Wildflowers of Early April

Photo of Townsendia hookeri
Townsendia hookeri - One of the earliest daisy-type wildflowers
In 2007, I began working on my Native Plant Master (NPM) certification down in Jefferson County. We were in the process of moving to Lyons, but Boulder did not yet have a NPM program, so I hoofed it down to Morrison every Saturday for a month to begin learning about native plants. Three years later and I’m preparing to co-teach my first Native Plant Master courses right here in Lyons at Rabbit Mountain next month.

Usually, I’d say the wildflower season in this area begins in March. But we’ve had a cool, wet spring, so I think things are getting off to a late start. That’s part of the reason I was delighted to find so many little treasures blooming on my first Rabbit Mountain hike of the season yesterday afternoon. There were definitely some familiar favorites such as Viola nuttallii (Nuttall Violet) and Lomatium orientale (biscuit root), but there was also the earlier blooming of the new chickweeds – Cerastium nutans – and annual blue violet Viola kitaibeliana var. rafinesquei. For those of you who are interested in what’s starting to green up, prickly pear, Artemisia frigida, yucca, currants, and rabbit brush were all beginning to make an appearance. And of course the blue mustard and other early-season weeds are beginning to go mad.

photo of Corydalis aurea
Corydalis aurea - Golden Smoke - blooming yesterday at Rabbit Mountain
Two of the plants we discovered yesterday were new to me and took a little researching and keying with Weber & Wittmann’s Colorado Flora Eastern Slope to identify. The first is pictured above – Townsendia hookerii, and the second is Corydalis aurea (Golden Smoke). I struggle to identify all the daisy-like flowers that are native to this area, but lucked out on ID-ing the Townsendia because of the distinctive stemless flower and foliage.

The Corydalis took ages, however. The foliage indicates that the plant is in the pea family, but the flowers are tubular like others in the family Scrophulariaceae (like penstemon, for example). After exhausting the possibilities in those two families, we finally stumbled upon Corydalis. I realize that geeking out on botanical classifications may not be your cup of tea and that’s just fine–you can let me do the hard work, and Matt will provide the gorgeous photos as always. I’m going to try to venture to Button Rock (where I would eventually like to teach) this weekend, so expect more photos soon!