Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A surfeit of blue: the Bighorns in late June.....

Aquilegia jonesii on Duncum mountain
 For rock gardeners, the bighorns summon images of Jones' inimitable columbine. Well..here it is! In all it's glory. We hit the columbine "spot on" as they say, and I suspect many dozens of pictures were taken yesterday (June 29),,,
Here was the champion Jonesii!
 What's most amazing is that the biggest and happiest plants are along the road? What did they do before jeep roads?

Aquilegia jonesii
The camera keeps snapping--almost beyond control!
Aquilegia jonesii
Typical tufts are smaller but still very winsome!
Delphinium nuttallii
Far commoner than the columbines, larkspur make pools of cobalt color from forest zone up to the tundra.

Claytronia lanceolata
I was surprised this year to see how ubiquitous spring beauties were at almost every elevation--including tundra.
Douglasia (Androsace) montana, Draba oligosperma and Eritrichium aretioides
I particularly enjoy seeing the bright color of alpine plants when they are in combinations like these...

Douglasia (Androsace) montana, Draba oligosperma and Eritrichium aretioides
Or in this even more intimate combo.

Eritrichium aretioides
I thought we had Eritrichium in abundance in Colorado: on Duncum and Sheep mountain it's practically a groundcover!

Towards the summit of Duncum
The lay of the land is fascinating--so gentle and yet rugged all at once. Dolomite is a fascinating rock. The hoodoos of Duncum mountain are in the distance.

Douglasia montana
Apparently "Douglasia" is just a subset of Androsace--which makes sense if you look at them. But we're diehards and it will take a while to ease into the new generic term...They're ubiquitous hereabouts.
More views--gray from a distance, full of flowers close up.

A ledge with alplily
I love the lichen encrusted limestone! Lloydia serotina isn't as common hereabouts as in Colorado, I think. But fun to find nonetheless.

Among the hoodoos
Mary Jenson, president of our chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, is exploring among the hoodoos. The picture doesn't show the hurricane force winds that made the hiking "interesting"...
Astragalus kentrophyta ssp. implexus
In Colorado this usually occurs in more Montane elevations. This was popular with the group--surely the tiniest astragalus.

We spotted five moose on the trip, quite a few elk. One of our party saw a Grizzly bear, and of course lots of mule deer--a regular "Wild World" episode!

The young bucks seemed almost as interested in us as we in them...

Shooting star meadow
My camera can't pick up the bright rose specks that positively fill the meadow: like Douglasia with Androsace, Dodecatheon is now combined in Primula: and this tiny "watsonii" isn't even recognized by most botanists. Oh well...
Saxifraga rhoboidea
I don't remember ever seeing our snowball saxifrage making such extensive meadow appearances in Colorado either!
More views of shooting stars en masse...
I never get tired of shooting stars (Primula pulchella just doesn't cut it!)

Allan Taylor sprawled out photographing
What a treat to travel with Allan--my brother-in-law and first gardening mentor! He hadn't ever been on this mountain, so it was fun to watch him revel in it!

Closeup of the Dodies (affectionate nickname for Dodecatheon that was)

A still unidentified umbel (Lomatium) that was here and there in the meadows.
I've come to love Apiaceae--which is a good thing. We have almost too many in the West...not as bad as Central Asia however.

And MORE dodies...

Growing with the Dodecatheon was the tiniest Collomia barely a few millimeters tall.

Trollius albiflorus
Albiflorus is a bit of an overstatement: these are a wonderful lemonade yellow color.

Pasqueflowers on Medicine Wheel mountain
We've now driven a few miles to Medicine Wheel mountain--and one of the first things to greet us was a meadow filled with Pulsatilla patens.

John Brink and Caryl Shilelds threading the snowfields

And here it's Sandy Snyder...another old and dear friend.

It's always fun to find witch's brooms--here in Engelmann spruce

Our destination, still a mile away--Medicine wheel mountain in the distance..

Draba oligosperma everywhere still.

And lots of Eritrichium, here combined with Phlox pulvinata in a pale form.

Astragalus kentrophyta again, even more common on this mountain.

I can't resist Douglasia montana

The real goal of the trip--Kelseya uniflora!
There was only one plant blooming still, and it was in a precarious spot--but zooming in on it let's us get a view of the winsome flowers.

Even the kelseyas that had finished flowering were gorgeous to view!

swales full of Ranunculus pedatifidus

Ranunculus pedatifidus
A gorgeous plant up close as well...

Medicine Wheel
The fence surrounding the wheel is festooned with colorful amulets.

Medicine Wheel
Always inspiring to come to this ancient destination of the native peoples of our region.
Maybe a geum instead--but very cute tucked in the rock...

Clematis columbiana v. tenuiloba
Most of the larger colonies were only in bud, but we did find a few tufts of this sublime groundcovering clematis starting to bloom--a fitting bluish end to a shimmering day in one of America's most glorious flower fields--which was better than ever for us this summer.


  1. Fantastic, each and every plant and scenic view, thank you for posting!

  2. The photos are breath-taking: the perfect A. jonesii cushion, the combinations of textures and colors, the K. uniflora in flower, the clematis, all of them! Did you, or will you, collect seed? I haven't grown from seed of recent, but would happily buy plants from someone who does.

  3. Perfect! So many great plants - even some mysteries. And fantastic colors. Looks like a great trip!

  4. Having just visited the Bighorns, I can really appreciate these photos and story. Thanks so much!

  5. This post is inspirational. I will have to make a trough with these species and call it the "Bighorn." I already have about half of them and sown, but ungerminated, seed from most of the others.


  6. Wow, I really wish I was there... Lovely photos, lovely plase, wonderful plants...

    Gry Heidi

  7. Thank you all for the kind comments: we really hit both the Bighorns (and the Beartooth the next day--as you shall see) at the perfect time. I only wish my camera could capture the incredible color of acre after acre full of delphiniums in cobalt pools of color, the masses of forget-me-nots that actually colored the tundra, etc. etc. etc. You just have to be there! Should be good for several more weeks, Barbara (especially the Beartooth).


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