For a wrap-up of other areas and what’s been blooming, check out:
Blooming in Monument Valley Park – All Posts.
As promised, this week we’ll look at a couple of the berries and seedheads that you can now see in the park. I can’t resist adding a couple of new blooming plants as well. Many of the plants highlighted in last week’s post are still blooming as well.
We’ll start at the parking lot where Fontanero Street ends at the park and head west down the hill. Turn right at the dumpster and walk north on the path. After about 1/4 mile, you will notice some LARGE shrubs on the east side of the path with lots of small red to reddish-black berries. This is our old friend the native chokecherry (Padus virginiana) that we saw blooming back in May. The berries are edible, though not terribly tasty (hence the name?) and a bit astringent. Reportedly, the riper, blacker berries are sweeter. The fruit are a favorite with bears and in other areas of town, it can be difficult to see many berries because of this.
New Mexico Locust
Continue a bit further north and as the trail goes up a gentle rise, you’ll see New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana) shrubs on both sides of the trail. These large shrubs with ovalish leaves had beautiful pink to purple flowers back in early June, and now you can see their fuzzy, pea-pod-like seedpods. The shrubs farthest to the north in this clump have the easiest-to-find seedheads, but feel free to look over the rest of the plants as well.
You may have already seen one of our new bloomers as you walked to the chokecherry and locust shrubs. Turn around and head back south and you’ll notice a few tall yellow sunflowers with dark centers on the hill along the west side of the trail. When you get back to where the dumpster is, turn right/west and you’ll see a particularly nice specimen on the short access road/path to the underpass under the bridge. This flower is now blooming all over the Pikes Peak area. You’ve probably seen it along roadsides blooming for weeks. This is our native common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), a very adaptable, tough plant. They can grow to 10 feet tall when particularly happy. These are recent residents in the park. I remember seeing only one just two years ago. Last year, I counted four. Now there are at least a dozen or more. The seeds are edible, but you’ll have to beat the birds and squirrels to them!
To see our other new bloomer this week, head back up the hill but instead of turning left/north to the parking lot, detour to the south about 40 yards or so. Just past the telephone pole, look over to the taller plants west of of the mown area. You’ll see some plants with huge, rhubarb-like leaves with bristly purplish flowers on top of their 4-to-5 foot tall stems. Common burdock (Arctium minus) is a biennial, and in its first year, it will only have a basal group of large leaves (I often hear people say they think its skunk cabbage). The second year it sends up a thick stem with the bristly flowers on top. This impressive plant is on the Colorado Noxious Weed List C (meaning that there are not current plans to eliminate it because it is too widespread).
When you’re done admiring the burdock, head back north to the parking lot (or continue north to see some of the beautiful flowers that are still blooming).
Text and photo provided by Carey Harrington, Colorado Native Plant Master.