Connecting People with Plants at the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
July is a busy time for botanists – so many flowers to see and never enough time! One trip I always make time for, though, is guiding hikes for the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival. Crested Butte is known as the wildflower capital of Colorado, and definitely lives up to its name with an abundance of wildflowers everywhere. I look forward to going to the festival every year to connect people with plants in engaging and exciting ways, and of course to see which wildflowers will be putting on a show this year.
Every hike that I lead for the festival has a different theme, designed to teach people about a unique aspect of the floral diversity in the area. For instance, the “What’s in a Name?” hike gives an overview of taxonomy, why scientific names change over time (or not) and the origin of the nomenclature used. The “Plant Defenses and Survival Strategies” hike teaches all about survival strategies plants employ to set fruit for the next generation as well as stave off herbivory. The “Identifying Wildflowers Using iNaturalist” hike empowers people to identify and observe plants using the iNaturalist app.
I also use this opportunity to connect with researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Research Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, which is just north of Crested Butte. It is a great chance to meet with fellow curators and botanists, as well as talk with graduate students about careers in botany.
One of the most rewarding experiences at this festival was the participation of a young child in my class on identifying wildflowers. He was so engaged and excited to use iNaturalist, not only to identify wildflowers but insects, mammals and birds too! Perhaps a budding botanist?
The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival is rewarding but also exhausting. Despite this, I am already looking forward to next year. Every year is spectacular but also different in which wildflowers are putting on a show. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you on one of my hikes next year!
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