New Rocky Mtn Wild Plant ID Site

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Hendrix
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-12-24
New Rocky Mtn Wild Plant ID Site

I could not have created this new website without digital photography -- unless I had won the lottery!!  Last summer, I set out to create an identification guide to all the wild-growing plants located in the small high-altitude area of the Peak 7 subdivision.  The website is called "Wildflowers of Peak 7" and is located at http://www.picturetrail.com/snowtrekker7

I have a vision problem similar to macular degeneration so I have to rely on the auto-focus feature of my camera.  In order to assure a sharply-focused rendition of the important plant parts, I took over 6,000 photos!

Some of the species are non-natives; some are garden escapes.  They are included to help local residents determine whether to keep or weed out something with which they are not familiar.  The majority of the species are natives that live in the Breckenridge, Colorado area between about 9,400 and 10,200 feet.  Many are treasured denizens of my experimental rock gardens.

I hope you will find this new website helpful in identifying Rocky Mountain species.  I'm currently sorting and editing this year's photos and will be uploading about 30 additional species this winter.  I've tried my best to get the correct I.D. for each species.  If you see an error, please let me know so I may correct it.

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

What a grand undertaking!

Very nice photos, and I like the individual species "introductions" that give a personal touch.

Bravo!

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

deesen
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-01-31

A brilliant resource, thank you very much indeed.

David Nicholson in Devon, UK  Zone 9b

Hoy
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Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Hi Jane,

 

Sorry to hear about your vision problem. However you have managed to make a great and interesting website. Congratulation!

Been down to Mojave desert lately? Is Hoover still alive? And what about gardening with your vision problem?

Trond Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Hendrix
Hendrix's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-12-24

Thank you, Rick, David & Trond, for your kind compliments on my new wildflower identification site.  Seeing our common species through a macro lens has opened up a world of wonder and adventure for me.

Trond, I'm sorry to say Hoover is no longer with us.  She stopped visiting us at 12 years of age.  However, her younger sister Lucy is a daily visitor.  In May, Lucy turned 14 years of age.  Two years ago, at the elderly age of 12, she bore two "children" - Cookie (male) and Miss Lily (female).  Both of them also visit us daily.

The last time we went to the Mojave Desert was spring of 2011.  We've been staying home until about May and then doing a 3-week camping/botanizing trip in high-altitude Colorado forests fairly close to us but in different ecosystems.  In early September, we take another trip usually to the high country of Utah for more botanizing.

I have no straight lines in my vision world and I have a blind spot in my left eye.  These problems make it difficult for me to read, especially text on the Internet and subtitles on the television.  Many letters are simply missing, and all the text gets twisted and small as I read a line to the right.

Thankfully, my visual impairment doesn't interfere with my gardening or hiking.  Klaus helps me when I'm leading wildflower identification hikes by going ahead and finding the small species that I can't see from a standing position. 

Photographing the various identifying features of species is challenging because I can't tell if my auto-focused photo is actually in focus until I get home and download the photo from my camera to my computer and enlarge it to 100%.  That's why I take many, many photos of the same plant.

You've probably noticed that the species at my new website are identified by their common names.  I think of them by their botanical names but identifying the plants by their botanical names would be a serious obstacle to the local people becoming familiar with them.  There is, however, botanical order to each album.  First of all, the species are arranged alphabetically by botanical family and then by their respective botanical genus. 

I led two wildflower identification hikes this summer for the Colorado Native Plant Society.  One gentleman had to drive 300 miles (483 km) round trip to attend the hikes.  He enjoyed them so much that he came a third time and joined Klaus and me on an informal wildflower hike where we found over 100 species in bloom.  He is learning to identify the grasses and has piqued my interest in them.  So far, I have positively identified two species.  This is going to be a big project!

I hope everyone who visits my new website will return next year when the flowers resume blooming because, by then, I will have the additional species uploaded that I photographed this summer.

Trond, did you get the Pulsatilla seed germinate at your cabin?

Jane

 

Jane Hendrix
Mountain View Experimental Gardens
Peak 7-Breckenridge, Colorado USA.
Elev: 10,000 feet
Zone 4
http://www.picturetrail.com/hendrix & http://www.picturetrail.com/snowtrekker7

 

IMYoung
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-31

Wonderful website, Jane, which would be the case even without your vision difficulties. To have done this in spite of your eye problems is just SUPER.

David has kindly  shared the link with the SRGC Forum too so I headed on over here to congratulate you!

 

M. Y.

Ian  and/or Margaret Young ( -here it is usually Margaret) Aberdeen , North East Scotland, UK Zone 8a

www.srgc.net

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Jane,

I am very impressed by your result with the site, even more when you describe your vision problem. I am getting more and more farsighted and think that is challenging enough even with glasses!

And I hate the autofocus system on my camera. I and that system do never agree about what's of interest in the field of view! Glad to hear that you still are able to garden and make field trips. Life wouldn't be the same without.

Although I am not very familiar with American plant names I know some and also recognize quite a few familiar plants - so no problem.

Nice to hear that you still have some "tame" foxes. Although foxes are rather common around here, I have never seen any in my garden. But roe deer have stayed here and damaged some plants during the summer. They are very shy and seldom seen. Some white tailed eagles have circled the sky her also. They're majestetic.

300 miles - that's what I have to drive to get at our cabins. He certainly enjoyed the hikes! But grasses and grass-like plants are not among my favorite plants except a few special ones. I once met a youth who had learnt to recognize all Norw. species of sedges. Impressive.

I germinated and planted out many seedlings of Pulsatilla. They are slow to grow up there and the rodents did damage a lot last winter (we had a top rodent year last winter - spring (what do you call a year with maximum population size?))  but still many are left. I hope some will flower in a few year!

smileyTrond

Trond Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Hendrix
Hendrix's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-12-24

Thanks, Maggi, for the lovely compliment and I'm so happy to learn that David passed the link to my new wildflower identification website to the SRGC Forum.  PictureTrail.com reported 843 viewings at this new site last week and I'm sure most of them were from NARGS and SRGC folks.  After all, who else would be interested in wildflowers with winter at their doorsteps (in the northern hemisphere, of course). 

We have had an unusually prolonged autumn this year up here at 10,000 feet.  While there were no more flowers blooming, except in my experimental gardens, I was still able to get additional photographs of key plant characteristics, such as leaves, stems, fruit, etc.  All that "plant fun" came to a screeching halt yesterday morning when we awoke to 4 inches (10 cm) of fresh snow.  This morning, an additional 4 inches are layered on top of yesterday's snowfall.  There is now enough snow on our trails for us to don snowshoes.

I have retained a remnant of our "green" season.  Normally, I have no house plants.  But this year an unplanted and unidentifiable species arose in one of my gardens.  It looked like "some familiar weed" and my first inclination was to yank it out.  But, because I am cataloging all wild-growing plants in our area on that new website, I decided to let this single, lanky plant continue to grow and bloom so I could positively identify it and photograph it.

Well, time passed.  It grew to 2 feet tall (60 cm) and finally set buds in small clusters at the top.  I was on the Internet checking our weather forecast when a weather alert flashed on the screen that snow was going to start in 23 minutes!  I hurried outside, dug up the plant, potted it up and brought it into my kitchen.  That was about 6 weeks ago and it DID snow about 30 minutes later!  It survived transplanting and went on to bloom - crowded clusters of small, 4-petaled, white flowers with a few purple dots. 

I couldn't see the details with my eyes - not even with strong glasses but my camera's macro lens revealed characteristics that did not conform to any species, either native or introduced, that has been reported to grow in my area or even anywhere in the entire state of Colorado!  The 4 white petals and narrow, whorled leaves at first directed me to Rubiaceae but the flower shape was too pointed and there were no purple dots.  Then I tried Lamiaceae.  Nothing like my plant was listed as growing in Colorado.  I expanded my search and, after 23 days of reading through keys and looking at over a thousand photos of  "small, white flowers" in Google images, I finally positively identified my plant as Pycnanthemum virginianum (Virginia Mountain Mint), a common eastern U.S. species whose western limits touch on eastern Kansas which on the east side of the very high Rocky Mountain Range (I'm on the west side).  How that seed get to my garden I may never know.  We DO have short-term rental homes and part-time owners from other states who like to take walks along our quiet, gravel roads.  Maybe a seed was carried in on clothing or the sole of a shoe.  People always blame the birds but, in this case, I think it's unlikely that a bird would carry a seed from eastern Kansas, over the Rockies, and still have it in its digestive system to deposit it in my garden.

Now that I've identified the species, I'm hoping it will produce seed.  Since there are no bees flying around in my kitchen, I am attempting to artificially pollinate the flowers using a paintbrush.  I've never done this before so I'm not very confident that I will be successful.  This species is listed as a hardy perennial (to Zone 3) so if I can keep it alive through our very long winter, I'm planning to replant it outside where it arose.  The literature says its leaves are used to make an especially fine mint tea. 

Jane

 

Jane Hendrix
Mountain View Experimental Gardens
Peak 7-Breckenridge, Colorado USA.
Elev: 10,000 feet
Zone 4
http://www.picturetrail.com/hendrix & http://www.picturetrail.com/snowtrekker7

 

IMYoung
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-31

Impressive tenacity in making that ID of the Pycnanthemum virginianum, Jane.  Hardly surprising it was so tricky since it is such an unexpected "visitor" - so often   tough enough making sense of the local plants, let alone those which have wafted in from elsewhere, stuck on someone's fleecy sweater!

Pretty thing, isn't it? Hope you are not tempted to make too much tea with it, or you'll have nothing left to replant!wink

It's your  attention to detail that makes your site such a pleasure to visit.

 

M

Ian  and/or Margaret Young ( -here it is usually Margaret) Aberdeen , North East Scotland, UK Zone 8a

www.srgc.net

Hendrix
Hendrix's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-12-24

Trond,

I know exactly what you mean about your auto-focus not agreeing with what you want to be in focus.  I have this same problem, especially with objects that have rounded surfaces like berries, for instance.  I also have had the consistent problem of the auto-focus focusing on a strong element in the background, such as a granite rock, rather than on the delicate parts of a flower.  To eliminate the first problem, I carry a tan-colored ruler with black markings.  If the auto-focus won't behave, I stand up the ruler close to the subject, focus on the black markings, lock the focus and carefully move the lens to the subject to center it.  Later, when I download the photo, I edit out the ruler.

For the second problem, I carry a large piece of black fleece material and set it up behind the subject plant.  I also carry spring-loaded clothespins so I can attach the fabric to tree branches, tall adjacent plants or my backpack to prevent it from blowing around when it's windy.  I have also clothespinned the stem of a subject plant to the black fabric to keep the plant still and upright when the wind won't stop.  Later, I edit out the clothespin.

Of course, these techniques do not produce the type of plant photos published in large-format coffee-table type books.  But they do ensure sharply focused identifying characteristics that I can point to when teaching folks who join our hikes how to tell one species from another.

I was walking along an access road to a favorite trail a few days ago and, having a little extra time for a change, I looked at the dried up plants growing along the road edges.  I was amazed to see what appears to be many different grass species growing in close proximity to one another.  I think one of them was Timothy (Phleum sp.).  If so, I will have "bagged" a total of 3 identified grass species for the new website!  It looks like I'm going to have to learn a whole new vocabulary of grass parts before I can begin to identify them.

We, too, were beset with rodents this year.  Pocket gophers throw pulverized soil on top of my garden plants, smothering them.  They also eat the roots by accessing them through the tunnels they excavate.  I leave them alone if they stay in our wild areas because those dirt mounds make great seed beds for new plants to get started in.  In fact, I will collect the soil in those mounds and use it when making new beds, especially since I can't shove it all back into the tunnels.  The unfortunate gopher who tries to make a home in the "all-he-can-eat buffet" of my formal gardens gets trapped with a killing trap and is fed to our foxes.  This was a low year for pocket gophers.  I caught only 3.

Chipmunks are so small and so cute -- but so destructive to my seed harvest.  They especially like Aquilegia and Papaver seeds and will chomp off the seed capsules when they are still green.  I live-trap them and the larger striped ground squirrels and relocate them to a trailhead in our national forest that's far away from anyone's garden.  This summer I caught 12 ground squirrels and 65 chipmunks in a two-week period!  There are still 2 chipmunks running around our house and gardens but, if I relocate them now at this late date, they will surely die in that new, unfamiliar territory.

What species of rodents do you have at your cabin that are damaging your Pulsatillas?  Maybe you can make a dent in their populations by trapping them while you're in residence.  Peanut butter is a good bait for mice, voles, chipmunks and ground squirrels. 

Jane

 

Jane Hendrix
Mountain View Experimental Gardens
Peak 7-Breckenridge, Colorado USA.
Elev: 10,000 feet
Zone 4
http://www.picturetrail.com/hendrix & http://www.picturetrail.com/snowtrekker7

 

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