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Plants of the Western Slope June 14, 2017

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Photo by Evelyn Horn Yellow clover along a pullout along Highway 65 on the Grand Mesa, overlooking the Surface Creek Valley. This photo was taken in 2011.

Yellow Clover

What a lovely bunch of weeds! They line the roadways on my right. I pull off the road onto the widened gravel area and stop. Motor off. I can hear the voices of the scrub oak leaves fluttering in the breeze. From here I can see the San Juan Mountains, some 40 miles away and the West Elks still stand white with snow. It is perfectly clear overhead. What a wonderful day!

I can hear a car coming up the hill. Listen. I can actually tell how far away it is because everything else is so quiet. Louder now ... louder and it goes roaring by. Silence again. I've read that silences are harder to find these days and that the wildlife are reacting to this basic need. And this is one of my favorite quiet places.

But back to the "weeds." If we don't like a plant (wherever it is growing), we often choose to call it a "weed." Or if it is alien, we call it a "weed' but this time it is not an alien and is referred to as a "weed."

As I walk over to the plants, I'm recalling the description in Utah Flora by S. L. Wells. The plants are a foot or more tall. There are leaves, but most of the plant appears to be small flowers, each about four millimeters (less than an inch long) and each is a warm yellow. The leaves look to be opposite along the stem, less than an inch wide and fairly long. I've seen drawings with the leaves three-parted, but I don't see any today. At any rate the proper name is Trifolium melilotus officinalis. The term "officinalis" is often meant in botany to indicate the medicinal uses for the plant. And it was imported as a food source for livestock (after those animals had eaten all of the more tasty native grasses). As an annual or biennial, it can be found almost anywhere and is considered to be naturalized to North America.

I hear another car. No, it's louder. A truck perhaps ... and a bright red pickup truck whizzes by. I always wonder where they're going in such a hurry! One last deep breath for me, and I return to the car. My quiet time is over.

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Surface Creek
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