• Original Reporting
  • On the Ground
  • Sources Cited
  • Subject Specialist
Original Reporting This article contains new, firsthand information uncovered by its reporter(s). This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.
On the Ground Indicates that a Newsmaker/Newsmakers was/were physically present to report the article from some/all of the location(s) it concerns.
Sources Cited As a news piece, this article cites verifiable, third-party sources which have all been thoroughly fact-checked and deemed credible by the Newsroom in accordance with the Civil Constitution.
Subject Specialist This Newsmaker has been deemed by this Newsroom as having a specialized knowledge of the subject covered in this article.
Pasqueflowers are among the first flowers to bloom in Colorado's high mountain country. The additional moisture provided by last winter's deep snowpack may provide an exceptional opportunity for wildflower viewing this summer. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

I began looking for pasqueflowers along the edges of trails and roads near my home in Almont in April, searching for the small bell-shaped flowers that are always first to push up through the snow, their delicate purple blossoms announcing spring in a whisper of warmer temperatures to come.

But it wasn’t until May 5 that I saw them, weeks after Easter and Passover, spring holidays whose names in other languages, pasque and pesach, are where the pasqueflower derives its name.

It’s around Easter time that the flowers typically start popping up, a parallel symbol of rebirth after a long winter.

Pasqueflowers add joyful dashes of color to the drab late-winter landscape — they are sometimes called lady of the snows — but they also provide early-season nourishment and shelter to pollinators. Luther College biologist Robert Knutson discovered that the interior of the pasqueflower, closed in cooler temperatures and at night, could be 18 degrees warmer than the outside air.

“Most insects seemed content to bask in the warmth of the sun as magnified by the collection of plates of the petals and temporarily stored in the fuzzy center structures,” Knutson wrote in an article published in 1981 in Natural History magazine. “If you are small enough, I thought, Palm Beach is as close as your nearest pasqueflower.”

The interior of pasqueflowers can be 18 degrees warmer than the air temperature, providing haven for early pollinators early in spring. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The vast numbers of pasqueflowers blooming in my valley this spring, thanks to an above-average snowpack, are a preview of an especially spectacular wildflower viewing season to come.

“The more snow, the better flowering you’re going to get,” said David Inouye, a researcher for The Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Gothic. “And the lingering snowpack delays flowering, helping plants avoid damage from frost, which in the high elevations can occur as late as June.” Less loss to frost equals more flowers.

Paintbrush is already blooming in the lower elevations of Colorado providing colorful additional wildflower viewing. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Inouye, whose wildflower research was featured in the April 2023 National Geographic, predicts an above-average wildflower season this year because of the additional moisture.

“The wet spring will provide a good year for the flowering of many species,” Inouye said, adding that “wildflowers are already nice around 5,900 feet.”

Although wildflowers are blooming at lower elevations, like in the canyon country in the southwestern part of the state and around the Front Range, the best flower viewing in Colorado will be in the high country where the deep snowpack is slowly melting out.

The Gunnison Valley, especially the mountains around Crested Butte; the Yampa Valley, near Steamboat Springs; the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, Durango, Pagosa Springs and Creede should all have plentiful wildflowers, Inouye said.

Taylore Lowry, a spokesperson for the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, July 6-17, offers advice that’s applicable to nearly all of Colorado’s high country this summer.

“The best flower viewing depends on when and where the snow melts,” Lowry said. “Normally, the peak bloom begins in mid-July but with all the snow this year, we think the peak will come later in the month into early August. Lower elevation areas will be the best bet for viewing flowers since the higher elevations are likely to melt last.”

One of the great things about viewing wildflowers in Crested Butte, or anywhere in the mountains, Lowry said, is that “there are hundreds of species of flowers that all bloom at different times and for different durations, so you can almost always see something!”

Clusters of phlox flowers provide colorful additions to Colorado’s wildflower viewing in the lower elevations. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Special to The Colorado Sun
Twitter: @dkrakel