7 Resources to Quickly Identify Southern Colorado Wildflowers

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Southern Colorado is a nature lover's paradise, boasting a diverse array of wildflowers throughout the summer, painting the landscapes with vibrant colors. Identifying these wildflowers can enhance your experience and deepen your connection with the region's unique flora. With an unseasonably wet start to the season, the summer of 2023 will likely become a banner year for many species making it a great time to appreciate the dappled meadows bursting with color. We’ve assembled a list of top wildflower identification resources for southern Colorado, helping you put names to its breathtaking botanical wonders.

Field Guides and Books

When it comes to wildflower identification, traditional field guides, and books remain invaluable resources. These comprehensive references provide detailed information about local plant species, including their habitats, blooming seasons, and distinct characteristics. Carrying a field guide during your hikes lets you quickly identify wildflowers in real time.

For southern Colorado, consider guides such as:

Field Guides and Books Pros and Cons
  • Easy to use in the field: Viewing physical guides can be easier than looking at a dark phone screen in the bright Colorado sunlight. 

Weight: Physical guides add to the pack weight and can be cumbersome to pull out each time you want to reference the info. Pocket guides or identification cards can save weight, but these abbreviated guides provide less detail on each species.

Explore & Discover

Learn more about our work, conservation news and events by signing up for our newsletter and get a free download of our Field Guide to 20 of our protected parks and open spaces.

Mobile Apps

In this digital age, mobile apps have revolutionized how we explore and identify wildflowers. With a simple snap of your smartphone's camera, apps such as “Picture This” use AI to analyze the flower's features and provide instant information about the species. Embrace the convenience of technology and turn your phone into a pocket-sized botanical expert during your outdoor adventures.

For southern Colorado's wildflowers, check out:

Beyond wildflower identification, check out these five free apps, available on Android and Apple, to identify plants and animals in the area.

Mobile App Pros and Cons
  • Quick and easy to use: The user interface of many identification apps are designed to quickly find relevant matches based on various criteria.
  • Accessible: If your phone is within reach, so too is your wildflower identification resource, and you don’t have to add another item to your packing list.
  • Battery usage: trail users who rely on their phone’s GPS for navigation may wish to minimize battery consumption from other apps. 
  • May require cell service: When hiking beyond cell service, remember to save resources directly to your device. Some features may not be accessible without cell reception.

Online Databases and Websites

In a world where information is at our fingertips, online databases and websites offer wildflower enthusiasts a treasure trove of knowledge. From the comfort of your home, you can immerse yourself in the world of wildflowers and build your knowledge with extensive collections of photographs, descriptions, and distribution maps before venturing into the wilderness.

Websites with extensive data for southern Colorado's native plants include:

Online Databases and Websites Pros and Cons
  • Free resource: These databases are free to access and provide extensive information and links to other resources.
  • Desktop friendly: These databases are best used on larger-screen devices. 
  • Limited search features: The user interface for some of these databases are less intuitive and limited compared to the apps listed in the previous section.
  • Limitations in the field: Web-based content requires cell data use and service. These resources are best used before or after a trip.

Local Wildflower Field Guides and Tours

For a truly immersive experience, tap into the expertise of locals because plants along the trail sometimes look different from the photos in the guide. Additionally, consider joining guided wildflower tours led by experienced naturalists. These experts can introduce you to hidden gems and rarities you might have missed otherwise, adding depth to your wildflower encounters.

Late Bloomers Wildflower Walk

August 19, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Join Palmer Land Conservancy for a moderate wildflower walk at the Stratton Open Space to connect with other Palmer supporters and enjoy late-season blooms. As a cherished property protected forever in 1998 by Palmer, this biodiverse oasis contains floral-laden meadows and thick pine forests. Guided by Lee Derr, a local naturalist, discover the profound significance and exquisite beauty of native plants and blooms.

Botanical Gardens and Nature Centers

While identifying wildflowers in their natural habitats presents a fun challenge, visiting botanical gardens and nature centers can provide a different perspective. These organizations often feature curated displays of native plant species, offering an opportunity to learn about Southern Colorado's wildflowers in a controlled and educational setting. Explore the exhibits, participate in guided tours, and gain insights into the ecological importance of preserving these delicate ecosystems. 

Nature centers in the area with regular guided nature walks and hikes including: 

Citizen Science Projects

Citizen science projects offer the perfect blend for those who wish to contribute to scientific knowledge while indulging in their passion for wildflowers. Several initiatives focus on monitoring and documenting the flora in specific regions, including southern Colorado. By participating in such projects, you enhance your understanding of wildflowers and aid in conservation efforts and scientific research.

Social Media and Online Communities

The power of community and shared experiences create rich experiences. Social media platforms and online communities cater to an ever-growing network of wildflower enthusiasts. Join groups dedicated to wildflower identification in southern Colorado, where members share their findings, ask for help with identification, and celebrate the beauty of the region's flora together. These communities' collective knowledge and camaraderie can enrich your journey as a wildflower enthusiast.

Across southern Colorado, an enchanting world of wildflowers awaits exploration. Armed with the top identification resources, you can embark on a journey of discovery and wonder. Whether you prefer the tactile feel of a field guide, the convenience of a mobile app, or the wealth of online information, these resources will guide you in unraveling the secrets of the region's floral treasures. So, grab your camera, pack your curiosity, and set forth on a wildflower adventure that will deepen your appreciation for the natural beauty of Southern Colorado, and remember to leave only footprints and take only photos.

Happy flower hunting!