Saturday, May 15, 2021

Carnation phlox: a tale of Whoa!

Phlox caryophylla (Carnation phlox) near Pagosa Springs.

It's similar to a bevy of Compact, pink Western and even Eastern phloxes--certainly not glaringly different from a compact form of P. longifolia or P. speciosa, say. But it does have it's morphological quirks that have distinguished it as a species. And a narrow range in Southern Colorado pretty much restricted to Archuleta county and a small part of neighboruing northern New Mexico.

Where you still find it (and there's the rub) it's pretty abundant--carpeting the ground in this case for about an acrel You can tell that it's slowly rhizomatous, and recognize different clones--like this paler, more spidery flowered form...

Here's a slightly pinker, wider petaled form....

I wonder how long ago it was the Pondersa pine was lumbered? This stretch of the foothills and piedmont at the southern base of the San Juan mountains was once a vast forest of the tallest Ponderosa pines in Colorado: there are a few of the tallest ones left nearby--and these of course--towered over our little carnation phlox. Except for when they were cut down, of course. There are lots of pines still around--mostly at least second growth.
Let's revel at one last pale patch of phlox before we get down to the dirty truth.
The dirty truth is that 50 years ago I drove through Pagosa Springs at almost the very same time of year: I was enchanted then by seeing endless acres of this phlox blooming glorious pink. I took some  pictures than I scanned and will append after I publish this lot of fresh shots. I've been through Pagosa several times since in the summer, or winter, and never bothered to look for the phlox (which wasn't in bloom) noticing the proliferation of houses and the endless line of commercial development along the highway. Not until I drove through yesterday in bloom time have I realized that most of what used to be phlox habitat has disappeared. This is the recurring tragedy of the Anthropocene--and it must not just be stopped, it must be reversed. Nuff said.

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