Flower power

Paul E. Anna

And just like that, they’re here.After two weeks of May that masqueraded as April, the sun burst forth this week in all its glory and, as if in a gesture of gratitude, flowers throughout the valley opened their petals wide to the sky. Thanks to the moisture, this may be one of the best wildflower seasons in the high country in many years. While Vox Populi in this past Sunday’s Aspen Times Weekly revealed that what many people like most about the offseason is the easy parking, there are others in the valley who prefer nature’s springtime bounty to parking convenience. For the latter group, this May has proven to be a blessing already and we still have a third of it to go.With the temperatures expected to climb into the 70s and perhaps even the 80s this weekend, it is prime time to take a walk in the Roaring Fork Valley to catch the flowers in their earliest bloom. Try Basalt Mountain, Capital Creek or up the Fryingpan. Woody Creek has a bloom, as do the lower reaches of Tiehack and the Hunter Creek Valley should be beautiful as well.What will you see? Start with yellow dandelions and daisies backed by fields of green contrasting against white peaks and blue skies in a perfect palette of color. Next, look underfoot for the small white alpine lace that seemingly is everywhere this year. Tread lightly and step sprightly as you want to leave the white carpet intact for the summer ahead.This year’s star may be the paintbrush which, with its flaming orange coloration, literally seems to burn in the alpenglow. There are over 200 different species of paintbrush found in the Rockies and other western mountain ranges. Botanists refer to the group as castilleja, named for an esteemed 18th-century botanist from Spain whose disciple first identified one of the species in the mountains of Colombia. The species found here is called the castilleja miniata with miniata translating in Latin to the color red. They will last into the late summer, but that flaming orange is best viewed now before it fades.Each plant and flower is a unique living entity unto itself. But together they form our ecosystem and provide us with a reminder that life can be renewed each and every year.Get out this weekend to someplace where you can stop and smell the flowers. Parking won’t be a problem.