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More flowers out at SBNM

April 15, 2015

I’ve been making a point to hike up Scotts Bluff National Monument (my “natural training facility”) on a regular basis. I’ve got a GPS app on my phone, and I like to try to hike the up-and-back Saddle Rock Trail faster than I did the time before. Only . . .

I’m a slow-hiker.

Not that I’m necessarily slow when I’m actually moving.

It’s just that I tend to notice things and stop to examine them.

A rustle in the grass – snake? Mouse? Oh. Nope. An amputee grasshopper, missing one of its jumper legs.

amputee grasshopperAs soon as the day warms, the grasshoppers are now out in force, making a castinet-clacking sound as they fly. I’ve heard some visitors get nervous over the sound, thinking it’s the sound of rattlesnakes. (If you don’t know the difference, here’s a video illustrating what the grasshoppers sound like. And here’s a video of a rattlesnake buzz.)

My eye caught a small, red thing moving. A wasp of some sort, later identified as a type of Tachypompilus spider wasp. It had its wings up in the air and its abdomen down –  it was laying an egg in a stashed spider, perhaps?

TachypompilusAnd then there were the wildflowers.

Between Monday and today, I noticed several more species starting to bloom, in addition to the three I posted about a month ago. Not all of these flowers are the reach-out-and-grab-you kinds of floral displays. Many of them are subtle, more easily discovered by slow-hikers.

Showy peavine, Lathyrus polymorphus

Showy peavine, Lathyrus polymorphus

An out-of-focus (darned cellphone camera) western wallflower, Erysimum asperum

An out-of-focus (darned cellphone camera) western wallflower, Erysimum asperum

Stemless hymenoxys, Tetraneueuris acaulis, getting ready to pop

Hoary fleabane, Erigeron canus (I think), getting ready to pop
Update: I made a mistaken identification based on the fact that I thought the flower petals were white. They are actually yellow when fully extended. This is stemless hymenoxys, Tetraneueuris acaulis.

Stemless hymenoxys, fully extended at a later date. See? Yellow petals.

Stemless hymenoxys, fully extended at a later date. See? Yellow petals.

Not a great photo, but proof that some penstemon is about to burst upon the scene. (I'd guess narrowleaf penstemon, Penstemon angustifolius.)

Not a great photo, but proof that some penstemon is about to burst upon the scene. (I’d guess narrowleaf penstemon, Penstemon angustifolius.)

False dandelion, Nothocalais cuspidata.

False dandelion, Nothocalais cuspidata.

The lovely mountain cat's eye, Cryptantha cana.

The lovely mountain cat’s eye, Cryptantha cana.

And my favorite of the day - a path of tufted milkvetch, Astragalus spatulatus, with both the normal purple color and a white variety growing side-by-side.

And my favorite of the day – a patch of tufted milkvetch, Astragalus spatulatus, with both the normal purple color and a white variety growing side-by-side.

Now, I am not a wildflower expert. I’m making the above identifications based on a locally-produced wildflower book, “Wildflowers of the Wildcat Hills including Scotts Bluff National Monument” by Connie McKinney. The book is currently out of print, I believe, but the Legacy of the Plains Museum gift shop (just east of SBNM) still has a healthy supply of them, if you’d like your own copy. I like this book, not only because it’s locally produced, but because it’s spiral bound, so the binding won’t fall apart with frequent use. The flowers in the book are organized by color and bloom time, so they are easy to find.

wildflower bookIf that book doesn’t work out, the SBNM gift shop has some wildflower books, too. Ask SBNM staff for recommendations – some of their books are organized by genus and species and are thus a bit harder for the novice wildflower seeker to use.

If you haven’t slow-hiked up the Saddle Rock Trail yet this spring, what are you waiting for? #findyourpark

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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