Denver Botanic Gardens scientists spent four years writing the mother of all wildflower guides

3 min. read
“Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region,” a new guide by the Denver Botanic Gardens. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Over the last four years, scientists with the Denver Botanic Gardens have been cramming more than a century's worth of knowledge on wildflowers into the pages of a new guide. The result: "Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region," a dense encyclopedia of every pretty little thing one might encounter in the Rockies, from their southern reaches clear into Canada.

The book is organized by color and petal count for easy identification, and every entry includes a photograph, the species' mapped range, common names and descriptions. The back of the book even has a little ruler printed on it so you can measure specimens on the fly.

If you're the right kind of hiking geek, you might like taking it with you on a summer hike. The book itself isn't that big, but it's got some heft to it and hardcore backpackers might not like to add the extra 1.5 ounces to their loads.

"This is one of the firsts of its kind," said Cindy Newlander, associate director of horticulture for the Gardens and contributor to the book. There have been other guides for the region, but she thinks this one might be the most comprehensive.

"Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region," a new guide by the Denver Botanic Gardens, is arranged by flowers' color and petal count. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The book is one of a series by Timber Press, a publisher that's been contacting botanic scientists across the country to create a library of equally-dense regional guides.

"They all have seemed to strike a chord," said Tom Fischer, senior acquisitions editor for Timber. "The Rocky Mountains were a prime area for us since it’s so rich in wonderful wildflowers."

The guide's sheer density was the reason it took so long to produce. DBG scientists chipped away at the 1,200 species in between their day-to-day work. Even more time consuming was the process of getting photos of every single species; most were taken by the scientists themselves. Some of the information contained within the guide came from historic texts and scientific work from around the region in addition to the Gardens' researchers.

As a result, Newlander said the book ought to be useful for hardcore botanists, but it's not just for pros. Anyone who's got an interest in wildflowers, she said, will be able to enhance their hikes with it.

The 11 researchers from the Denver Botanic Gardens begind "Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region." (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Beyond that, Sarada Krishnan, the Gardens' director of horticulture, said she thinks it will help seed a conservationist's mindset across the region.

"It is putting new knowledge in people’s heads," she said. "The more that you appreciate something, the more you want to conserve it. It all starts with appreciating whats in your backyard."

"Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region" will be on sale Saturday in the Botanic Gardens' store, or you can order it on Amazon.

"Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region" includes maps, names and descriptions of all the flowers you may find out on the trail. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Recent Stories