Wildflowers in the Garden

Ahh, wildflowers!  The Garden is host to a nice variety of wildflowers that bloom from April through September. 

April to May

Golden Banner - Thermopsis rhombifolia

Thermopsis rhombifolia is in the legume family.  It thrives in dry flatlands and woods.  It grows 6 to 18” tall. It blooms early but you can still see the dried stems and leaves the following year. 

Pasque Flower - Pulsatilla patens

Pulsatilla patens - aka Eastern pasqueflower, prairie crocus and cutleaf anemone - grow 4-10” tall.  The flowers are pale blue to white and even sometimes purple - 1-2” wide.  You may want to forego picking and sniffing as this plant has poisonous traits that can leave blisters.  You’ll notice soft hairs all over this plant that may keep it warm early in the spring.

May to June

Chiming Bells - Mertensia lanceolata

Mertensia lanceolata is known as prairie bluebells, lance-leaved bluebells, and lance-leaved lungwort.  It is native to western North America.  It grows from 8 - 12" tall and is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the Spring.  Its leaves usually point upwards. These lovely blue flowers are loved by bees, moths, and butterflies.

Creeping Jenny - Convolvulus arvensis

Convolvuls avensis - aka Field Bindweed is - as you may guess in the morning glory family.  It’s a climbing vine that can get up to 6" tall. It can also grow in tangled mats.  The flowers are funnel-shaped, white with a pinkish cast, and 1 - 2” wide.  Watch for it on nice sunny days - otherwise, you might miss it.

Sand Lily - Leucocrinum montanum

Leucocrinum montanum aka sand lily, common starlily and mountain lily is native to the western United States, especially the Rocky Mountains.  It doesn’t really have a stem and only grows about 4“ tall.  The flowers are bright white, waxy, and grow 1 - 1.5” wide with six narrow petals. 

Virgin's Bower - Clematis ligusticifolia

Clematis ligusticifolia - aka Old-man’s Beard and Virgin’s bower - was also called pepper vine by the pioneers who used the leaves as a pepper substitute. The American Indians chewed the leaves for sore throats, migraines, and colds.  But be careful since the essential oils of the plant are irritating to the skin and mucous membranes and, in large amounts can cause internal bleeding.  This climbing vine can grow up to 30” tall and the clusters of white flowers can be up to 8” across.  The individual flowers are small, less than 1” wide. 

Mid-May to Late June

Yucca - Yucca glauca

Yucca glauca is an evergreen plant also knows as small soapweed, Spanish bayonet, Great Plains yucca, and beargrass.  The tall spikes are clustered and can grow up to 15” tall.  The nodding blooms are 2 - 3” across and open at night.  They have a great friendship with yucca moths.  The Navajo Indians used many parts of the plant:  the roots were smashed to make a “soap,” leaves were used for ties and mats, the pods were eaten and, when the tips of the leaves are broken off, you can pull up the attached “thread” with the tip serving as the needle.  Honey ants collect their nectar. 

May to September

Narrow-leaved Penstemon -
Penstemon angustifolius

Penstemon angustifolius - aka broadbeard beardtongue and narrowleaf beardtongue - is in the plantain family. Its thick, waxy stems grow up to 24” tall and characteristically arches until the stem gets longer. The pink or purple flowers are loved by the hummingbirds.  This plant is a fairly recent inhabitant in Colorado likely having hitched rides along the highways in Utah.

June to Early July

Western Spiderwort -
Tradescantia occidebtakus

Tradescantia occidentalis - aka prairie spiderwort or western spiderwort is in the dayflower family.  It grows from 10 - 24” tall.  The flowers are blue with rose at the base and sometimes can be pink to white.  They are      1 - 2” wide with 3 petals that open early in the morning and often are wilted by noon on hot days - just like me. 

June to July

Paintbrush - Castilleja integra

Castilleja integra is commonly known as Squawfeather, Indian paintbrush, or prairie-fire for its bright reds and oranges. (Yes, this is one of my favorites!) It is native to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas and is in the figwort family. It was first discovered in the Organ Mountains of Texas by Charles Wright. This plant grows 4 - 12" tall. When you look closely, you’ll see fine hairs on this plant.  You may also notice a purplish tinge to the firey red/orange flowers.

Prickly-pear Cactus - Opuntia macrorhiza

Opuntia macrorhiza - aka prickly pear, or Western priclky pear loves dry, sandy soils.  It rarely grows over 1’ tall.  The flowers are bright yellow.  The Opuntia polycantha has hot pink flowers and can grow a bit taller.   The berries and pads are edible if you can get past the spines.  Cattle have difficulty with it, but deer and antelope eat the fruit and spines with no issues.  They say it tastes like watermelon. 

June to August

Lambert Loco - Oxytropis lambertii

Oxytropis lambertii is another in the legume family - also known as purple locoweed, woolly locoweed and Lambert crazyweed.  This is one of the locoweeds that is dangerous to livestock.  It grows in 6 - 16” tall spikes with pink to purple flowers.  Each flower is .5 - 1” long.  This flower is a favorite of broad-tailed hummingbirds.

Mullein - Verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus aka flannel plant, great mullein, or common mullein is in a Snapdragon family that is native to many parts of the world. It spreads prolifically and becomes invasive.  Luckily it’s not real competitive so doesn’t pose a huge problem to agriculture. Its hairy stalks can grow tall - really tall - up to 70”.  The yellow flowers are grouped on the stem and are 3/4 - 1” wide with 5 petals.  This plant is used for herbal remedies recommended for skin problems and coughs.  Settlers and American Indians used the soft leaves as inserts for their shoes for warmth and comfort.

Late June to September

Prickly Poppy - Argemone Polyanthemos

The Argemone polyanthemos - aka the crested prickly poppy.  Its prickles and bad taste saves it from grazing animals - which is good since it’s poisonous to humans and animals.  It can grow from 15 - 45” tall and has large white, delicate flowers that can be up to 3” wide.  Before it blooms it is often confused with the thistle plant.  The spines are very sharp so look but don’t touch.

July to September

Sunflower - Helianthus Annuus

Helianthus annuus is your common sunflower.  This happy flower is anything but common though. It grows up to 9' tall.  The “flower” is actually a flower head with bunches of small florets inside that demonstrate the Fibonacci number in nature.  As you can see from the close up photo - there are spirals inside, some going one direction, some the other.  They love full sun and, in some ancient cultures were a symbol of the solar deity.  Most flowers face the rising sun once they’re mature.  And yes, the seeds are edible.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia.  Photos are either ours or open source.

Return to Flora and Fauna of the Garden


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