Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where in the World was ProfessorRoush?

For today's enjoyment, I thought a minor mystery was in order to keep you on your toes.  The rules are simple; use the clues to guess where I was this weekend.

The first clue is this flower, a Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens), a member of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).  One of the earliest native flowers to bloom in its region, the Pasque Flower was blooming profusely in the high mountain region I visited this past weekend.

When I spotted it, I thought it was a crocus, which I knew was not native to the region.  I was not being totally naive in my identification, since this flower was called "wild crocus" by the pioneers in the area.  Another common name for the flower is the Easter Flower, because of its early bloom period.  A little research revealed its true identity and proved that it was right where it was supposed to be, between 8500 and 11000 feet above sea level.  One other thing I learned in the research is that all parts of this delicate little plant is poisonous, full of cardiogenic toxins and oxytoxins.

This clue may not help you much, but the mammalian fauna pictured here was native as well.  This little prairie dog was playing hide and seek with my camera, but it finally surrendered to the photographic necessity of the moment and posed for a still photo.  

Nor is this lichen planting likely an easy giveaway to my vacation location, unless you are able to discern what kind of stone the lichen is growing on.  There are easily 5 or 6 different species of lichen growing in this photograph, from the blue-grey mass to the light yellow and rust spots on the rock.

Within view of the Pasque Flowers and the rock formation with the lichens, there was this homestead, the homestead of the widow Hornbek, built in 1878.  Adaline and her four children homesteaded this cabin and made a thriving ranch out of the area.
Are you getting warm yet?   Marco?  Polo.

The real reveal may be this photograph.  It depicts a formation known as the Big Stump, one of the main attractions within the National Monument it stands in.  The Big Stump is a petrified redwood, about 10 feet in diameter.  It was buried in a volcanic mud flow in the Eocene area, then preserved and fossilized.  Many other stumps in the area were sold and carted off before the area was designated a National Monument.  If you look closely at the black spots of the top center of the stump, you might discern that those are broken off and embedded saw blades from an attempt to saw up the stump and move it early in the last century.  As an internal scale, you can check out the cropped off arm of a family member at the right of the informational plaque.   All of the petrified stumps in the area are now Federally protected, although after viewing the lichen colonies, I'm not sure that they are protected very well.  Lichen, over centuries is every bit as destructive to stone monuments as are greedy men with metal saws.

That's all I've got for you.  Ready to guess? Yes, for those who concluded that I was in Colorado, and further, that I visited the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, give yourself a pat on the back.  I was visiting family this past weekend and doing touristy things, which, for anyone unfortunate enough to accompany me, always means either a botanical or historical side visit.  The Florissant Fossil Beds is an interesting little spot with lots of geology and paleontology to view and I highly recommend it to those who can stand lots of fairly dry science presentations.  The Park Service does what they can to make the history, both ancient and recent, come alive for visitors, but there is only so much you can do to make an Eocene fossil formation exciting to the average viewer, however fascinating it is to nerds like ProfessorRoush.  Also, if you visit Florissant, be prepared for lots of hiking.  There are 15 miles of foot trails leading from the Visitor Center through the National Monument.

1 comment:

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I like to meet friends via my blog, so I try to respond if you comment from a valid email address rather than the anonymous noresponse@blogger.com. And thanks again for reading!


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