A Rare Wildflower

Text and photo by Jack Olson

Your wildflower of the day is the endangered wood lily, also known as a Rocky Mountain lily and a red lily. This flower is very, very rare. I’ve been in Colorado over 50 years and have only seen it blooming in the wild twice. The first time was in the late ’60s or early ’70s. There was a known patch by a popular trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. I saw them there once, but they were not seen again and I’m afraid someone picked them or dug them up. 

The rare and beautiful wood lily.
The rare and beautiful wood lily. © Jack Olson

The second time was in July 2011. Longtime friends Don and Joanne Roll had been hiking at Meyer Ranch Open Space Park in Morrison, Colorado, southwest of Denver. They saw a big patch of wood lilies. Joanne called me and we went up there where I saw quite a few wood lilies blooming off the Lodgepole Loop Trail (take the right, or west, fork of the trail for those of you who might want to go up there). 

These were in the high foothill/montane area at a little over 8,000 feet, and were mostly on the right side of the trail. They grow mainly in meadows or forest openings, with flowers about 2 1/2-inches wide, and bloom from June through August. This was an exceptional experience and I can thank Joanne for that.

By the way, I can thank Joanne’s daughter-in-law, Devra, for taking me for the first time to the Secret Garden. I had been up on Shrine Ridge, near Vail, many times but had never discovered it. That’s because it’s secret. Shhhh… 

(See Jack’s Jaunts about Shrine Ridge in the July-August 2019 RMOWP newsletter.)