When it comes to flora and fauna, Colorado has it all. From lush green trees to brilliantly colored fields of wildflowers, you can find a veritable rainbow of color in almost every corner of the state. Before you step out to take in the scenery, be sure to brush up on some interesting Colorado flora facts.

1. The Columbine is rare.

Columbine - wildflower - Peter Stevens - flickr
A Columbine. Photo credit: Peter Stevens (flickr)

Who would have guessed that Colorado’s state flower, the Rocky Mountain Columbine, is actually rare in the state? First recorded on Pikes Peak in 1820 by Edwin James, the delicate blue-violet and white flower was adopted as the official state flower in 1899 after a vote by Colorado’s school-aged kids. The blue petals represent the sky, the white ones stand for snow, and the yellow center is a symbol of Colorado’s gold mining days.

2. There are three blooming seasons.

John Fowler - Wikimedia Commons - Clear Lake Basin - San Juan Mountains
Wildflowers in the Clear Lake Basin, San Juan Mountains. Photo credit: John Fowler (Wikimedia Commons)

Because of the awesome climate, wildflowers bloom in three seasons providing a variety of colors throughout the summer. Early season blooms run from April through June. The height of summer or “peak season” is considered to be June through August, which offers the greatest variety of flowers. Late summer season spans August through October.

3. There are hundreds of species of wildflowers.

wildflowers - Imogene Pass - Alan Stark - flickr
Wildflowers on Imogene Pass. Photo credit: Alan Stark (flickr)

There are more than 750 types of wildflowers found in Colorado. Because of the sheer number, the species are often broken up by color to make them more searchable for those wanting to identify what they’re seeing. Several websites are dedicated to photographing and identifying the various flowers.

4. Don’t pick the flowers!

wildflowers - Maggie Gluch - Kimon Berlin - flickr
Wildflowers in Maggie Gulch. Photo credit: Kimon Berlin (flickr)

It is illegal to pick wildflowers in Colorado state parks because it can damage the ecosystem. Some species are so rare they are protected by the state, while others are actually invasive weeds. Before hopping on a trail, try to pick up a field guide or bloom list from park staff.

5. Crested Butte hosts a wildflower festival.

wildflowers - Crested Butte - Sheila Sund - flickr
Wildflowers in Crested Butte. Photo credit: Sheila Sund (flickr)

Looking for a great way to see as many wildflowers as possible? Crested Butte hosts an annual Wildflower Festival complete with days of wildflower-related activities including guided hikes and workshops. Crested Butte is so popular for the variety of wildflowers, the State Legislature actually gave the area the honorary designation of “Wildflower Capital of Colorado.”

6. There’s an app for that.

Conundrum Hotsprings - Aspen - wildflowers - Zach Dischner - flickr
Wildlflowers at Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen. Photo credit: Zach Dischner (flickr)

The Colorado Rocky Mountain Wildflower app can be downloaded to your phone so when you can’t quite determine what type of flower you’re appreciating, you can input information (like flower shape and color) and the database of more than 520 local wildflowers will identify the plant for you.

7. Yes, some CAN kill you

Purple Larkspur Wildflowers
Purple Larkspur Wildflowers – Spring flowers growing in mountain meadow. Specifically, Delphinium barbeyi. Photo Credit: adventure_photo (iStock).

Don’t go wondering around eating flowers indiscriminately – some of Colorado’s flowers can kill you or your four-legged hiking companions (and sometimes just through touch). A few of these deadly flowers include the larkspur, the death camas, and the western water hemlock. It’s important that you’re able to identify these on the trail.

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