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Quick...before it's winter!


It seems far fetched to think that winter is on the way--especially now that we're sweltering in Denver--but one of the features of the alpine tundra is that summer is never more than three weeks away!


 Bristlecone pine forest on Mount Goliath

Vladimir Kolbintsev on Mount Evans summit
We were lucky to have a visit by Vladimir Kolbintsev, an outstanding naturalist from Taraz, Kazakhstan. He showed Mike Bone and me around the Altai and Tien Shan mountains last summer, and this year we had a chance to reciprocate. Here he is twelve time zones from his home in Central Asia!
Allium pikeanum on Mount Goliath
One of the many things that I love so much about our tundra is the enormous variety of scale: look up and you can see much of Colorado at your feet. Look down, and a tiny alpine, like this miniature onion, beckons. This miniature is sometimes considered a variety of Allium geyeri, but I think it is different... 
Dead bristlecone on Mount Goliath
One of the things that amazes me on Mount Goliath are the ancient dead bristlecones. Incredible to think many have been dead and standing for centuries perhaps. What toughness! I wonder how old some of the tiny alpines must be, like the dazzling blue alpine forget-me-not you can still find blooming on the summit (although it bloomed for me in Denver way back in March!)
Alpine forget-me-not (Eritrichium aretioides) on Mount Evans summit
On the way home, I know a special spot where there are masses of dwarf cornel, a rather rare woodland gem in the state, growing right near the highway.
Dwarf cornel (Cornus canadensis) on Squaw Pass

A trip up to Denver Botanic Gardens Mount Goliath site is the perfect escape for a hot summer day! But those days are slipping away...


Matt Cole

Good for you! Its great to know you took Vladimir up there after all. For those who want to go, here are wildflower hikes on Mount Goliath: http://catalog.botanicgardens.org/dateselect.aspx?item=575 The hikes from the Gardens are free, but the Forest Service charges an amenity fee.
Panayoti Kelaidis

Hey! Are you the Jim Ratzloff--the botanist from Western Colorado--I knew years ago? Great to hear from you...I was quoting Betty Willard on the the three weeks thing: basically she meant that there are hard frosts from mid August to late June--only July and a few days at either end were truly summery... All the best,
James Ratzloff

Best part of living in Colorado, hiking up through the fir and spruce to break out into the space and freedom of the alpine. (I wondered if you mean winter is never more than three weeks away).
James Ratzloff

Yes - I live in Wheat Ridge now, and visit the botanic gardens regularly - always enjoy your alpine gardens, especially in the early spring. Every May I go out and backpack in the canyon country of Western Colorado. (hoping to avoid wind and rain storms). My route is always somewhere around the Dolores River near Paradox and south to Slick Rock - such wonderful country. I usually find about the third week of May things are blooming nicely. One year (2004) the floor of Bull Canyon was filled with the fragrance of sand verbena at dusk, which was quite a rush.

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