March Flowers

Populus tremuloides - Aspen @DBG LAH 184As I write this, the temperature outside is 10 degrees. Wind swirls snow into the air and howls around the eaves. It’s hard to believe anything is in bloom. Yet, some Colorado plants choose March as their best time to reproduce. Specifically, many trees are currently in full bloom—and I bet you haven’t noticed.

Unlike the showy flowers we grow in our gardens, the flowers of cottonwoods, junipers, and elms are not designed to attract pollinators. Rather, they rely on wind to disperse their pollen. It’s a hit-or-miss proposition, which is why these flowers produce clouds of the stuff—enough pollen so that some lands on another flower’s pistil, and plenty left over to aggravate our eyes and noses. It’s the flowers you don’t see that are out to get you.

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The Other Golden Tree

lah_3322What comes to mind when I describe a tree that has heart-shaped leaves, is in the poplar genus, grows well in Colorado and turns a brilliant gold in the fall? Chances are, you didn’t immediately think of cottonwoods. Yet, when it comes to putting on a show, cottonwoods are every bit as spectacular as their close kin, the aspen. In many ways, they are the other iconic Colorado tree. Find any stream, pond, or irrigation ditch, and chances are there will be at least one cottonwood growing next to it. They are riparian trees, and prefer to have their feet wet.

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