Keep an eye out for these beautiful blooms from now through September

Words and photographs by Shauna Farnell

As Colorado rolls into what is arguably its most beautiful time of year, even the most barren foothills lining the Front Range turn a vibrant green for a few weeks. If you take a closer look at this lush ground cover, you’ll be amazed at the detail of the rainbow hues sprouting amid the greenery. As more and more people venture outdoors as the state’s safer-at-home orders loosen, one serious silver lining – or, rather multi-colored lining – is that wildflower season is upon us and intricate blooms can be spotted along trails, in meadows, forests and open spaces throughout the state. Colorado is home to countless varieties of wildflowers, but here are 13 standouts.

Columbine

Columbine flower in Colorado

Colorado’s state flower can be found in at least three varieties of color – in striking shades of red, yellow and purple – but the white and lavender is the classic. It sits either alone or in bushy clusters, mostly in forested areas with less sun. They begin to bloom in lower elevations in June and hit their peak in July and August.

Paintbrush

Paintbrush flower in Colorado

These also come in a variety of colors and can be found in the foothills, high desert and alpine slopes throughout the state between April and October. The Scarlet are the most common color around Colorado, but if you look closely, the flowers are actually the green tubes poking out of the colorful bunches.

Fireweed

Fireweed flower in Colorado

Named because it is one of the first plants to spring from the ground after the earth is destroyed by wildfire, these gorgeous stalks feature flowers ranging from orange to magenta and can cover entire swaths of land with their vibrant colors.

Prairie crocus

Prairie crocus flower in Colorado

Prairie crocus flower in Colorado by a lake

You probably didn’t know these beautiful bulbs could grow in the wild, but the sweet white/pink/lavender blooms with their yellow faces sprout in numerous high-alpine areas almost immediately after the snow melts. Although they look delicate, their hairy, wooly stems are a testament to their hardiness.

Bluebell

Bluebell flower in Colorado

Look for these clusters of shy, blue and purplish-blue bells tucked into high grassy areas along the Front Range as well as in clusters amid pine forests.

Wild Iris

Wild Iris flower in Colorado

See these beauties through August in marshy areas (they prefer wetlands) or surrounding ponds and lakes.

Silvery Lupine

Silvery Lupine flower in Colorado

More accurately a bluish purple (but they can also be white), lupine line the landscape – forests, meadows, roadsides and mountaintops through August.

Heartleaf Arnica

Heartleaf Arnica flower in Colorado

Flaming up from the forest floor in vibrant clusters, Arnica prefer darker, moist areas such as shaded mountain trails.

Wild Rose

Wild Rose flower in Colorado

Growing on thorny shrubs just like all roses, these delicate pink treasures range in color from pale to rich fuschia. They prefer dryer areas and can be found in forests and meadows.

Wild Chamomile

Wild Chamomile flower in Colorado

Yes, it’s possible to make tea out of the flowers and the leaves and if you taste it raw, it is slightly reminiscent of an apple. You’ll see these in forested areas and even on the roadside in high elevation areas into early September.

Gaillardia Blanketflower

Blanketflower flower in Colorado

This bright flower has a hairy stem and leaves and looks like a mini sunflower with its vibrant red center. You’ll see it on dry slopes and meadows through August.

Mouse-Ear Chickweed

Mouse-Ear Chickweed flower in Colorado

It sounds better just to call it Mouse Ears, so named because its double-lobed petals look like they could grace the head of Mickey or Minnie. They are mostly found in dry forest clearings either in small or large clusters.

Yellow Stonecrop

Yellow Stonecrop flower in Colorado

These delicate little nuggets are found, unsurprisingly, in rocky areas with a lot of sun (right on the trail in some cases). Their tiny flowers look like stars.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking at, iNaturalist is a helpful app to identify wildflowers as well as numerous herbs, plants and animals.
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