In Bloom: Ingress into the Largesse |

In Bloom: Ingress into the Largesse

Karin Teague
In Bloom
Rosy and western Indian paintbrush are engaged in a hybridization dance producing dazzling displays of unique offspring. (Photos by Karin Teague)

No wildflower season would be complete without spending a day in the wildflower cornucopia that is Marble. The size, variety, and sheer volume of wildflowers there are unmatched in the greater Roaring Fork Valley.

Like its neighbor, Crested Butte, the self-proclaimed “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” Marble enjoys a larger snowpack and more summer rain than the rest of the valley, resulting in showier stands of wildflowers. Plan on fording head-high flowers on overgrown trails, emerging wet, and smelling (quite literally) like roses.

Corn lilies, bluebells, arrowleaf ragwort and heartleaf bittercress on display in the Colorado mountains.

Currently, the best wildflowers can be found near and above tree line where water is abundant.

Lining creeks you will find 6-foot corn lilies, subalpine bluebells, arrowleaf ragwort, and heartleaf bittercress. Above tree line, in water-saturated meadows and fellfields, rosy and western Indian paintbrush are engaged in a hybridization dance producing dazzling displays of totally unique offspring.

Subalpine fleabane and yellow hairy arnica.

On drier slopes, look for purple subalpine fleabane and yellow hairy arnica. On the color wheel, purple and yellow are opposites, which makes them complementary. What this means for hikers and pollinators is their colors pop. Pop, indeed!

Yellow toadflax, Linaria vulgaris.

Alas, all is not perfect in paradise. Just steps away, the landscape is under siege from the invasive, non-native plant, yellow toadflax, Linaria vulgaris. As its other common name, “butter-and-eggs,” suggests, it is a flower easy to appreciate for its whimsical shape and color. It is also a killer.

Invasive or “noxious” weeds are plants that were brought accidentally or purposefully as ornamentals from overseas, usually Europe or Asia.

They have an advantage in their new environment in that the insects, diseases and animals that control them in their homelands are not found here in Colorado. As a result, invasive weeds can displace native plants at an alarming rate.

Yellow toadflax spread out across a field.

This is well demonstrated in the photo here, where yellow toadflax has almost entirely taken over a hillside. Gone are the variety of colors and native species seen on the adjacent slopes. Wildlife count on native plants for food, shelter, and nesting. When these are gone, so go the wildlife.

Furthermore, yellow toadflax is able to adapt to a wide variety of climatic and environmental conditions. It can be found as high as the summit of Independence Pass at 12,000 feet, where it happily establishes itself on disturbed, roadside ground. Here its seeds can easily travel on car tires or hikers’ shoes.

What to do about it? This is a complicated question with no easy answer. Yellow toadflax has an extensive underground root system that makes it hard to eradicate without applying chemical herbicides. Herbicides, though, are bad for the birds and bees and neighboring (native) plants.

The compromise we’ve landed on on Independence Pass: control the spread of invasives like yellow toadflax and oxeye daisies by hand-pulling them before they go to seed and over time reducing their numbers. While we admire plants like yellow toadflax, we love our native wildflowers more.

Aspen Times Weekly

Mountain Mayhem: Tennis anyone?

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