Wildflowers galore and a book award!

Just two inches of rain over two weeks turned our valley from dust-dry to green. Not the lush green of rainy places, mind you, but green nonetheless. It’s amazing how this high-desert landscape is restored by what elsewhere wouldn’t be enough moisture to even mention. And in our yard, the wildflowers are show-stoppers. Here’s a quick tour (I shot these photos yesterday evening and this morning):
This one is sidebells penstemon, a native wildflower also called beardtongue for its furry anthers, the pollen-bearing sacs. That’s a wasp curving itself gracefully to fit into the floral tube and pollinate one flower. In the background is desert indian paintbrush, which are so bright they look like flames burning through the short grasses of our restored bunchgrass prairie front yard, as in the photo below.
Each morning, the pinwheel-shaped flowers of the Lewis flax open into blue-sky faces. They close by mid-day, so they’re not for late risers. Below is a clump of flax backed by silky lupine, just beginning to show its purple spikes of pea-like flowers.
Below is another penstemon, this one with such fat tubular flowers it is locally called snapdragon penstemon. The bumblebees love this one, because its floral tubes are generous in width, allowing the queenly bees to squeeze in and reach the nectar at the base of each flower. That sweet liquid is the flower’s enticement to its partners in pollination. The shape and color of the blossom advertises “Food, here!” as surely as a neon arrow. Stripes inside the flower guide the insect to the nectar. Crawling in, the insect brushes past the flower’s stigma, the entrance to its ovaries, dusting their sticky surface with the pollen the bee carries on her furry body from other flowers. If her pollen cargo includes some from another plant of the same species, she cross-pollinates the flower, allowing it to seed the next generation. Backing out, she picks up pollen from the flower’s anthers, and flies on to the next dining spot, carrying her load of pollen like an offering. (The neon-orange flowers in the background are scarlet globemallow.)
One last photo (below) of one my favorite of the spring grasses native to our valley. Needle-and-threadgrass is one of the first bunchgrasses to green up after spring rains, and to flower. Its odd common name comes from its seeds, with their outrageously long awn (botanical jargon for the four- to six-inch-long slender “tail” coming from each seed). That’s the “thread,” the needle is at the opposite end of the seed, and is sharp enough to drill the seed into the soil. More on how that works in another post!

Imagesmall Oh, and a piece of fabulous news: Friday before last, Colorado Scenic Byways: Taking the Other Road, my two-volume set with photographer Jim Steinberg that explores the heart and soul of the state through its designated scenic routes, won the gold as ForeWord Travel Book of the Year! The awards were given at BookExpo, the book industry’s annual gathering, in New York City. Woo-hoo! Too bad Jim and I couldn’t be there to celebrate….  

Tuesday, Richard and I head to Ghost Ranch, in the heart of the landscapes Georgia O’Keeffe painted in New Mexico, where I’ll be teaching a workshop on walking nature into your daily spiritual practice. We won’t have cell phone or internet access, so if a blog post doesn’t appear on my usual day (Thursday), be patient.

Blessings to you all on the evening of the June full moon!