Isabelle’s Warming Glacier lilies

On this adventure I was in hot pursuit of the elusive Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum). I figured that the best place to find them was near a glacier so Mandy the dog and I decided to head up to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area to check in on Isabelle, our local glacier and her high mountain wildflowers.

We started at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area which is our closest gateway to the Indian Peaks Wilderness…

We Start At The Brainard Lake Recreation Area

We Start At The Brainard Lake Recreation Area

The Indian Peaks form a dramatic backdrop for Brainard Lake. This Colorado Wilderness Area gets its name from a majority of its peaks having Native American names. Ogallala, Pajute, Pawnee, Shoshoni, Apache, Navajo, Arikaree, Arapahoe, and Niwot Peaks all reach well above 12,000 feet, making for breathtaking views of jagged summits that tower above green valleys and glacial lakes.

Brainard Lake and the Indian Peaks

Brainard Lake with the Indian Peaks Backdrop

From here it was a short hike to the Pawnee Pass Trail which will take us up past Long Lake and Lake Isabelle

The Pawnee Pass Trail To Long Lake and Lake Isabelle

The Pawnee Pass Trail To Long Lake and Lake Isabelle

We were being watched by a “Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose

Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose (Alces alces)

Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose (Alces alces)

Long Lake is a great place to cool off…

Mandy in Long Lake

Mandy in Long Lake

We arrived at Lake Isabelle after a two-mile/3.2 KM hike. The melting snow drifts and the Glacier feed the lakes and drive the wildflowers…

Melting Snow at Lake Isabelle

Melting Snow at Lake Isabelle

The Pawnee Pass Trail continues to climb above the Lake…

Lake Isabelle from the Pawnee Pass Trail

Lake Isabelle from Pawnee Pass Trail

As the trail ascends towards Pawnee Pass on the Continental Divide we encountered lots of receding snow. This is Glacier Lily territory.

There is Still Lots of Snow on the Pawnee Pass trail

There is Still Lots of Snow on the Pawnee Pass Trail

Mandy found another opportunity to cool off…

Mandy Wallows In The Snow

Mandy Wallows In The Snow

I finally spotted what we were looking for…

We Found the Yellow Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh)

We Found the Yellow Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh)

Yellow Glacier Lilies

Yellow Glacier Lily Trio

The roots of this plant feed deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. Grizzlies have been known to “cook” the roots of yellow Glacier Lilies in the sunshine. They know what the native people have learned: that the roots of this alpine plant aren’t pleasant when raw, but become sweet after a good heating. The roots of the yellow Glacier Lily were so valuable that they became a trading commodity in the Native American culture.

Because the Glacier Lilies bloom so early, they suffer reduced pollination in years of early snowmelt. Such “phonological dislocations” between flowering and pollinator activity are likely to become more common as climates warm. Glacier Lilies are being studied to determine the impact of warming on plants and their pollinators. These vulnerable lilies may become both an early warning and a victim of climate change.

I’m glad we were able to track down this pretty little flower before it’s too warm and too late…

The Last Lilies of the Alpine?

The Last Lilies of the Alpine?

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7 Responses to “Isabelle’s Warming Glacier lilies”

  1. nesbitdave Says:

    Awesome post! Thanks.

    Dave Nesbit nesbitdave@gmail.com 303-263-0522 mobile 303-399-4814 home

    Sent from my iPad

  2. richwolf Says:

    Thanks for your comments Dave…I really appreciate them!

  3. Chris Hansen Says:

    Thanks for sharing you adventure

  4. Susan Litt Says:

    I love following your adventures. Keep them coming!!

  5. Linda Hansen Says:

    Another wonderful post, Rich!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Pasques in the Storm | Tales from the Trails Says:

    […] Another risk of early blooming is that the timing of “early” is critical for successful reproduction. We can see that this plant, like many others, depends on the synchronization of snow melt with the early emergence of pollinators. Both of these events are being disrupted by climate change. It is possible that plants like the pasque and the bees that pollinate them will get out of sync. This nasty aspect of rapid climate change is called pollinator dislocation. […]

  7. Boulder Birch Survived Big Chill | Tales from the Trails Says:

    […] you are on Flagstaff Road where you can catch a quick glimpse of the Continental Divide at the Indian Peaks. Here is where the glaciers went […]

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