Springtime Flowers of the Colorado Front Range 

Claytonia lanceolata (BY-NC-SA) Barry Breckling on CalPhotos

By Jessica Clarke, Gardens on Spring Creek Horticulturist

If you are new to Colorado, you might be asking yourself, when does winter end and spring begin? Between the snowstorms and hard temperature swings, it’s a tricky time of year. My best solution to this problem is to look at the plants. Despite the manic weather, the plants know when it is time to wake up due to the amount of sunlight they experience each day. On the Front Range, specific plants will emerge with the slightest indication of spring. Keep an eye out for these little sunshine markers to remind yourself that warmer days will come soon.  

The quintessential spring plant found throughout Colorado’s foothills and Rocky Mountains is Claytonia lanceolata (Spring Beauty). This plant is aptly named, as its flowers burst forth as soon as the snow melts. It’s characterized by two opposite leaves, each adorned with a cluster of 3 to 20 flowers. These flowers are a delightful mix of white and pink, with distinct purple stripes and a yellow base. They’re a smaller plant that thrives in the moist zones of the foothills and mountain slopes. Once you spot the Spring Beauty in bloom, it’s a sure sign that spring has arrived. 

Anemone patens (Pasque flower)

Anemone patens (Pasque flower) can be found as soon as the days warm up and the snow starts to disappear. It is native to the Rocky Mountain Region of North America. This pretty and hardy flower is found in many zones, from alpine to foothills. Pasque flowers also enjoy many habitats, thriving in forest openings, hillsides, plains, and dry meadows. It is highly recognizable from the light purple to blue cup-shaped flower (an easy characteristic to remember for the Ranunculaceae plant family). There will be 5-8 isolated flowers per plant. The basal leaves form a low-growing clump from which the stem emerges. The leaves, sepal, and stems will have many tiny hairs. This plant can be utilized in many different landscapes due to its hardiness. Keep an eye out while walking through your local neighborhood or hiking in the foothills this spring. You’ll be sure to spot some popping up!

Don’t let the unpredictable Colorado weather deter you from experiencing the signs of spring. Despite the hail, snow, wind, and sometimes freezing temperatures, try to get outside to explore your surroundings. As demonstrated above, a simple stroll through your neighborhood during a break in the weather can be quite rewarding. On warmer days, venture up to the foothills for a more immersive spring flower hunt. If you keep an eye out, you will surely find some little indicators of warmer days to come and gain a deeper appreciation for Colorado’s unique spring landscape.  


Support Northern Colorado Journalism

Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.

BONUS - Donors get a link in their receipt to sign up for our once-per-week instant text messaging alert. Get your e-copy of North Forty News the moment it is released!

Click to Donate