About this Guide

The primary purpose of this guide is to enable you to quickly and easily identify a plant, but also to give you an appreciation of the amazing diversity and beauty of the flowers that flourish here, the land that nurtures them and their need for protection. Rather than thumbing through pages of flowers in a book looking for something that looks like what you are looking at, let your electronic device make the search using the color and form of the flower, or using words to describe the flower and its environs. See How To for more information on using this guide.

This is my online record of the flora of the Southern Rocky Mountains. I have found flora in the Gunnison, San Isabel, Santa Fe, Rio Grande, Carson and San Juan National Forests, and also walking to the Post Office. The website began life as a CD called Wildflowers of the Gunnison Basin so many of the 1,062 flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees identified here were found in the mountains and valleys north of Almont, Colorado where the East and Taylor Rivers converge to become the Gunnison River which flows on to join the Colorado River. Springs and seasonal snow-melt from the high peaks that surround the valleys provide plenty of moisture. More species were found east of the Continental Divide in the rugged canyons and foothills of the Wet Mountains and south in the arid arroyos and mesas, lakes and rivers of northern New Mexico. I have included a very few species from the Colorado Plateau which presented themselves to me in my wanderings.

This map and description of the Southern Rocky Mountains are from the US Geological Survey. The Great Plains extend into eastern Colorado and New Mexico, where flat to rolling prairie with scattered hills and bluffs gradually rises westward to 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level and abruptly gives way to the frontal ranges of the Rocky Mountains in the Southern Rocky Mountains. West of the frontal ranges in Colorado and northern New Mexico are additional and higher mountain ranges generally oriented north-south but with many spurs and extensions oriented in other directions. The many ranges of the Rocky Mountains are separated by valleys and high mountain parks. Colorado contains about three-fourths of the Nation's land area above 10,000 feet and has 53 mountain peaks higher than 14,000 feet. Most of these high peaks are located near the Continental Divide, which extends approximately north-south through central Colorado and western New Mexico.

usgs map

See Where the flowers grow for more detail and photographs of the life zones covered in this guide. The diversity of the terrain yields an incredible variety of plant life from the rugged cacti of the canyons to the tiny forget-me-not of the alpine tundra. Many of these plants can also be found throughout the Rocky Mountains and in other areas of North America, and indeed the World. Magnificent, spectacular, awesome, breathtaking, gorgeous, beautiful; there are not enough superlatives to describe these wild and wonderful places and the glorious flowers that grow here. This is not a complete list of all the flora that can be found in this region, it presents only the flowers that I have personally seen, photographed and identified.

About the photographs

I have attempted to show images of the flowers that uniquely identify them. This may be simply the flower but could include the leaves, fruit or shape in its natural setting to make identification more certain.

There are more than 2,300 images in this website. Almost 100% of the photos were taken with a digital camera; very few now are scanned slides. All of the photographs were taken by me, unless credited otherwise. None of the photos have been digitally altered except to crop the original image to a suitable size.

The photos on the website may be used for personal or academic purposes as long as they are clearly credited to rockymountainsflora.com.

For full-size, high-resolution photographs or to use the photos for commercial purposes, please email me for permission and prices. The sale of photos is used to keep this guide updated and available.

About the creator

I am Marilyn Phillips, a native of England, whose love of nature and the outdoors from childhood brought me by a circuitous route to Crested Butte, Colorado in 1993 and 16 years later to northern New Mexico. My exploration of the many trails in these areas, my interest in wildflowers and photography, and career in computer system design came together in this creation.

If you have any corrections, comments or questions, please contact me by email.

References

When I started out the books that I most referenced in the identification of the flora in this website were:

  • Meet the Natives, The Amateur's Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Trees & Shrubs by M. Walter Pesman. Denver Botanic Gardens.
  • Rocky Mountain Flower Finder by Janet L. Wingate. Nature Study Guild, Rochester, NY
  • Alpine Flower Finder by Janet L. Wingate and Loraine Yeatts. Roberts Rinehart Publishers, Boulder, CO
  • Alpine Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains by Joseph F. Duft and Robert K. Moseley. Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, MT
  • Guide to Colorado Wildflowers by G. K. Guennel, Volumes 1 and 2. Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, CO
  • Plants of the Rocky Mountains by Linda Kershaw, Andy MacKinnon and Jim Pojar. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Canada
  • Wild About Wildflowers by Katherine Darrow. Wildkat Publishing Co., Glendale, AZ
  • Rocky Mountain Tree Finder by Tom Watts. Nature Study Guild, Berkeley, CA
  • Flowering Plants of the Southwestern Woodlands by Foxx and Hoard. Otowi Crossing Press, Los Alamos, NM

Now we have the Internet and I have also found these websites very comprehensive and useful for identification:

Some other interesting websites:

Dedicated to...

Mother Nature
The wildflower guides I learned from
The friends who have patiently waited while I stuck my lens in a flower's face

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May the earth continue to live
May the heavens above continue to live
May the rains continue to dampen the land
May the wet forests continue to grow
Then the flowers shall bloom
And we people shall live again

HAWAIIAN PRAYER

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Thank You!