Recently Bernie and I camped at Eleven Mile State Park and ventured in the surrounding areas to seek out wildflowers. In spite of heavy, late snows in Park County, the areas around all three reservoirs were very arid due to lack of recent rain. We enjoyed the scenic vistas and the hiking the trails, but wildflowers to photograph were few and far between; not at all like previous years. Anglers and writers including us constantly site Eleven Mile State Park and Eleven Mile Reservoir for the outstanding fishing and hiking trails waiting to be explored. Our Colorado’s South Park: High Country Paradise and South Park, Colorado: Nature’s Paradise books, include scenic and wildflower photographs of the reservoir, (www.southparkbook.com). All three reservoirs are also home to countless birds and waterfowl. Even in winter, anglers tough the weather to ice fish for trophy trout, pike and salmon.
Two wildflowers that were notable at Eleven Mile State Park are from the Borage Family. Butter Candle and False-Forget-Me-Not or Stickseed both have small flowers with five petals and yellow centers. Butter Candle, Cryptantha celeosioides, has clusters of white blossoms atop an unbranched stem. The
whole plant is so hairy that it appears fuzzy and it is very prickly to touch. False-Forget-Me-Not, Hackelia floribunda, has small pale blue flowers in clusters on stout stems from one to four feet tall. Leaves are narrow and lance-shaped. Barb tipped fruit nutlets that form after the flowers stick to fur and clothing.
Butter Candle False Forget-Me-Not
When we left the state park, we passed miles of White Loco lining both sides of the road as far as the eye could see. Nearby Spinney Reservoir offers solitude, gold medal fishing, and views to the Collegiate Mountain Range. We were surprised at the amount of Fragile Prickly Pear Cactus, Opunta fragilis, dotting the roadsides and meadows there with bright yellow blooms. The pads or stems of the cactus resemble potato, but have spines on their smooth surfaces.
Fragile Prickly Pear Cactus and Scarlet Globemallow
We also discovered a flower that we had not noted before, Scarlet Globemallow, Sphaeralcea coccinea, a member of the Mallow Family. This low-growing plant, from four to eight inches tall, has saucer-shaped flowers with five broad petals. Leaves are deeply divided into three to five palmate segments that are grayish and hairy on the underside.
Our last stop was at Antero Reservoir that supplies drinking water to the greater Denver Metro Area. The reservoir is shallow and relatively warm. Here again, conditions were extremely dry for wildflowers; in previous years where we had seen plants growing in wet areas, there were few growing in drought-like conditions. One small side pond had completely dried up to expose its salty soil base that appeared like a snow patch in the distance. The plant photographed near the pond was Yellow Buckwheat, Eriogonum flavum, a hairy plant with bright yellow flowers that grows to eight inches tall.
Antero Reservoir pond with Yellow Buckwheat
I’ve mentioned only a few flowers found around South Park’s Reservoirs. My 224 page Rocky Mountain Wildflower Field Guide includes many more of the plants photographed there including Pale Blue-eyed Grass, Wild Iris, Red Paintbrush, Musk Thistle, Sticky Geranium, and Parry’s Gentian to name a few. For more information about my wildflower book and for additional flower blogs, visit www.highcountryartworks.com.