Story by Mary Menz, November, 2009
During the spring and summer months residents and visitors of this area notice the abundance of wildflowers and grasses with little thought of classifying the plants’ existence as native, invasive, or noxious. Because nearly every plant with a flower naturally brings forth thoughts of grace and beauty, it’s always a surprise to learn which of them are native species, alien invaders, or noxious flora. At the October 31 Breakfast Potluck at Aspen Valley Ranch, attendees of the Harvest Center’s presentation heard two local experts share information and photos of plants and grasses native to our part of unspoiled Colorado.
Carla Anderson—a Native Plant Master, Certified Colorado Gardner, and local Landscape Architect—shared photos and information about numerous wildflowers that thrive in the high altitudes of Teller County. The lengthy list includes herbaceous natives such as the wild hops vine, sand lily, pasque flower, mariposa lily, globe bellflower, wild blue flax, pussytoes, kinnickkinnick, paintbrush, fringe sage, narrow-leafed puccoon, chocolate flower, penstemon, fendler meadow rue, wild iris, threadleaf yellowray, lupine, prickly poppy, fireweed, willow herb, yucca, and buckwheat plants.
Anderson, a co-founder of the Green Mountain Falls Community Garden and the 2006 recipient of the Colorado Volunteer Service Award as Designer of the 1905 Carnegie Library Garden Project, was eloquent in her descriptions of high-altitude-friendly wildflowers as well as weeds (both invasive and noxious) and stressed the importance of identifying weeds that are harmful to range land and cattle.
“Some weeds like the Platte lupine, snakeweed, and locoweed are pretty to look at, but once recognized as hazardous to cattle and wildlife they need to be removed,” stressed Anderson. Not only are horses or cattle are affected by the toxicity of these noxious weeds. Numerous documented cases exist wherein hungry elk have been known to graze heavily on pastures and range land that harbor locoweed and subsequently die from the build up of toxins in their bodies.
Leon Kot, District Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) office in Woodland Park, followed Anderson’s presentation with an overview of native grasses and their uses in pasture/range management and erosion control for home site development uses. He addressed environmental preferences and seed application of aggressive clump or “pasture” grasses (like Brome, Crested Wheatgrass, and Annual Ryes) as well as slow-growing native grasses such as Blue Gramma, Buffalograss, and Little Bluestem.
Kot encourages landowners to take advantage of the services that the Teller-Park Conservation District has to offer, such as help in preventing soil erosion and controlling noxious weeds. Kot also encourages a visit the Teller-Park Conservation District office where District Manager Pat Galvin has native grass and wildflower seed available for purchase.
For more information
Teller-Park Conservation District
800 Research Drive, Ste. 100
Woodland Park, CO 80863
Colorado Natural Resources Conservation Service
1905 Carnegie Library Garden Project