When we moved to Colorado in late August last year, one thing I knew I would miss in Kansas was the beautiful Flint Hills.  I loved it in the spring when the ranchers burned off the grasses – the smell always signalled spring to me.  A short time after the burns, the grass comes up and covers the hills with a velvet covering.  A few weeks after that, and wildflowers spring forth everywhere.  Last June, in one day, I identified over 30 different species in bloom near Alma, Kansas.  That was a day I won’t soon forget.  By mid-June, the grasses are getting lush and tall, swaying in the ever-present winds.  Fall brings brightly colored sumac, brilliant blue skies, dried grasses in every shade of rust, brown and amber you can dream of, and golden cottonwood leaves in the washes and near waterways. By far, though, my favorite time was early June: wildflower season.  I lamented that I would likely not see such displays of blooms ever again.

I didn’t expect the high desert around Grand Junction to yield much in the way of wildflowers.  Yes, we had been here in late May and there were signs of a few wildflowers, but I certainly wasn’t anticipating multitudes of blooms.

My eyes have been opened!

The high desert has tons of wildflowers.  Sometimes they are harder to see, but they are here.

In very late March and early April, a couple of short hikes up in the Monument (that’s Colorado National Monument to you non-locals) revealed at least a dozen varieties:  wooly milkvetch, wild alyssum, bladderpod, elegant thelopody, indian paintbrush, golden corydalis, yellow-eye cryptantha, bur buttercup, fendler’s spring parsley, western wallflower, and a couple I still haven’t identified.  On April 16 I took another short hike in the Monument and saw long-leaf phlox, yellow-eye cryptantha, wooly milkvetch, yellow cryptantha, indian paintbrush, puccoon, globe mallow, easter daisy, western tansy mustard, western wallflower, and another couple I couldn’t figure out.  My May 8 hike found sand verbena (smells SO good!), indian paintbrush, claret cup cacti, peppergrass, evening primrose, dwarf primrose, desert phlox, perky Sue, yellow-eye cryptanth, desert phacelia, fendler’s spring parsley, larkspur and western tansy mustard.  During the wildflower walk I attended on Saturday, we saw fendler’s spring parsley, sand aster, spreading fleabane, perky Sue, cryptantha (yellow AND white, but no yellow-eye), prince’s plume, claret cup cacti, twin bladderpod, peppergrass, sego lilly, crescent milkvetch, large-flowered breadroot, globe mallow, sand verbena, evening primrose, desert phlox, cushion wild buckwheat, bladderstem, indian paintbrush, and bluestem penstemon. Later that day while hiking in Rough Canyon, I also saw scarlet gillia.

Anyone who says the desert is lifeless has obviously not been here at the right time.

I’m going to resurrect my “Wild Thing” posts soon, since I have so many beautiful wildflowers to share.  Problem is, I’m having so much fun hiking, finding, and identifying them, it doesn’t leave me much time in front of the computer to write! Keep checking back to learn about the “Desert in Bloom.”

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