The Real Turkeys of Boulder

December 7, 2016

I was out walking on Boulder Colorado’s  Goshawk Ridge Trail after the US Thanksgiving Day and I saw a single line of at least 15 Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) cross the trail in front of me. This seemed ironic as Thanksgiving is a time when lots of domesticated turkeys in the US are sacrificed for dinner. According to the National Turkey Federation, 95 percent of Americans surveyed eat turkey during Thanksgiving. They also estimate that about 45 million turkeys are consumed each Thanksgiving holiday.

I was sorry I didn’t have my telephoto lens and an off-trail permit to get some photos of these real, not for sandwiches, naturally selected (vs. artificially selected) turkeys. I was determined to return and get some photos for you.

Our journey starts on the Fowler Trailhead. To get to the Fowler Trailhead go left about two miles west of highway 93 on Eldorado Springs Drive (highway 170) to County Road 67. County Road 67 goes up past the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram and ends at the Eldorado Mountain entrance where we pick up the trail…

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Eldorado Mountain Trailhead Sign

Here’s a trail map…

map

Take the Fowler to Springbrook North to Goshawk Ridge

The Goshawk Ridge Trail is within the Eldorado Mountain Habitat Conservation Area (HCA), meaning hikers must stay on trail unless they have an Off-Trail Permit. This free permit can be immediately obtained on-line.

Follow the Fowler Trail to the Springbrook  Trail. The  Goshawk Trailhead starts on the opposite side of a metal bridge over an aqueduct where you will see this sign…

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Sign at Goshawk Trail

After several fruitless attempts I found a flock on 05 December 2016 in the old growth forest on the South side of the Ridge about 1/3 mile (550 m) from the trailhead…

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I Found a Flock!

 Some Wild turkey facts:

-The wild turkey, throughout its range, plays a significant role in the cultures of many Native American tribes all over North America. Thanks to this we eat turkey on Thanksgiving day.

-The turkey was Benjamin Franklin’s choice for the United States’ national bird. If the turkey was chosen as the US National Bird would we eat bald eagles for Thanksgiving?

-By the early 20th century, thanks to hunting and habitat destruction, wild turkeys no longer roamed over much of their traditional range. Wild turkey reintroduction programs began in the 1940s. These efforts worked so well that wild turkeys now live in areas where they may not have occurred when Europeans first reached the Americas.

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United States National Bird (Almost)

-Only adult male turkeys (Toms) display the ruffled feathers, fanlike tail, bare head, and bright beard commonly associated with these birds. They also gobble with a distinctive sound that can be heard a mile (a kilometer and a half) away.

-Wild turkeys can have over 5,000 feathers. Male turkeys also have what is called a beard located in the chest area. Upon sight, the beard appears to be hair, but is actually a mass of thin feathers.

-Turkeys have a keen sense of hearing and can pinpoint sounds from as far as a mile away.

-Despite their weight, wild turkeys, unlike their domesticated counterparts, are agile fliers. They usually fly close to the ground for no more than a quarter mile (400 m) at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour (88kilometers/hr.)…

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These Wings Are Made For Flying (note the “beard” growing from the breast)

-Males are polygamous, mating with as many hens as they can charm and may be seen courting in groups. Genetic analysis of pairs of males courting together shows that they are close relatives, with half of their genetic material being identical. This evolutionary strategy is unlike that of species (e.g., deer) where only a single dominate male mates. This ensures that non-dominate male’s genes will have an opportunity to remain in the turkey gene pool…

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Two Wild and Crazy Toms

-Turkey hens lay 4 to 17 eggs in early spring. The eggs are incubated for at least 28 days. The hatchlings are called poults and they hit the ground running. They are precocial (they are born able to survive) and nidifugous (they leave the nest shortly after hatching). Poults leave the nest in about 12–24 hours allowing mom to join the flock as a free bird. Hens do not invest much in rearing offspring because they don’t have to. Male turkeys don’t invest any effort in their offspring because that’s the way it is for turkeys.

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Two Hens

-Occasionally, turkeys may behave aggressively towards humans. They have been seen to chase people. However, attacks can usually be deterred and minor injuries can be avoided by giving turkeys a respectful amount of space. A telephoto lens is required!

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Thirsty Hen

– Predators of both adults and poults include coyotes (Canis latrans),  American black bears (Ursus americanus), and northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis). This may explain why the latter are attracted to this forest.

-Wild turkeys are omnivorous, foraging on the ground or climbing shrubs and small trees to feed. Turkey populations can reach large numbers in small areas because of their ability to forage for different types of food.

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Tom Foraging on the Forest Floor

I discovered this young mule deer buck (Odocoileus hemionus) watching me photograph the turkeys. He appears to be saying…

young-buck

How About Taking My Picture?

Wild turkeys have been created and evolved by natural selection. This makes them precisely adapted to the environments they inhabit. They are amazing and beautiful wild creatures reflecting the influence of the natural world.

Domesticated turkeys have been selectively breed by humans to satisfy our needs with traits that we want. The result is a food freak unsuited for the natural world. For example, domesticated turkeys are bred to have large breast muscles. The big breast muscles on these turkeys make it too difficult for mating, so they must be artificially inseminated. What a life…

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Modern Domesticated Turkeys Under Commercial Conditions. Photo by Scott Bauer

I prefer tofu.

 

 

There’s A Big Moon On The Rise

November 16, 2016

“Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet   

On November 14, 2016 the full Moon came closer to Earth than it has since 1948, the same year that there was a surprise victory in a US presidential election – President Harry Truman and New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Perhaps it is fortunate that we won’t witness another so called “supermoon” like this until 2034.

The term “supermoon” is not astronomical, but it originated in modern astrology. The astronomical name for this celestial phenomena is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth–Moon–Sun system (hence the popularity of the non-scientific term supermoon). It occurs when a full Moon comes closest to Earth as it follows its slightly elliptical orbit around us.

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A Supermoon Occurs When a Full Moon is Closest to Earth in its Elliptical Orbit (http://earthsky.org)

A bigger Moon seemed like a good excuse to watch this lunar event from Panorama Point on Boulder’s Flagstaff Mountain

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Panorama Point On Flagstaff Road

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Panorama Point Overlook

 

This overlook faces East with a view of the City of Boulder. The University of Colorado is directly below. The lakes are the Valmont and Baseline Reservoirs .

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The Daytime View From Panorama Point at 12:18 PM

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Waiting for a Super Moonrise in 15 Minutes at 5:07 PM

The first hint of moonlight occurs on the horizon at 5:33 PM…

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Can You See The First Light of The Silvery Supermoon?

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At 5:40 PM The Supermoon Rises Above Low Clouds

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At 5:46 PM It Is Clear of The Clouds

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Here It Is At 6:08 PM Reflecting Off Of The Valmont Reservoir.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture a clear image of the moon and the city lights at the same time so I opted to expose for the Earth rather than the Moon. Here’s a photo I took of the (same) full Moon on 7 December 2014 at 9:39 pm.

moon

Same Moon Different Year

 

Winter Solitude

January 6, 2016

 

Winter solitude –
in a world of one color
the sound of wind. –Matsuo Basho

Dried Flowers in the Snow

When the flowers have dried and snow covers the ground there is quiet beauty in Winter’s solitude. It is as if life is suspended while waiting for the natural world to reawaken.

A recent snowfall motivated me to capture some quiet solitude here on Boulder Colorado’s Open Space and Mountain Parks trails

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Solitude can be found in small things too…

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Moving closer reveals the feathery crystals of surface hoar on the snow. This frozen frost is beautiful but deadly

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My close-up lens exposes a world of crystal fragility…

Fern Crystal-3

 

 

Fern Crystal-2 edit

This is close enough to see individual ice crystals…

 

Hoar Frost Crystals

In a few months the snowmelt will nourish our early spring flowers and sustain the reawakening of the natural world for the next cycle of life.

Crimson Canyon

October 21, 2015

Here in Boulder Colorado the native plants are generally earth-toned in Fall leaving our bright yellow and red aspens for higher elevations. One notable exception is Sumac (Rhus glabra). Sumac’s fall foliage fills our canyons with a deep crimson that is a photographic magnet.

Sumac, poison ivy, Brazilian pepper, cashews, mangoes and pistachios are all related. Rhus glabra is not poisonous and, in fact, the seeds (drupes) are a widely used spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It is also used as a lemonade-like tea called Sumac-ade.

My favorite area for Sumac peeping is on Boulder’s South Side. I was hiking on the Fowler Trail a few days ago when I noticed the signature crimson on the lower portion of Shadow Canyon. I decided to return there with my cameras the following day.

Lower Shadow Canyon

The houses are in the town of Eldorado Springs (home of Eldorado Natural Spring Water). The pool is the Eldorado Swimming Pool and Resort.

This portion of the Canyon can be reached by descending from the Shadow Canyon trail. Parking is available at the South Mesa Trailhead (there is a small fee for non-Boulder cars)

South Mesa Trailhead Signage

Hike up the Mesa Trail for 1.5 miles/ 2.4 km until you reach this sign, then follow the Shadow Canyon Trail…

Shadow Canyon Signage-1

Soon you will pass the McGillvray Cabin to the South of the trail…

McGillvray Cabin

The main part of the McGillvray Cabin was built sometime between 1870 and 1885.  An addition was made in the mid-1920s and since their construction style is quite different, it’s easy to determine the original cabin from the new.

Stay on the Shadow Canyon Trail past this turnoff back to the Mesa Trail…

Shadow Canyon Signage-2

Behold The Matron in Autumn, popular with climbers…   The Matron in Autumn (8x10)

At 2.1 mi / 3.4 km you will see this missing sign which is the way to the Lower Shadow Canyon. I’ve heard this trail referred to as the “Old Mesa Trail” but I haven’t found any references to that name…

Lower Shadow Canyon Sign

Proceed down this trail over the ridge past this weird sign. The Fowler and Goshawk Ridge trails are across the way. Down toward Eldorado Springs and through the sumac hued canyon we go…

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Shadow Canyon Sumacs-2

These sumacs are taller than humans…

Shadow Canyon Sumacs-18

Shadow Canyon Sumacs-12

Shadow Canyon Sumacs-13

Sumacs-3

Shadow Canyon Sumacs-17

Leaves in transition…

Sumac Leaves in Transition

The drupes are full of lemony seeds…

Lemony Droups

After 1 mi/ 1.6km the trail abruptly ends in Eldorado Springs…

Lower Shadow Canyon Trailhead

The walk back to the South Mesa Trail parking area is about another mile east on Eldorado Springs Drive. Unfortunately this stretch of the loop is on the highway. To get there cross the South Boulder Creek

South Boulder Creek

It is possible to take a shorter hike up the Canyon from Eldorado Springs but the parking is limited and the trail access is tricky. Here is the loop I hiked, the mileage is shown…

Shadow Canyon Loop

Soon the snows will come and the leaves will fall…

Sumac Leaves In Snow

Summer Mint Makes Me Feel Fine

July 20, 2015

A July treat here in Boulder Colorado is the arrival of Summer mint…

Bergamot Flower

This beautiful, aromatic plant is called Bergamot or Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa). While I like it for the gorgeous flower, wild bergamot was considered a medicinal plant by many Native American tribes. It is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. In addition to alleviating bad breath it was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental decay and gingivitis. The leaves have the taste of strong mint. For many years I confused this plant with bergamot orange, an unrelated citrus plant used to flavor Earl Grey tea and make an essential oil (oil of bergamot).

Bergamots all have multiple flowers in dense heads with the pollen producing stamens protruding…

Bergamot Close-up

While Bergamot comes in many colors, here in Boulder it is usually a shade of magenta. We do have some that are white like this one on the Sanitas Valley Trail

White Bergamot Flower

My favorite purple bergamot vista is on the Mesa Trail between the North and South Forks of the Shanahan Ridge Trail. This is the perfect time to witness this yearly minty spectacle. I get there by hiking the North Fork Shanahan Ridge Trail  about 1 mile/1.6 km from the trail entrance on Lehigh Road up to the Mesa Trail and proceeding South. It is about halfway between the North and South Shanahan forks on the Mesa Trail. The total round trip distance is 2.2mi/3.5km from the access point.

Turn left at this sign…

Mesa Trail Sign

From here, it’s a short walk to the vista. I captured this panorama on July 23, 2009 @ 39°57’36.12″N 105°16’47.56″W…

Bear Peak Bergamot

I returned on July 19th, 2015 to capture this image from a slightly different angle…

Bear Peak Bergamot Vista-2 (12x5.4)

When I was there the flowers were being visited by our precious bees

Bee on Bergamot

…and hummingbirds

Bergamot with Hummingbird

The bergamot flowers won’t be there long so now is the time for your visit. The summer mint will make you feel fine and improve your breath.

Shanahan Ridge with Bergamot-3 (10x5)

Perishable Art

June 26, 2015

I can’t understand how people can create perishable art. I would feel awful seeing someone eating my photos, or watching them melt or wilt into oblivion. One of the many things that attract me to photography is its immortality. I have photos of landscapes that, as of the 2013 Boulder flood, no longer exist. Furthermore, now that the internet and digital photography are ubiquitous these photographs have traveled the world and will last until the next Ice Age freezes over the world’s servers.

While I spend most of my time photographing the natural world here in Colorado I am also attracted to documenting other artist’s urban graffiti. In 2007 I discovered this amazing graffito (singular) in a parking lot in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I photographed a section and uploaded it to my website for posterity. I’ve been trying to identify the artist but the trail has gone cold.

Santa Fe Graffito mural section captured on June 11th 2007…

Unfortunately, as I found out on a recent trip to Santa Fe, this form of art is as perishable as ice sculpture. Unless protected it will melt into obscurity.

Santa Fe Graffito melting mural re-captured on June 7th 2015…

The parking lot art gallery containing this and other works belongs to the New Mexico Workforce Connection building in downtown Santa Fe. Here’s a sampling of the creativity currently perishing in this cinderblock museum…

Urban Flora Corner

Truck

Here’s a series on careers…

Farming

Conservation

.Jewelry

Nursing

I was feeling bummed after seeing all this until I happened by the Santa Fe Teen Arts Center. This is an amazing place where art is nurtured and protected.

Here is the Phoenix that rose to lift my spirits. This fantastic mural is by John Santos. It is explained as follows…

Fenghuang the Chinese phoenix is a symbol of high virtue and grace of power and prosperity. It represents the union of yin and  yang.  When used as a decoration on a house, it symbolizes that loyalty and honesty was in the people that lived there.

Only one phoenix exists at a time and lives every 500 to 1461 years. After birth the new phoenix embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in a egg made of myrrh then deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis.(Sun city in Greek) and places it on an alter for the sun god. Heliopolis in this mural is represented by the Aztec sun calendar. In the background is Quetzalcoatl dancing in celebration of Fenghuang’s journey to the sun god. Quetzalcoatl is known as the patron god of the Aztec priesthood of learning and knowledge and is associated with the morning star Venus. It is also believed that Quetzalcoatl is the originator of the arts, poetry, the inventor of books and the calendar, the giver of maize to mankind and sometimes a symbol of death and resurrection.

Painting a picture that acknowledges life’s journeys and diverse backgrounds of everyone that have been dedicated to the Teen Center and its mission is reflected in this mural – an outlet for youth expression.

Santa Fe Teen Center Mural

Hopefully this beautiful mural is protected by the artist’s sage advice…

Toy Sign

Here is a sampling of what I discovered outside the Teen Center (it was Sunday so I couldn’t visit the inside of the building)…

Face-1

Santa Fe Teen Center-1

Sidewalk

Teen Center Rear Entrance

I hope to go back and help archive this joyful graphical extravaganza.

While I enjoy the creativity and visual excitement of graffiti, I do have one major exception. There is no excuse for using the natural landscape as a canvas. When this happens it is no longer art; it is vandalism. Artists and taggers have generally shown great respect for Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. Here’s an unfortunate example of vandalism recently inflicted upon the land. Remember, “Only toys tagg natural space”.

Graffito is seen vandalizing Boulder’s Gregory Canyon as reported in the Boulder Daily Camera. (Photo: Lauren Fagan / Daily Camera)

Boulder Grafitto Vandalism

I Like Lichen

May 6, 2015

Lichen-12

Lichens are a strange and wonderful life form. They are composite organisms made up from as many as three biological kingdoms; fungus, algae and bacteria. While they all need each other in this symbiotic triangle of life, the dominant partner is a fungus.

Lichens are fungi that have discovered agriculture- lichenologist Trevor Goward

The fungus benefits from this relationship because algae and cyanobacteria produce food by photosynthesis. The algae or cyanobacteria benefit by being protected from the environment by the filaments of the fungus, which also gather moisture and nutrients from the environment, and usually provide stability. This little arrangement works very well as lichens can be found in almost every habitat and geographic area on the planet. It is estimated that 6% of Earth’s land surface is covered by lichen. They are also considered the world’s oldest living organisms. Cooperation is a powerful survival tool and it accomplishes what evolution alone cannot provide in a single creature.

Lichens grow where other things can’t such as desert sand and bare rock. Their trick is to hibernate or shut down metabolically during extremes of heat, cold or drought. When they get wet conditions they reawake to capture solar energy and let their true colors shine. This is because moisture causes the lichen’s surface skin to become more transparent, exposing the colorful photosensitive partner (the photobiont) to light. This transition can happen within minutes. The next time you see some dried-up lichen, sprinkle it with water and watch it wake up.

It has been a soggy week here in Boulder, the cloudy wet conditions are getting to me and I need some color. This is perfect weather for our tiny lichens to come out of hibernation and make the rocks glow with color. Finding them is easy, just seek a place with rocks. Maybe the name appealed to my wishful thinking but I decided to head up Sunshine Canyon (40° 2’1.35″N, 105°18’56.63″W) to see what’s on the rocks. As you can see, the lichen was full of color on this grey and rainy day…

The Rocks Were Alive

The Rocks Were Alive and Photosynthesizing in Sunshine Canyon. Green Algae in the Forest.

This called for my close-up lens (60mm macro). Now everything is revealed in this miniature world…

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Lichen-11

Lichen Abstract Art

The moss was pretty well soaked too…

Moss Droplets

I interrupted this Abert’s Squirrel’s lunch (this photo was taken with a 200mm zoom)…

Aberts Squirrel

Thanks to lichen It turned out to be a Colorful Colorado day despite the soggy weather.

A Super Weed to the Rescue

December 4, 2014

Sometimes little things can have mighty big consequences.  Here’s a tale about a tiny plant that has the potential to help provide us with clean energy, produce new medications, end world hunger and reduce water pollution. I found it on the way to the South Boulder Creek Trailhead from the East Boulder Community Center

On the Way to The Boulder Creek

On the Way to The South Boulder Creek

To the left of this sign I spotted a green pond full of life in what was otherwise a pretty dormant landscape…

A Splash Of Green

A Splash Of Green

At first I thought it was algae but upon closer inspection I realized that the pond was covered with small plants busy photosynthesizing …

Small Green Leaves Cover the Pond

Small Plants Cover the Pond and Absorb Solar Energy

The Leaves About 5mm in Length

Each is Less Than 5mm In Length

It wasn’t difficult to identify this small plant and to discover the big tales it has to share…

What Is This Little Plant Up To?

What Tales Can This Tiny Plant Reveal?

This was my first encounter with duckweed (Lemna minor) named for the ducks that love to eat it. It turns out that this diminutive plant is of great interest to scientists. Research into duckweed is promoted by the International Lemna Association and the International Committee on Duckweed Research and Applications. A comprehensive genomic study of duckweed was published in February 2014.

Here are some quick facts about this mighty little plant:

-The duckweeds (genus Lemna for water plants) are the smallest, simplest and fastest growing flowering plants known to people who know such things. These tiny plants can rapidly cover enormous bodies of still water such as this duckweed invasion in Lake Maracaibo in 2004

Green swirls of duckweed dominate the center of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 26, 2004.

Green swirls of duckweed dominate the center of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 26, 2004.

-Individual plants consist of a single, flat oval modified stem no more than ¹/4″ (5mm) in diameter

-The flowers are rare and are nearly invisible at ¹/₃₂ (1mm) in diameter…

Tiny Duckweed Flower

Tiny Duckweed Flower

-Despite its flowers, duckweed sexual reproduction is also rare. More often species propagate asexually by forming new plants from vegetative buds.

-Dense populations of duckweed are an important food source for fish and waterfowl. Because the plant contains more protein than soybeans, it is sometimes cited as a significant potential food source for humans as well. Since the late 1960s, scientists have studied duckweed for animal and human consumption (duckweed farming). Because each plant absorbs nutrients through its whole structure, and not just through a central root system, the tissue contains twice the protein, fat, nitrogen and phosphorus of other vascular plants. Millions of ducks can’t be wrong and duckweed may become the food of the future.

-Some of the most exciting prospects in duckweed technology have been aimed at using this plant as a factory for biopharmaceuticals. This technology is making rapid strides towards practical commercialization.

-Since duckweed floats on the surface of the water it is easily harvested. This makes it effective not only as a food source but also as a way to remove pollutants and toxins from bodies of still water.

-These plants also may play a future role in water conservation because a cover of duckweed will reduce the evaporation of water when compared to the rate of a similar size water body with a clear surface.

-Duckweed is a good candidate as a biofuel because it grows rapidly, has 6 times as much starch as corn, and its cultivation does not contribute to global warming. Additionally, it does not compete for land in food production. It is being studied by researchers around the world as a possible starch-based feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. Duckweed just might be a source of cost-effective, clean, renewable energy.

-Our knowledge of its complete DNA sequence yields insights into how duckweeds are adapted for rapid vegetative growth. Their trick is to genetically  mimic the rapidly growing juvenile stages of other plants. The research, simply titled The Spirodela polyrhiza genome reveals insights into its neotenous reduction fast growth and aquatic lifestyle was published in Nature Communications in February 2014. In simpler words, duckweed never grows up!  A trait which could come in handy.

We earthlings have a lot riding on this little super weed that refuses to grow up.

Thank You Duckweed

Thank You Duckweed

 

Jewels in Boulder’s Banks

September 19, 2014

I’ve been taking Mandy the Dog to the Silver Lake Ditch at the Sunshine Canyon trailhead. She enjoys the snow melted water diverted from the Boulder Creek on her tired old legs…

Mandy Chills Out In Silver Lake Ditch

Mandy Chills Out In Silver Lake Ditch

Today’s tale started at the ditch bank while I was watching this wet retriever. I noticed a shrubby plant with delicate little red and yellow spotted flowers…

Jewelweed Plant on the Bank of the Silverlake Ditch

Remarkable Plant on the Bank of the Silver Lake Ditch

The flowers were remarkable to me for their color as well as their curved spur and pitcher-like shape…

A Pitcher-Like flower with a Curved Spur

A Pitcher-Like Flower with a Curved Spur

When I returned home I searched all of my favorite flower sites but I couldn’t find a match. Before declaring a new species I sought the help of a naturalist friend who identified this uncommon little plant as Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). It is also known as spotted touch-me-not because the ripe seeds explode out of their pods when they are lightly touched.

Jewelweed was used for medicinal purposes by a number of native North American Indian tribes. It’s main value was as an external application for wounds and a range of skin complaints including poison ivy which ironically often grows nearby.

The jewelweed flower’s curved spur contains the nectar it uses to attract pollinators. It has been recently discovered that the shape of this spur is critical to pollination efficiency. The curvature of the spur influences the type of pollinator, the amount of time it spends as well as it’s position within the flower during pollination. The jewelweed flower and it’s pollinators are literally (I never use this term lightly) made for each other. This is an example of coevolution, a concept initially proposed by Charles Darwin. The bees and hummingbirds here in Boulder Colorado are attracted to jewelweed and the jewelweed has a spur to accommodate both hummingbirds and bees. Hummingbirds are bigger and carry a larger pollen payload so they are favored. I looked for a big hummingbird in the act but settled for this little bee…

Bee Find The Target

Bee Finds The Target

Aligns with Runway

Aligns with Runway

On Final Approach

On Final Approach

Pollination Underway

Pollination Underway

If bees could see they way we humans do (they don’t) here’s what the nectar approach would look like…

The Nectar Approach

The Nectar Approach

I also discovered this jewelweed poem by Betty Lies. Click on the title at the bottom to learn more…

We call it touch-me-not, this wildness

tense as a spring: Hands off,

it seems to say, but I know

something wound up

in the heart’s green coils

is crying Touch me. Touch me.

Touch me now. All fall

I have been drawn and drawn again

to one tall stand of jewelweed,

to touch the pendant seedpods,

feel them burst with life.

I understand it’s not just botany

that gives me such delight

running my fingers over their plumpness,

warming them till they explode

and scatter seed.

I have seen hummingbirds

bury their beaks in jeweled cups,

the bees delving so deep

you only know they’re inside

by the flower’s orange tremblings.

This autumn, when my body

keeps its secrets from me,

hiding something deep within,

it pleases me to feel

the life stored in those pods,

waiting for release, first now,

and then again to rise,

to rise after a slow cold winter.

Betty Lies, Jewelweed©

Sanitas’ Salvia Spectacle

August 31, 2014

The flora, fauna and cultural resources on the Sanitas Valley Trail (pronounced san-eh-toss with the emphasis on the first syllable since it is derived from the word sanitarium) make it one of my favorites here in Boulder. Among its charms is a diverse floral display from Spring through Autumn. The heavy rain pattern this Summer has greened the Valley making this an exceptional season for wildflowers. On my last visit with Mandy the dog I discovered that the lower Sanitas Valley has recently witnessed an explosion of tall blue flowers. I have never seen them this big…

A Floral Spectacle in the Sanitas Valley (  40° 1'19.19"N, 105°17'44.89"W)

A Floral Spectacle in the Sanitas Valley (40° 1’19.19″N, 105°17’44.89″W)

After several attempts and help from a few experts I identified these flowers as Salvia azurea (Wild Blue Sage). This hearty member of the mint family attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to the Valley.

This was too good to miss so I leashed Mandy in the shade and I took my camera into this field to capture the pollinators at work and the wildflowers that attract them.

Some of the blue color is provided by Chicory, a beautiful though noxious weed here in Colorado…

Cichorium intybus (Chicory)

Cichorium intybus (Chicory)

Next we come to the Salvia azurea…

Salvia azurea (Blue Sage)

Salvia azurea (Blue Sage)

A few of the Salvia are white…

White Salvia

White Salvia

Bees love this stuff…

Bee on Salvia

Bee on Salvia

Some touches of red are provided by Blazing Star

Blazing Star (Liatris)

Blazing Star (Liatris) with Butterfly

An occasional dab of yellow is provided by Gumweed…

Butterfly on Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

Butterfly on Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

In addition to insect pollinators the Salvia’s nectar is attracting a flock of hummingbirds. This morning there were at least a dozen of them humming about the delicate blue flowers. I’m told that these little jewels are Broad-tailed hummingbirds

 

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) Flight on Salvia Azurea

Hummingbird Flight on Salvia Azurea

Hummingbird Flight on Salvia Azurea

Hummingbird Flight on Salvia Azurea

This is hard work for a little bird, it’s time for a break…

Hummingbird on Tree

Tired Hummingbird Resting on Tree

Looks like Mandy needs a break as well. Here this cool trail provides welcome relief for a hot dog…

 

 


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