Jul 16, 2023 - Things to Do

The rare green gentian is blooming in Colorado. See it while it lasts.

A flowering green gentian along the Ditch Trail outside Basalt in late June. Photo: John Frank/Axios

A flowering green gentian along the Ditch Trail outside Basalt in late June. Photo: John Frank/Axios

In the middle of a field outside Aspen, towering above the grasses and flowers, looms an elusive green giant.

Why it matters: Known as the green gentian, or monument plant, it lives 20 to 60 years but blooms only once, sometimes reaching nearly 10 feet, before it dies.

What to know: It's flowering in Colorado this summer, particularly in the mountains near Aspen.

The intrigue: This typically occurs four to five years after a good snow year, says Adam McCurdy with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

  • The pepper-speckled white flowers and spiky yellow stamen begin to form about three years before blooming, research from the R​​ocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic shows.

Of note: We have 2019's historic snowpack to thank for making the plant come alive this year.

🗯 My quick take: I found dozens of green gentians in a five-year-old burn scar on a recent hike on the Ditch Trail near El Jebel. And its life cycle generated surprisingly deep thoughts about life and nature while on the trail.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.

More Denver stories