have either a shrub or tree form and it has noticeable thorns on the branches. From a distance, you may think you’re seeing a lilac blooming because the rose-purple flowers are similar in color to some lilacs. But a closer look will show you the flowers look quite different. Usually this plant is found in moister areas along streamsides, but there are many of these thriving all over the north end of the park (which is not terribly moist at all).
Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata)
These certainly aren’t native, but at some point, they must’ve been planted in the park. You’ll see these blooming right along with the locusts I mentioned above, and then you’ll notice them in other parts of the north part of the park as well. They have a lovely scent, and if you love lilacs, they sort of extend that lilac-scent season for you.
Head down the hill. When you get to the dumpster on the left, take the trail to the right through the low stone walls. IMMEDIATELY after the walls (like a foot or two past them), there is a side trail on the left. If you detour on to it and look closely, you’ll notice some of the Cowboy’s Delight (Sphaeralcea coccina) along this trail.
Head back to the regular trail and walk north. Many of the same plants I mentioned last week are still going here (the rain has really spurred the grasses to get tall). And I swear the number of common salsify has doubled or tripled since last week. But here’s a new one that you’ll see this week:
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Once you take a close look at this, you’ll notice that is blooming all over the park right now, especially along the trail edges. It is a shrubby perennial with ovalish leaves, and purple flowers. It is not a native (a.k.a. an “alien”).
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.