I really do have much better pictures--probably slides--of fringed gentians. I know I took some on a trip a few years ago with Kelly Grummons and Sean Hogan somewhere in the Arkansas Valley. These are probably taken in South Park where I have managed to go just about every year for four or more decades to enjoy the spectacle in mid August. Not this year. Somehow I've gotten so bogged down with other commitments (weekend parties, and this past weekend it's been catch up in the garden) that I have not been to the hills in a month. Of course, I am about to go to Kazakhstan and spend almost a month in the Altai and Tian Shan (words that once seemed so distant and alluring, and now are familiar and almost homey to me now Since I have been there once, and spent countless hours filing images and researching plants I saw there).
So for the sake of distant hills I've neglected my back yard--the Rockies--this year. I am not proud of it. So what if I've spent over a half century exploring corners of my native mountain range. The Southern Rockies are less than half the height of Mt. Everest. They are not nearly as glaciated and rugged as the Alps or the Northern Rockies. They do not have Douglasia montana, Aquilegia jonesii and Kelseya uniflora (three gems I covet from the Middle Rockies). They are not as species diverse as the Mediterranean mountains, nor do they have forests like the Sierra Nevada.
But they are mine. From the first townsendias of March, the mountain ball cacti and Pasqueflowers of April, the foothills penstemon and American plum blossom in May, the refulgent Colorado columbines and Mariposa lilies in June, the paintbrush and mertensia of the summits in July and the gentians of August, and finally the blaze of autumn aspen, asters and chrysothamnus of fall...these are the floral canvas that my life has played against.
Gentians summon all sorts of emotions: in Europe they are associated more with the brilliant spring gentians in their dazzling cobalts.
But in the Rockies gentians are late summer and a blue blaze of of summer's last blast before the season slides into the frosty season. They bring a tinge of regret as well as pleasure at their blue velvet carress.