It’s looking like a very good year for wildflowers in Colorado. Here’s why

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Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Wildflowers in Stevens Gulch below Grays and Torreys peaks along the Continental Divide, August 2022.

How many wildflowers are there in Colorado? That’s a question we got through Colorado Wonders.   

A lot, at this time of year. But it’s a hard question to answer specifically, whether you’re talking about all the different species or the individual blooms across the state. What we do know is that this season is shaping up to be especially good.

Grace Johnson, a horticulturist with Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms in Littleton, said this year’s conditions could make for some spectacular summer scenery.  

So what are those conditions?  

“Moisture, as well as temperature, and then of course snowpack,” Johnson said. “The fact that we have such a great snowpack means it's going to melt slower, wildflowers will delay their bloom, and then they will have more moisture to kind of sustain a longer bloom time.”

Right now is about the peak time for areas around the Front Range, like Green Mountain west of Lakewood, and in grasslands, like the Pawnee National Grassland northeast of Greeley. 

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Sky pilot wildflowers at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Tuesday, September 21, 2021.

“As you get higher and higher in elevation, you’re looking more towards mid-July into August as probably the ideal time to see wildflowers,” Johnson said.

Crested Butte hosts its annual Wildflower Festival July 7 through 16. And the Denver Botanic Gardens hosts its Lavender Festival at Chatfield Farms on July 15 and 16.

And if you — like the young Coloradan who asked the question that got us curious about this topic — are keen on the color purple, look for Lupine, Tall Larkspur, and Pedicularis groenlandica, also known as the distinctive Elephant's Head.  

"From the side it truly does look like an elephant's head, with a trunk protruding upwards and outwards,” Johnson said. “It’s a very iconic plant, I love seeing it out on trails.”
To learn more about Colorado’s wildflowers, Johnson recommended the book “The Flora of Colorado” by Jennifer Ackerfield.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A Mariposa lily on the Carbonate Creek Trail above Marble, Colorado, on July 9, 2021. The Mariposa is the Utah State Flower.