A GUIDE TO UPPER MONTANE SPECIES OF PEAK 7
ELEVATION RANGE: 9,400 TO 10,200 FEET
"Coffee-table" books are full of colorful photos of the showiest, most-conspicuous species. Those are the flowers most often noticed on a wildflower walk.
But there are many other interesting and even edible species that are routinely omitted from those books. Field guides may include some of them, but cost and the physical constraints of book binding work in tandem to, once again, allow mostly conspicuous species. Usually those guides cover a large geographical area where the total species count might be in the thousands - far too many pages for a book to be carried in a daypack.
The invention of the Internet has now made it possible to acquaint wildflower enthusiasts with those overlooked, omitted species. Small, hand-held devices can now access websites from remote locations, such as the trails in the Breckenridge area. An all-inclusive, electronic field guide is now a reality.
So many times, Klaus and I have walked from our house up to the alpine tundra of the Tenmile Range, not giving much thought to the plant life residing along those access trails. But, while that high-altitude area is unsurpassed for its beauty and allure, it becomes harder for us as we age and especially for our friends who come up to Breckenridge for a few weeks from low-altitude states to be physically comfortable at 12,000 feet and above. Still, they love our flowers and want to learn their names. A short, easy, low-altitude walk in wild(up to about 10,200 feet) that would yield at least 50 species is what was needed.
Beginning in late May 2013, Jane began photographing each wild-growing species residing in the Peak 7 residential area. Over 5,000 photos were taken of 222 species to show not only the flowers but also the identifying parts. After hundreds of hours spent at the computer, selecting, editing and constructing composite photos of each species, a new website was created.
Instead of covering a large area, that website focuses on just 2 square miles which encompass the Peak 7 subdivision. Within that area, the elevation change is 800 feet, and, surprisingly, there are many diverse ecosystems: sunny roadcut (a mecca for Penstemon), shaded riparian (streamside) where Montia chamissoi (Water Miner's Lettuce) flourishes, sunny wetlands hosting Aconitum columbianum (Monkshood), Mertensia ciliata (Tall Chiming Bells) and Mimulus guttatus (Yellow Monkeyflower), aspen grove replete with Castilleja miniata and C. sulphurea (Red and Yellow Paintbrush), Lupinus argenteus (Silver Lupine) and Erigeron elatior (Beautiful Daisy), lodgepole pine forest where the delicious little fruits of Vaccinium scoparium (Broom Bilberry) provide us with a tasty treat, and the cool, dark spruce-fir forest yielding tiny treasures like Moneses uniflora (Wood Nymph), Pyrola asarifolia (Pink Pyrola) and Listera cordata (Heartleaved Twayblade.
So if you'd like to become acquainted with the species of plants, including our native shrubs and trees, that you would likely see on an easy, 2-hour walk in the Breckenridge area, click the link below: