What’s that maze of gravel paths and tidy mulch at the west end of the Bohn Park river trail? The Rocky Mountain Botanic Gardens (RMBG)! A group of passionate plant lovers in Lyons has been working for years to create a beautiful and educational native plant garden in our town, and it’s finally almost here.
Right now, the garden is closed to let worms, fungi, arthropods, and microbes build up the soil undisturbed. These critters are busily composting the cardboard and wood chips covering the surface of the beds into rich soil. Meanwhile, human volunteers are working to pull weeds and continue soil preparation. The planting and the opening of the gardens are expected midsummer. When that happens, we’re hoping to use this space in the Recorder to share what’s going on at the gardens, botanically speaking, and to share our love of local plants.
Since there’s nothing officially planted in the gardens yet, it’s a bit early to be talking about what’s blooming there, but there are actually lots of flowers–on the weeds. In the RMBG and all over Lyons, the rather lovely and tenacious weed known as blue mustard (Chorispora tenella) is currently in full bloom.
Also known as crossflower, musk mustard, or purple mustard, this plant has pale purple, slightly wrinkly, four-petalled, X-shaped flowers, and the leaves have a distinctive odor. It’s an annual plant that forms upward curving pods, plump with next year’s weed seeds. Up close, the leaves, stems, and pods have tiny hairs. This plant is an introduced species, native to Eurasia but now found in many Western and Midwestern states. It can form dense carpets of purple haze along roadsides.
Blue mustard is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), which includes the spice in the yellow bottle; cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts; and many native wildflowers, including western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) and Front Range twinpod (Physaria bellii). Blue mustard is just one of many early-blooming mustard-family weeds that infest and/or grace local disturbed areas in spring.
Keep an eye out for blue mustard around town and in your yards, enjoy the early color it brings, and then consider pulling it up to make more room for our native plants. We’ll keep weeding at RMBG to get ready for the many flowers to come.
For more information about the gardens, visit our web site. To learn more about blue mustard, take a look here.
Jessie Berta-Thompson has lived just outside of Lyons for four years. She is an enthusiastic volunteer for the Rocky Mountain Botanic Gardens, with experience in biology research and outreach.