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This year’s “Wildflower Walk in Monument Valley Park” (sponsored by the Friends of Monument Valley Park) is coming soon!

I lead this walk every year (plus a tree walk in September). Recent heavy rains should make this one extra interesting. The walk is free and open to the public.

Join us and learn a little about the plants in the park!

Date: June 6, 2015
Time: 10:00 a.m. – noon
Where: Meet at the West Fontanero Street parking lot
(travel west on Fontanero St from Cascade Ave until it ends at the parking lot)

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Douglas Fir in happier times in MVP

 

A few year ago I wrote a post about the trees we were losing to drought in Monument Valley Park in Colorado  Springs (see “What Severe Drought is Looking Like in Monument Valley Park”).  The drought and its effects have been harsh enough for us to even lose some of the super drought tolerant ponderosa pines that have lived in the park for years. We’ve had a bit more moisture the past year (including this past winter – yay!), but we are going to see the effects of the drought for many more years – especially on our older, established trees.

One tree species particularly hard hit has been the beautiful Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii). I started noticing they weren’t producing many cones a few years back, and then I started to notice browning of needles on branch tips, then whole branches started to die, and finally, entire trees were dead.

This continues, and recently the city seems to have found some funding to cut some of the dead trees down.

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Group of Dead Douglas Firs Being Cut Down (check out that sky!)

 

The Douglas fir is native to the foothills in the Pikes Peak region and is classified as a low-to-moderate water user. Sadly, I predict within a few years, we won’t have any more of them living in the park.

There are weeds, and then, there are noxious weeds. Just what is a “noxious weed?” These are plants that are listed on the Colorado Noxious Weeds List. They have been identified as being a threat to native species, usually because they are incredibly invasive. The list is divided into three sublists: lists A, B, and C. If a plant is on List A – it has been identified as a threat that is still possible to be contained and eradicated. We are legally required to eradicate these species if they show up on our property. An example of one that has shown up in residential landscapes in our area is myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites). List B species are generally too established to hope for eradication. Instead we try to contain them and stop their further spread. If you’re familiar with the plant called “butter and eggs” (Linaria vulgaris) then you’ve seen a List B plant. And List C plants are the ones that I joke are just too far gone – they’ve gotten too established and are too aggressive to eradicate and, possibly, to even contain. (Got bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis)? Then you have a List C noxious weed.) (more…)

 

Syringa reticulata

Syringa reticulata

MAP – Here is the helpful map of the north part of the park. I use the areas I’ve labeled on the map to identify where plants appear in the park. (Fox den area, turn-around point, playing field, etc.)

Wow…no measurable precipitation (NONE!) has come to the park since mid-May (and that was only a quarter of an inch). And it shows. The moist April and early May weather got my hopes up that we might have a good bloom season in the park, but it looks like that is not to be. The short bloom spurt that happened in late May is over with the wild onions all done and many other plants finishing their bloom times quickly. So, sadly, this will be a brief post! (more…)

Oenothera spp.

Oenothera spp.

Some moisture in April and early May has led to some nice blooms in the park this spring (hooray!). The super cold temps during that same period has also delayed some of the flowering as well. Hence, compared to last year’s exceptionally warm and early spring, we’re seeing things bloom several weeks later. It’s never the same bloom year twice in the park!

So, here is some of what’s going on plant-wise now in the park….

MAP – Here is the helpful map of the north part of the park. I use the areas I’ve labeled on the map to identify where plants appear in the park. (Fox den area, turn-around point, playing field, etc.) (more…)

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Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa)

Whew! What a spring we are having! Here we are in early May, and most trees and shrubs haven’t leafed out yet. In fact, many of them lost their first set of leaves to repeated late hard freezes in April and they’re working on putting out a second set – a feat that requires a tremendous amount of energy on the plant’s part.

Early flowering fruit trees and shrubs also lost most of their flowers to those same hard freezes, but a few are putting out at least a few blooms. And lucky for us, a couple of the volunteer Nanking cherries (Prunus tomentosa) in the park are in this crowd. These are the shrubs that I have referred to as my “mystery prunus” shrubs over the past few years because I was not sure what they were. But last year, I received confirmation that they were in fact nanking cherries from Larry Vickerman, Director of Chatfield Gardens (part of Denver Botanic Gardens), and that was good enough for me! These shrubs most certainly are volunteers that were planted by birds as they passed through the park. (more…)

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Needles on dying blue spruce turning brown

We are officially in the midst of consecutive years of severe drought in our part of Colorado, and the effects are starting to become noticeable in the park. The northern part of the park is mostly unirrigated. A few playing field areas get watered but the rest is left to survive on natural precipitation. This, of course, varies from year to year, but some of the park’s longer term residents are starting to show the symptoms of our increasingly drier climate. (more…)