Rocky Mountain field guide is blessing for flower lovers

Denver Botanic Gardens experts produce volume with 1,200 photos


Denver Botanic Gardens botanists have worked for more than three years to produce a really comprehensive guide to the many spectacular flowers that bloom in the Rocky Mountains each year. They range from 50 kinds of blue penstemon to rare and retiring orchids — totaling 1,200 species from eight states and Canada.

Each is identified by a photograph and location map, a description, popular name, where found and when, and if native. Some are noted as highly toxic or used as native medicine — or in the case of Aquilegia coerulea, Colorado blue columbine, it’s the state flower of Colorado. Four varieties are identified, and the reader learns that “all columbines hybridize freely.”

After months of listing, photographing, sorting and organizing, the Botanic Gardens has issued a sturdy, handsome, flexible book to carry in your backpack to identify as you go — or used another way, it might suggest where and when you’d want to go to hunt for a particular species ...

The inside covers and endpapers have explanatory black-and-white drawings illustrating the parts of a flower and different leaf forms so one can be certain what one has found.

The concise introduction by Panayoti Kelaidis sets the scene, with descriptions of the areas covered by this book: The Northern, Middle and Southern Rockies (Colorado is in the Southern Rockies), a bit on plant distribution, on elevation is various regions, and a clear reminder to “leave no trace” — and pick no flower!

A section follows on “How To Use This Book”: description, names, abundance, bloom season, growth cycle, height. Then one must recognize life zones: alpine, subalpine, montane, foothills, pinyon-juniper, sagebrush steppes, intermountain parks (especially in Southern and Middle Rockies), high plains, wetlands — with photos to help.

Then, how botanists classify plant families, with some clues about appearance. Finally, 1,200 well-organized photographs and descriptions, divided by color: green, maroon and brown, red, blue, white, yellow.

And finally, a section on what scientific names mean, a glossary of descriptive words, a section on sources and resources.

The authors include: Sonya Anderson, Mike Bone, Nick Daniels, Dan Johnson, Panayoti Kelaidis, Mike Kintgen, Sarada Krishnan (director of horticulture), Cindy Newlander, Savannah Putnam, Jen Towes, Katy Wieczorek.

“Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region” is available at the Denver Botanic Gardens and at bookstores for $27.95.

Denver Botanic Gardens, Sonya Ellingboe


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