Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Eldorado Gold

Our spring walk near Eldorado Canyon on Sunday was rich in rewards. Almost every spring flower and shrub imaginable was blooming--enough to satisfy my foothills fancies for a long time! So, finally, it's party time for plants here.

First up are two cousins: Whiskbroom Parsley and Mountain Caraway. In the deadly and delicious Carrot Family, these fall into the Rule 2 category: "don't pick, unless you really know what you're doing." But Rule 1, "don't pick" takes precedence in general anyway! Enjoy them and let them be.

Right: Mountain Caraway, Aletes acaulis, occurs throughout the montane, but clearly is fond of rock walls, banks, edges, and other dramatic options.

Right: Whiskbroom Parsley, Harbouria trachypleura, is also common in montane forests, and can be distinguished by its very narrow, finely divided leaves.

Montane forests, for those not around here, generally means forests mostly of either Ponderosa Pine or Douglas-Fir, at elevations from about 6,000 to 8,000 feet, with Ponderosa on the warmer or lower areas and Douglas-fir on cooler (e.g., north-facing) slopes. These plant communities mingle with shrublands (chaparral) on their lower edges and with dense coniferous forests of many species (but think spruce especially) at higher elevations. Okay?

What's nice about the montane zone, among many fine qualities, is that it's rich in flowering shrubs and wildflowers of its own, as well as some refugees from lower elevations. We'll see some of those in the days ahead.

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