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Botanical Name:Towsendia hookeri and Townsendia exscapa
Common Name:Easter daisy
Native Region:New Mexico to Wyoming
Often the first native plant to bloom along the Front Range each winter, these tough plants generally are blooming by the 20th of February in all but the most arctic of years. Both species are very similar and share a similar distribution from New Mexico to Wyoming. Found from the Plains well into the foothills they prefer areas of little completion from other vegetation. Some of the best areas to see these plants in the wild are the ridges of Niobrara Shale that dot the Front Range from Jefferson County to Larimer County. The photo was taken north of Boulder on February 23, 2008.
Garden Location:Wildflower Treasures, Rock Alpine Garden
Botanical Name:Opuntia aurea
Common Name:Prickly Pear Cactus
Native Region:Southern Utah and Northern Arizona
This vigorous cactus is one of the hardiest of "beaver-tail" type, with large blue-green pads and no long spines. The dots on the pads are called aeroles and they are well armed with fine hairs called glochids, so a bit of care is still needed when handling them. The sculptural forms of prickly pear cacti are a classic symbol of the Southwest. In late spring large buds open into rich magenta blooms with crepe paper texture, and are a favorite of honeybees. In winter, the stout pads lose moisture and relax, draping over rocks or walls. It is then that they do something surprising. Their color shifts from a waxy blue-green to a rich purple! This remains all winter, adding a unique color to the winter landscape until weather warms again in spring. This is a colorful contrast to the soft brown of buffalo or blue grama grass, or the silver spines of Opuntia echinocarpa.
Garden Location:Dryland Mesa
Botanical Name:Hamamelis species
Common Name:Witch Hazel
Native Region:Eastern North America and Eastern Asia
This low maintenance shrub produces bright yellow flowers with thin strap-like petals in late winter, providing a wonderful burst of color before most Spring flowers bloom. In addition to a beautiful winter bloom, witch hazel also displays lovely yellow to red leaves in the fall. Native Americans have used this plant to cure ailments such as skin irritations and lung problems, and it is still cultivated today to produce a skin toner. Place witch hazel in a partly sunny location in the garden for the most impressive bloom. The winter blooming Hamamelis japonica is a fantastic addition to garden spaces. Hamamelis virginiana is a common species which provides a fall floral bloom after the leaves have fallen.
Garden Location:Waring House
Botanical Name:Freycinetia cumingiana
Common Name:Climbing Pandanus
Native Region:Tropical Asia
If you walk to the southwest corner of the Conservatory (near the entrance to the Cloud Forest Tree), you will notice the bright red-orange brachts of Freycinetia cumingiana. Bracts are modified leaves that on this plant resemble flower petals. In fact, these blooms do not even include petals. Male flowers exhibit white club-like stamens housed in the middle of the bracts, while female flowers consist of several ovaries. F. cumingiana is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers bloom on separate plants, although on occasion, the same plant will produce both flower sexes. The common name for this plant is the climbing pandanas because it climbs to the tops of tree trunks and over rocks using aerial roots for support. The genus Freycinetia is part of the family Pandanaceae and can be found in Sri Lanka, Polynesia and New Guinea. Natives of the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans often use members of this family for food, cordage and thatch. The genus Freycinetia was named after the 19th century French explorer Admiral Louis Claude De Saulses de Freycinet.
Garden Location:Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory