Recently Bernie and I joined a Colorado Native Plant Society group for an informative outing at Mount Evans. We began our trek at the Mt. Goliath trailhead at 12,100 feet and followed it downward through the Bristlecone area of Mount Evans along the Walter Pesman trail.
Many of the flowers we discovered were tiny, ¼ inch or less as our altitude was comparable to northern Canada’s tundra or to the Arctic Circle. We marveled at how these plants grow in such a harsh environment and learned some of their survival secrets. Along the steep rocky trail we spotted the following flowers that are all detailed in my new 224-page book, Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide: Alpine-Forget-Me-Not, Alpine Sandwort, Moss Campion, Alp Lily, Alpine Phlox, Sky Pilot, American Bistort, Alpine Avens, Fairy Primrose, Goldflower or Woolly Actinea, and Alpine Spring Beauty.
Goldflower or Wooly Actinea blooms, similar to Old-Man-of-the-Mountain, are much smaller.
Many of these plants grow close to the ground where temperatures are at least 10 degrees warmer than at two to three feet higher. Some other plants form mats of tiny leaves resembling moss to hold in moisture. One should use extreme caution when hiking in the alpine tundra as some of these mats of plants may take up to 30 years to grow up to 3 feet across. Alpine Spring Beauty has a tap root that can extend ten feet or more to find nutrients and moisture for the plant.
Rock Jasmine and purple Wallflower
Bernie and I discovered a few plants that we had not yet catalogued but intend to include in the next printing our wildflower book. These plants included: Twisted Pod Draba, Alpine Nailwort, Alpine Bistort, Snowball Saxifrage, and Alpine Rock Jasmine which looks almost like Alpine Phlox but is slightly taller and has bright yellow centers that turn pink with age.
Ancient Bristlecone Pines at M. Walter Pesman Trail, Mt. Evans
Half way down the trail, we passed through a magnificent Bristlecone forest. The upper section had many twisted trees, standing for over fifteen hundred years even though some had been struck by lightning. Bristlecone Pines are the oldest living single organisms on earth; I wrote an article about them in the Flume’s 2012 issue of “Summer in the Park Magazine. The trees are also pictured in our “South Park” coffee table books, see www.highcountryartworks.com.
The M. Walter Pessman Trail is easier to hike down than up and it ends after 1.75 miles at the Dos Chapel Nature Center, which has an alpine flower garden built around it. Our group of eleven enjoyed the day with great weather and great discussions. Several had my Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide and were complimentary of the clear photographs and the range of flowers covered that many guides leave out.
Also check out our new 2015 Colorado Wildflower Photo Calendar now available through our website: www.highcountryartworks.com.
In my next blog I will cover Pikes Peak wildflowers and plants that Bernie and I found near South Park’s large reservoirs.