Posts Tagged ‘Boulder Creek’

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©


Snow Roller in Boulder

March 5, 2010
Mandy the dog and I were hiking on the Second-Third Flatiron Trail  the morning after a light snowfall here in Boulder. This trail starts about a mile from the Chautauqua trailhead. It is short (0.3 mi long; 300 ft elevation.) and very pretty, winding up to a secluded alcove at the base of the Second Flatiron (@ GPS 39.988748,-105.293148). It is especially nice when the snow makes fantastic shapes on the boulders and the rocky talus slope  just east the base of the Second Flatiron. When we reached a steep incline (@ GPS 39.988097, -105.293513) we were presented with this strange winter gift which leads to today’s tale…

A Strange Snow Roller…

At first I thought that this was the work of hikers but the lack of tracks in the snow ruled out human intervention. A quick search revealed that this formation is known as a snow roller. A snow roller is a natural meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed as chunks of snow roll down hillsides or are blown by strong wind. They are rare because they depend on three conditions all of which existed when we were there : the snow was covered by a layer of ice to which snow will not stick; the layer of ice was covered by wet, loose snow with a temperature near the melting point of ice; and wind or gravity must push the snow into a roll. Other names for this formation are snow pipes, snow onions and snow logs. 

...Rolled Down the Slope in Boulder

Sometimes a snow roller becomes hollow since the inner layers, which are the first layers to form, are weak and thin compared to the outer layers and can easily be blown away, leaving what looks like a donut. This is called, you guessed it, a snow donut.  I have not encountered any snow donuts in Boulder but a recent sighting  in Seattle was covered on National Public Radio.  Mandy and I will be on the lookout for winter trail donuts from now on. 

Snow Donut photo: Mike Stanford


More from South Boulder Creek

October 24, 2007

This late fall weather reprieve has given me the opportunity to capture more fall color. Most of the color is along the low lying creeks so I hauled my panorama equipment to the South Mesa Trailhead yesterday to get some shots of the Creek and of a stand of trees off of the Homestead Trail.

Let me digress for a few words about panoramas. In order to appreciate the sweep of our scenery it is often necessary to take extremely wide angle shots. This usually results in the need for a lot of cropping which degrades the final image detail (resolution). In other words, it doesn’t look very good. Most of today’s digital cameras permit image “stitching” either in the camera or through the use of computer software. The resulting photos can, if done carefully, result in large detailed photos. I have a special (heavy) panorama tripod to help me align the individual photos which gives me great results. Here is a shot of the South Boulder Creek which consists of 9 horizontal photos. Can you find any seams?

Fall South Boulder Creek Vista

Other places with great color include the Boulder Creek, Shadow Canyon and Gregory Canyon. For a quick colorfull hike check out the Sanitas and Red Rocks Trailheads off of Mapleton.

Hurry before it’s a winter wonderland. 

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