Rocky Mountain National Park: Types of trees and flowers

Americans often put the cart before the horse. They designated State and National Parks before they had the people to regulate and take care of them. In 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park was established and tucked with the other parks under the Department of Interior. Things may have gone by the wayside if it was not handled that way. Because of the designation and care Rocky Mountain National Park has a great variety of trees and flowers that are protected and flourishing.

One of the things that makes this park unique are the ecosystems. Each ecosystem has its own specific trees and flowers. The extreme changes in elevation give way to these very different growing environments.

From 5500 to 9000 feet is the home of the Montane forest ecosystem. The trees that thrive in this specific area. Ponderosa Pine thrive on the south facing slopes. They need the warmth of the sun to have the best environment. The Douglas Fir do better in cooler weather and therefore can be found in abundance on the north facing slopes. Often times there will be patches of snow that last into the summer months on the northern slopes.

Other trees that are found in this ecosystem come because of disturbances that have happen in the area over the decades. These can be caused by a number of natural events that may include flooding, avalanches, fires or even man made disturbances like logging roads and other construction. The scars are the perfect place for aspens and lodge pole pines to call home.

There are many wild flowers that can be found in this part of Rocky Mountain National Park. Mule’s Ears come in two different varieties. They grow in two colors either orange or yellow. The Rocky Mountain Columbine is a protected plant and yet many seem to find their way out of the park and into gardens. Columbines are common, but these are purple and white and that is a desired combination. Rocky Mountain Penstemon is flower named by Dr. John Mitchell.

The subalpine forests reach up toward the peaks. This area covers from 9000 to 11,000 feet. This area is very moist. Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir are the dense forest areas. Limberpine are sprinkled throughout the subalpine ecosystem. The tree line in obvious in this range. One of the beautiful and interesting things to see are trees that are shaped by winds at the tree lines. The trees become twisted and are called krummsholz.

Aspens and pines are in the lower elevations of these areas.

Some wildflowers that live in the subalpine ecosystem are the the Magenta Paintbrush. The Bird’s Beak Lousewart is another delicate pink flowers. Spreading Phiox are close to the ground, white with a tinge of blue on some petals, these are prevalent.

Another ecosystem is known as Riparian. These can be found alongside ponds, streams, and water, wherever they may be. This is the natural home of narrow leaf cottonwoods, aspen, blue spruce and a variety of shrubs.

The Rocky Mountain National Park is great place to experience all the varied ecosystems. It is well worth the time to see all the wonder.