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Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

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Florissant, Colorado


Flowers of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

The color that wildflowers add to Rocky Mountain scenery is a favorite among summer sights in Colorado. Learning names for the wide variety of brilliant flowers is challenging and fun. Some of the most common flowering plants found at the Monument are described in this guide.

Colorado can be divided into several life zones defined by plants, animals and elevation. The plains life zone occupies half of the state. At the edge of the Rockies the foothills zone begins. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument lies within the montane zone. Between the 7500 feet and 9500 feet the montane stretches to the subalpine life zone. Timberline marks the point where subalpine meets alpine. The montane zone supports wildlife such as Abert squirrels and elk. Many plants and animals found in the montane also occur in the plains, foothills and subalpine zones. You will be able to use the Fossil Beds wildflower guide in other areas of the Rocky Mountains.

The wildflowers in this guide are separated into four color categories. Identifying characteristics are give in the following order: approximate blooming season, height range, life zones (foothills, montane, etc.) habitat (meadows, dry hillsides, etc.), distinctive characteristics, interesting facts, scientific name, plant family.

Enjoy the wildflowers of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and please leave them for others to enjoy. The National Park Service is charged with preserving natural and cultural areas for the education and enjoyment of the public. Petrified wood, carbon fossils, animals and plants are protected here and may not be harmed or removed.

Wildflower programs are held daily at the monument and special wildflower seminars are scheduled throughout the summer. Ask at the visitor center about our programs.


BLUE AND PURPLE FLOWERS
drawing of Blue Gentian
Tansy Aster
August - September; 1-2 feet; foothills to subalpine; dry open areas, especially along trails and roads; yellow central florets surrounded by purple ray florets; small leaf-like phyllaries at base of flower heads are sticky. Machaeranthera pattersonii. Sunflower family.

Blue Gentian
July - August; 6-8 inches; plains, foothills, montane; dry meadows; flowers open completely only in bright sunlight. Pneumonanthe affinis. Gentian family.
 
 
Larkspur
June - July; 12-36 inches; montane, subalpine; meadows, aspen groves; both petals and sepals are deep blue-purple; upper sepal extends as tubular spur; some species poisonous to livestock. Delphinium ramosum. Buttercup family.

One-sided Penstemon
May - July; 1-2 feet; plains, foothills, montane; dry well-drained soil in open areas; showy flowers are pink to magenta when fresh, fading to blue-purple; Native Americans used species of penstemon to make washes for eyes and skin sores. Penstemon secundiflorus. Figwort family.
drawing of One-sided Penstemon
drawing of Showy Loco
Monkshood
June - August; 1-3 feet; montane, subalpine; wet meadows, aspen groves; dark blue petals forming a hood give the flower its name. Aconitum columbianum. Buttercup family.

Showy Loco
July - August; 4-8 inches; montane; dry meadows; leaves soft, hairy with silver tinge; flowers reddish purple; loco weeds often store selenium from soil which can be poison to horses and cattle. Oxytropis splendens. Legume family.
 
 
Large-flowered Blue Lettuce
June - September; 1-4 feet; plains, foothills, montane; meadows, roadside ditches; one blue head of rays on a single stem; a seed spreading by root system; milky juice of roots used by Native Americans to form chewing gum. Lactuca tatarica ssp. pulchella. Sunflower family.

Harebell
June - September; 10-18 inches; foothills to alpine; meadow and dry, rocky slopes; also known as Bluebell of Scotland; moist soil and lower elevations may produce a tall plant with many flowers, whereas alpine conditions may result in a small plant with one large flower per stem. Campanula rotundifolia. Bellflower family.
drawing of Harebell
drawing of Colorado Blue Columbine
False Forget-me-not
June - August; 1-3 feet; montane, subalpine; moist meadows, vicinity of coniferous forests; small blue flower (1/4 in.) with yellow rim around center; fruit: hard nutlets with sharp, hooked prickles. Hackelia floribunda. Borage family.

Colorado Blue Columbine
June - July; to 3 feet; montane, subalpine; partial shade and moisture of aspen groves, rock crevices; Colorado state flower; nectar stored at tip of petal spurs. Aquilegia caerulea. Buttercup family.
 
drawing of Dwarf Lupine
Blue Flax
June - August; 1 1/2-2 feet; plains to upper montane; dry to moist meadows; one flower per stem opens each day and petals fall later in day; petal color occasionally white; stems slender, containing strong fibers used for cordage by Native Americans; seeds used medicinally for laxative, burn treatment, colds. Adenolinum lewisii. Flax family.

Dwarf Lupine
June - August; 3-6 inches; foothills, montane; dry meadows; flower is dark blue and white; hairy seed pods appear while plant continues to bloom. Lupinus kingii. Legume family.
drawing of Blue Flax


RED AND PINK FLOWERS
 
Field Mint
July - August; 1/2-2 feet; foothills, montane; moist meadows, streamsides; stem square in cross section (a mint characteristic); glands secrete aromatic oils; menthol derived from a field mint variety. Mentha arvensis. Mint family.

Wild Rose
May - July; 1-4 feet; mesas, foothills, montane; meadows, hillsides; flowers fragrant; fruits, called rosehips, edible for people and wildlife, high in vitamin C. Rosa woodsii. Rose family.
drawing of Wild Rose
drawing of Globeflower
Spreading Dogbane
May - July; 1-2 1/2 feet; plains to subalpine; dry to moist open areas; white to pink flowers; (toothpick-like seed pods burst open and seeds with silky hairs attached become airborne); leaves are bright yellow in fall; milky sap thought to be poisonous. Apocynum androsaemifolium. Dogbane family.

Globeflower
July - August; to 10 inches; montane-subalpine; open forest and slopes; silky hairs on leaves and stems; seed pod is rounded cylinder; no true petals, but colorful sepals (an anemone characteristic); sepal color varies from red to greenish yellow. Anemone multifida var. globosa. Buttercup family.
 
drawing of Fairy Trumpet
Shooting star
May - July; 6-12 inches; foothills, montane, subalpine; moist to wet soils on hillsides, streamsides, in open or partial shade; Native Americans (California) roasted and ate roots and leaves; elk and deer browse on leaves in spring. Dodecatheon pulchellum. Primrose family.

Fairy Trumpet
May - July; 1-2 feet; foothills, montane; dry soil of hillsides, meadows, roadsides; often hybridizes with white species; may contain poisonous saponin, a soap-like compound. Ipomopsis aggregata. Phlox family.
drawing of Shooting Star
drawing of Wild Geranium
Indian Paintbrush
May - August; 4-12 inches; plains, foothills, montane; dry meadows, hillsides; leaf-like bracts are red, flowers are small green tubes; often parasitic, attaching roots to sage or other plant roots; flowers eaten by Native Americans, but large amounts may be poisonous if selenium present in soil. Castilleja integra. Figwort family.

Scarlet Gaura
June - August; 5-10 inches; foothills, montane; dry open areas; four delicate petals are white; fading to pink with age; petals grouped to one side of flower. Gaura coccinea. Evening Primrose family.

Wild Geranium
May - July; 10-18 inches; foothills, montane; meadows, open woods, creeksides; leaves and stems sticky and aromatic; leaves turn red in fall; Native Americans used root mixture for an astringent; food for elk, deer, bears. Geranium Caespitosum. Geranium family.
drawing of Indian Paintbrush


YELLOW AND GREEN FLOWERS
 
Colorado Rubber Plant
July - August; 4-18 inches; foothills, montane; dry meadows, rocky hillsides; leaves are divided into narrow rubbery leaflets. Picradenia richarsonii. Sunflower family.

Mountain Gumweed
July - September; 12-18 inches; foothills, montane; hillsides, meadows, disturbed areas; flower heads sticky before opening; used by settlers and Native Americans to treat a wide variety of ailments. Grindelia subalpina. Sunflower family.
drawing of Mountain Gumweed
drawing of Stonecrop
New Mexican Evening Star
July - August; 1-3 feet; foothills, montane; dry meadows, hillsides; barbed leaves and stems stick to clothing; cream-colored flowers open at night. Nuttallia rusbyi. Loasa or Stick-leaf family.

Stonecrop
June - July; 2-5 inches; foothills to alpine; dry, rocky hillsides; succulent leaves store water; Hen and Chickens and Jade Trees are cultivated relatives. Sedum lanceolatum. Stonecrop family.
 
 
Little Sunflower
July - August; 12-18 inches; montane, subalpine; ponderosa pine forests; small flower head (2 inches) is all yellow; many hairy leaves at plant base, few stem leaves. Helianthella parryi. Sunflower family.

Prairie Cone Flower
July - September; 1-2 feet; plains, foothills, montane; meadows, roadsides; dark cone-shaped center surrounded by yellow or purple drooping rays; flower head compared to Mexican sombreros. Ratibida columnifera. Sunflower family.
drawing of Prairie Cone Flower
drawing of Snakeweed
Smooth Goldenrod
July - August; 10-15 inches; plains, foothills, montane; meadows and forest clearings; many small (1/8 inch) flower heads clustered together; leaves smooth, leathery; often blamed for allergies caused by ragweed pollen. Solidago missouriensis. Sunflower family.

Snakeweed
August - September; 6-10 inches; plains, foothills, montane; dry, open areas; plant has been used to treat snakebites. Gutierrezia sarothae. Sunflower family.
 
 
Large-leaved Avens
June - August; 10 to 36 inches; foothills, montane, subalpine; meadows, moist soils; fine, delicate petals; leaves divided into fan-shaped leaflets; mistaken for cinquefoil. Geum macrophyllum. Rose family.

Golden Aster
July - September; 8-14 inches; upper montane-subalpine; dry hillsides, meadows; all yellow flower head with large leaf-like bracts below; leaves soft and hairy. Heterotheca fulcrata. Sunflower family.

Western Wallflower
May - July; 6-20 inches; plains, foothills, montane; dry meadows, hillsides; a large, showy mustard. Erysimum asperum. Mustard family.
drawing of Western Wallflower
drawing of Monument Plant
Tobacco Root
June - August; 8-20 inches; montane, subalpine; dry hillsides and meadows; flowers are tiny and green; often attract small dark insects called aphids which are tended and "milked" by ants. Valeriana edulis. Valerian family.

Yellow Owl Clover
July - September; 4-10 inches; plains to subalpine; dry hillsides and meadows; the name Owl Clover may refer to rounded petals looking life owl heads staring from a perch. Orthocarpus luteus. Figwort family.

Mounument Plant
May - August; 1-5 feet; forest clearings; large, soft leaves look life "deer's ears" which is another common name; green flowers blend in with the stalk but attract many insects. Frasera speciosa. Gentian family.
 
 
Shrubby Cinquefoil
June - August; 6-30 inches; montane, subalpine; moist soil of meadows and by ponds; a favorite landscaping shrub for variety of climates; flowers all summer. Pentaphylloides floribunda. Rose family.
 


WHITE FLOWERS
drawing of Miners Candle
Miners candle
June - July; 6-24 inches; foothills, montane; dry hillsides, meadows; tiny flowers resemble forget-me-nots; lower growing branched relative called Cryptantha. Oreocarya virgata. Borage family.

Mouse-ear Chickweed
May - August; 2-10 inches; foothills to subalpine; dry open areas; plant usually blooms for many weeks; a common native perennial in flower gardens. Cerastium arvense. Sunflower family.
drawing of Mouse-ear Chickweed
 
Death Camas
June - August; 6-24 inches; montane, subalpine; meadows, rocky slopes, forests; grass-like leaves; green gland at base of cream-colored petals; bulbs poisonous to livestock and people. Anticlea elegans. Lily family.

Mariposa Lily
June - July; 6-12 inches; foothills to lower alpine; dry meadows and forest clearings; the bulb served as a primary food for Native Americans and settlers; Utah State flower. Calochortus gunnisonii. Lily Family.
drawing of Mariposa Lily
drawing of Scorpion Weed
Cow Parsnip
June - September, 1 1/2-5 feet; foothills, montane; wet meadows, stream sides, swamps; tiny flowers are grouped together on a many-branched flowering stalk called an umbel; large leaves help to distinguish the plant from Water Hemlock, a deadly poisonous plant. Heracleum sphondylium ssp. montanum. Parsley family.

Scorpion Weed
June - July; 4-24 inches; foothills, montane; dry areas, roadsides, disturbed ground; leaves, stem and coiled flower stalk are hairy. Phacelia heterophylla. Waterleaf family.
 
 
Colorado Thistle
June - August; 4-30 inches; montane, subalpine; meadows with damp soil, streamsides; 2 types exist: (1) a stalkless variety with large, prickly leaves encircling flowering heads, (2) a tall, stout stalk that is unbranched; flower color may be cream, pink or light purple. Cirsium coloradense. Sunflower family.

Porter Aster
July - September; 6-18 inches; foothills, subalpine; meadows, sunny hillsides; forest clearings; yellow center of flowering heads turns brown with age; common white aster or the montane zone. Aster porteri. Sunflower family.
drawing of Porter Aster
drawing of Sandwort
Yarrow
June - September; 6-24 inches; foothills, montane; open areas; many small flowering heads grouped together in a flat-topped cluster; leaves are soft, fern-like and aromatic; sometimes called "nosebleed plant" because settlers found it effective in stopping bleeding. Achillea lanulosa. Sunflower family.

Sandwort
July - September; 3-12 inches; foothills to alpine; dry hillsides, pine forest clearings; 10 stamens form tiny red dots against bright white petals; under alpine conditions plant forms a low mat and is sticky. Eremogone fendleri. Pink family.
 
 
Northern Bedstraw
June - August; 6-18 inches; foothills - subalpine; dry hillsides, roadsides; many tiny, fragrant flowers; square stem; four leaves encircle stem at each node; dried bedstraw has been used as a substitute for straw in mattresses; coffee and gardenias are relatives. Galium septentrionale. Madder family.

Ground Plum
May - June; to 5 inches; plains to foothills, montane; meadows, dry soils; keel-shaped petal with purple tip; seed pod resembles green and red plum or grape. Astragalus crassicarpus. Legume family.
drawing of Ground Plum
drawing of Rocky Mountain Loco
Trailing Fleabane (Daisy)
May - July; to 5 inches; plains to subalpine; grassy slopes, meadows; small white daisy with yellow center; leafy stem trails along ground; very common. Erigeron flagellaris. Sunflower family.

Rocky Mountain Loco
June - August; 6-15 inches; plains, upper montane, subalpine; gravelly soil of slopes and meadows; leaves have silver hairs; keel-shaped petal has purple spot; hybridizes with Lambert Loco, a deep pink color, resulting in colonies ranging from white to shades of pink. Oxytropis sericea. Legume family.
 
 
Peppergrass
June - July; to 16 inches; plains to montane; dry open areas; small four-petaled flower is typical of mustards. Lepidium montanum ssp. alyssoides. Mustard family.
 


Donations from the Colorado Native Plant Society and Monument visitors have made this National Park Service publication possible. The illustrations are by Janet Wingate, text by Lynn Riedel and layout by Cindy Deswick.

This resource is based on the following source:

National Park Service.  No date.  Wildflowers of Florissant Fossil Beds National 
     Monument.  Janet Wingate, Lynn Riedel, and Cindy Deswick.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
National Park Service.  No date.  Wildflowers of Florissant Fossil Beds National 
     Monument.  Janet Wingate, Lynn Riedel, and Cindy Deswick.  Unpaginated.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govflorwild.htm 
     (Version 30DEC2002).

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