Native Plant Fanatics


American PlumPhoto by Lisa Bird (Prunus americana)

Appearance: American plum, a member of the Rose family, is one of the first native woody plants to bloom in the spring, with the white, fragrant, 5-petalled blossoms appearing before the leaves unfold.   There are numerous 1”-2” long, blunt thorns along the branches.  The leaves are long, pointed and oval-shaped.  American Plum bears edible 1” diameter fruit which ripen mid- to late summer, and fall color can be a muted reddish-orange. (more…)

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White fir (downed by lightning)

Have you noticed that some of the white firs (Abies concolor) in the Colorado Springs area are suffering? Many of these beautiful native trees seem to be having trouble this year, and experts are stumped. The needles start to turn a slightly lighter shade and drop, sometimes in a spiral pattern from the top down. Looking at the whole tree, it looks like it is declining gradually overall. The problem is affecting white firs of all ages and in all planting situations, non-irrigated, irrigated, sandy soil, clay soil, etc.

Of course, all evergreens naturally lose needles every year from the interiors of their branches. As the trees grow, those needles become shaded and no longer useful in the photosynthesis process. So the efficient trees drop those needles and concentrate their energy on the newer needles on the branch ends. With this condition, which has been informally dubbed “white fir decline,” all the needles along the branches are dropping. Another interesting feature is that these trees seem to have their upper branches covered with more cones (fully and not-yet-fully developed) than usual. (more…)

For a wrap-up of other areas and what’s been blooming, check out:
Blooming in Monument Valley Park – All Posts.

I am pleased and surprised to be able to share four new blooming plants this week!

Start at the parking lot where Fontanero Street ends at the park, and start heading west down the hill.

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Brickellia grandiflora

Tasselflower
About halfway down the hill, on the north side of the road/path under a white fir, look for some pale yellow flowers that dangle down from their stems. This is the native tasselflower (Brickellia grandiflora). Although it is usually more often found on rocky slopes, canyon sides, or cliffs, I saw this in three different areas of the park. Sometimes the flowers can be a bit more greenish. It can be easy to overlook, so really keep your eyes open for this one.
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ambrosia_trifida.jpgThis week, I decided to post about a plant I saw in Sonderman Park instead of doing another update on Monument Valley Park. It’s giant ragweed, and living up to its name, it is nearly 9 feet tall! (When I first encountered the plant in a Native Plant Masters course, our specimen was only 2 feet tall. It’s amazing what some rain can do.) It was so big, that at first I had a hard time identifying it. And then I realized, “Oh my gosh….this is giant ragweed!” The park does have the western ragweed, a smaller plant with more deeply lobed leaves, as well. If you’ve pulled ragweed from your garden, the western variety is probably the one you’ve dealt with (I’ve pulled hundreds of these over the years at the utility company’s xeriscape demonstration garden).

To find this plant, park in the Beidleman Center parking lot, and proceed into the park. After you cross the small footbridge over the creek, the giant ragweed patch is about 30 yards ahead and on your right (the first side trail to the right starts there). (more…)

For a wrap-up of other areas and what’s been blooming, check out:
Blooming in Monument Valley Park – All Posts.

This week, I saw a few new berries in the park. The berries I saw last week are still there, and many of the blooming plants highlighted in the July 28 post are still blooming as well.

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Symphoricarpos occidentalis

Snowberry
We’ll start at the parking lot where Fontanero Street ends at the park and head north. You’ll pass our favorite little field with many things still blooming (threadleaf yellowrays, a few penstemon, some spiderwort, and lots of blue grama grass seedheads). Continue to the west of the playing field and when you’ve gotten nearly to the end of the field and the path starts to gently turn to the right, start watching along the left edge of the trail. You should see a small patch of western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) with its small white berries. As with most white berries, these are toxic to humans, and you do not want to eat them! Interestingly, other animals, like chipmunks, are able to eat them. Once you start recognizing the grey-green leaf and the white berries, you’ll probably notice this native shrub in many other areas of town (like Garden of the Gods, for example). (more…)

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.

Chokecherry
padusberriesred.jpgWe’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.
padusberriesblack.jpg (more…)

For a wrap-up of other areas and what’s been blooming, check out:
Blooming in Monument Valley Park – All Posts.

This week, let’s be brave and take a look at one of the many grasses that are thriving in the park this year (grass ID is notoriously difficult!). It is growing in many places, so we’ll start at the parking lot where Fontanero Street ends at the park and walk to the north. We’ll encounter the grass very quickly, but feel free to do the whole mile loop if you want to see just how prolific this grass is.

smoothbrome.jpgSmooth Brome (Bromopsis inermis)
If you walk on the path to the north of the parking lot, you’ll soon notice a tall grass on the west side of the trail along the fence. This is called smooth brome (Bromopsis inermis). It is about three feet tall with beautiful brown seedhead spikes on the top. For a sure-fire identification, look at the leaves closely. Smooth brome has a characteristic “M” (or “W,” if you’re looking at it upside-down) crimped across the middle of the leaf. (more…)

Wow, this has been one heck of a year for the park. There is so much going on plant-wise that I can hardly keep up! Once again, I’ve whittled this post down to a few new or interesting plants. Put on your walking shoes, and let’s go!

(If you’re interested, you can see all of the posts for what’s been blooming in Monument Valley Park this year at :
Blooming in Monument Valley Park – All Posts)

This week, we’ll start at the parking lot where Fontanero Street ends at the park and walk about a mile loop, starting north.

Near Parking Lot

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Ximenesia encelioides

If you walk to the path by the parking lot, you’ll very quickly notice a small group of tall yellow flowers blooming on the west side of the trail under a pine. The leaf is rather large and toothed. This plant is an alien and is called Goldweed or Cowpen Daisy (Ximenesia encelioides). Not surprisingly, given the cowpen daisy name, it can sometimes be found in corrals. (more…)

The rain is back! To celebrate, we’ll look at a new area in the park today. Many of the flowers in this area are not blooming elsewhere in the park. (You’ll be happy to hear that the Colorado Springs Parks and Rec Maintenance Manager has agreed to meet with me to see the areas that we’ve been following, so that he can tell his crew to not mow them! Thanks Kurt!)

For a wrap-up of other areas and what’s been blooming, check out:
Natives Blooming in Monument Valley Park – All Posts

Creekside Area

Warning – Wear shoes you don’t mind getting a bit muddy!
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Park at the small lot where Fontanero ends at the park, and walk west, down the hill. Instead of turning right at the dumpster, continue straight so that you’ll pass under the bridge.

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Rumex crispus

On your way towards the bridge, you’ll notice a plant blooming on the right that looks like, well, rusty on top. This is Curly Dock (Rumex crispus). This non-native (a.k.a. alien) has large leaves that are wavy along the edges and the rusty stalks on top are the “fruit” or seeds; the flowers were green.
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The rain continues to taper off, but many of the plants in the park are still looking strong. I’ll be off playing with the wildflowers in Crested Butte next week, so there won’t be an update on Monument Valley Park next week. (You’ll just have to go check it out yourselves!)

You’re welcome to revisit last week’s post but I’ll try to do a thorough summary of everything that is still blooming. And I do have one new plant to add.

Area 1

Park at the small lot where Fontanero ends at the park, and start walking north.

mownfield.jpgFor those of you who’ve been following “area 1” with me (the area around the stone ditch and then the field north on the right/east side of the trail) will probably be as disappointed as I was to discover that these areas have been completely mowed down to about 1 inch.
Previously this field and ditch area had a beautiful collection of natives and non-natives blooming:
Western spiderwort
Evening primrose
Threadleaf yellowrays
Four o’ clocks
Alfalfa
Cowboy’s delight
Sprawling daisy
Yellow salsify

Right now, the field has some thriving red filaree (a low-growing weed that is on the noxious weed list), some patches of cactus, as well as a few brave primrose still blooming. (more…)

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