Recently I completed my first Colorado Native Plant Society course through the CSU Extension. For three Saturdays a group of approximately 15 of us explored the flora of Golden Gate State Park in Colorado. We hiked along trails as our instructor, Mariska Hamstra, pointed out plants and gave information as to their families, scientific names, characteristics, and ecological connections. Each day we studied approximately 30 plants; so by the end of the course, we learned close to 100 species. On the last day of the class, the beginning of our time was spent with a test. Our instructor walked along the trail ahead of us and placed tags by 15 plants for us to identify. We had to write the scientific name, give characteristics, ecological information, and whether or not the plant was native or alien. There were also other questions concerning plant families and invasive plants. After the test, we spent the rest of the day discussing alien plants, what makes a non-native plant considered invasive, and reviewing what we had covered in the 3 days. I am proud to say that I made an A+ on the test and look forward to continuing my studies toward a Colorado Flora Certificate.
Golden Gate State Park is located 16 miles northwest of Golden and offers green mountain meadows, lush aspen groves, and pine covered hills. It has more than 12,000 acres to explore ranging in altitude from 7,600 feet to 10,400 feet. It is well worth several visits for all kinds of outdoor activities including rock climbing, fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are various accommodations available such as RV and tent sites as well as one room cabins and yurts.
Since Golden Gate State Park was a new area for me, I saw some plants that I had not seen before along with many “old friends”. Many of the wildflowers I saw appear in my newly published Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Pocket Guide. Throughout the park I saw Fairy Trumpets, Ipomopsis aggregata, (featured in my book) in all shades from red to pink to white. The delicate flowers in elongated clusters are favorites of hummingbirds.
A new Buttercup Family find was the Meadow Anemone, Anemonidium canadense. I’ve often seen the buds that remind me of a dotted Q-tip, but never so many flowers blooming in one place. At first glance it could be confused with another Buttercup Family member, the Globeflower as both have deeply cleft leaves and white flowers with separate petals and many stamens. At closer glance, the Anemone has longer leaves, less petals, and the distinctive bud.
Meadow Anemone and Giant Angelica
Giant Angelica, Angelica ampa, was growing in profusion in several areas of the park. This member of the Parsley Family, Apiaceae, grows to 4 feet tall on a stout stem and has an umbrella-shaped head with many tiny greenish-yellow to white flowers. Leaves are pinnately divided and attached with a buff-colored sheath that clasps the stem.
Native Plant Society Group at Golden Gate State Park
The Native Plant Society course was quite enjoyable and my thanks to a great teacher, Mariska Hamstra, who went far and above the course requirements to introduce us to so many wonderful wildflowers. For more wildflower blogs and more information about the Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide, visit www.highcountryartworks.com. To learn more about the Colorado Native Plant Society, visit www.conps.org.