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Blackest Black Sheep of the
AUGUST 2014
Buttercup
Oh man, what a cool

 

 

Buttercups (Ranuculus species) have five shining yellow petals. Most are a deeper gold than this one and have fuller petals.

larkspur

Nuttall's larkspur (Delphinium nuttalli), a native wildflower up here in the Rockies. Beautiful but deadly. As are all larkspurs, and all delphiniums. No need to worry, as long as you don't eat them.

MONKSHOOD07221401MonksHood

This monkshood is our wild species (Aconitum columbianum), which ranges from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. It's not as flowery as those you can buy at nurseries or through catalogs. But it's just as beautiful.

I always feel like I've found a treasure when I discover monkshood blooming along the creek—though I admire from a distance.

Individual plants of monkshood, as well as other members of the "friendly" Buttercup Family, vary greatly in their content of toxic aconitine, but I'm not taking any chances. While I love learning about toxic plants, I'm not about to use myself as a guinea pig.

By the way, perhaps that word "aconitine" made you wonder about winter aconite, the super early blooming bulbs with the yellow flowers? Yep. Them, too.

Don't get freaked, though—many, many plants are poisonous...including daffodils :)

As long as you don't eat them (or, in some cases, rub them on your skin), you can enjoy them in your garden without worry. I sure do, and I haven't been poisoned. Yet ;)

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Sex Matters
Ever since that law was
SEPTEMBER 2014

Another Million-Dollar Idea Bites the Dust

The wild hops vines were one of the first things to grow back from the roots after the big wildfire of July 2012.

But instead of being about 80% female plants and 20% male as they usually were, the vines were almost all entirely male when they finally bloomed last year.

How can you tell? Why, peek under a leaf, of course ;) Male vines have different-shaped flowers, and they don't produce the long dangling "cones" that are harvested for making beer.

So much for the potential new cottage industry I was envisioning—craft beer from genuine Colorado native hops. A surefire million-dollar idea! Maybe.

But not with all-male vines. Fine.

Besides, turns out
someone has already beaten me to it, although not here in Colorado.

Last year, I transplanted one of those hops vines to our house, to climb the posts of our raised porch. I dug the thing long before blooming time, so I had no clue what sex it was.

It took a year to recover from being moved, sitting and sulking at about 6 inches tall all last summer. But this year, it went gangbusters, climbing almost 20 feet, right up to the railing.

Maybe it's still mad about being moved, because it seems we won't be lifting a celebratory beer this year.

Yep. It's a boy :)

hops
No home brewery for us—our
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