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A Wildflower Walk with Janis Huggins

After three years at ACES, I finally had the great pleasure of participating in a Naturalist Field School Wildflower Walk with the incomparable Janis Huggins. Janis is the author of Wild at Heart, the definitive, user-friendly natural history guide for Snowmass, Aspen, and the Maroon Bells Wilderness.

Our morning found us high in Cooper Basin above the Castle Creek valley. The former mining road was lined with a great variety of flowers. With Pearl Pass and Castle Peak as backdrops, we observed sepals, stamen, and stigma through hand lenses and learned about the reproductive strategies of different species.

 

Janis is a wealth of knowledge, and beyond her botanical expertise, she weaves stories around plants. For instance, I learned that the roots of silky phacelia (Phacelia sericea, pictured below left) collect gold from the soil, and their presence has been used to detect gold-bearing areas.

But even as my head was filled with plant families, evolution, and uses, the beauty of these subalpine specimens never failed to captivate me.

The afternoon took us down to the banks of Castle Creek, where we practiced using a dichotomous identification key to identify species. In the photo below, we discovered that despite their name, rosy pussytoes (Antennaria rosea) can also be white!


As if strolling through fields of penstemon (snapdragon family!) and scarlet gilia (phlox family!) wasn’t pleasant enough, I finished the day armed with a newfound confidence in basic flower identification and a host of new plant species under my belt.

You can register for ACES’ next Naturalist Field School Wildflower Walk with Janis here!

~ Jamie Cundiff, Forest Program Director