The Medicine Bow National Forest, Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin all have distinctly different environments, so they all have very different plant life. Here are some of the special and beautiful plants of our area.
Lodgepole Pine is the dominant tree species found on the Medicine Bow National Forest and large parts of the Routt National Forest, but large stands of Aspen, Subalpine Fir and Engleman Spruce are also found on the Routt National Forest. A variety of woody shrubs are also found. In the sagebrush steppe, Sagebrush and Gambels Oak are commonly found. Service Berry thrives in a variety of environments including the sagebrush steppe and moister areas.
The Thunder Basin National Grassland has mostly, you guessed it! grasses, but many varieties of grasses and plants live here, including sagebrush and many beautiful wildflowers.
Some of the beautiful wild flowers you can see on our forests and grassland include Mules Ears, Columbines, Scarlet Gilia, Phlox, Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Glacier Lillies, Marsh Marigolds. Use the dropdown menus below to learn about the different species you may find on the MBRTB.
Lodgepole pine (Pinus Contorta) - The lodgepole is a fire adapted tree. The bark of the lodgepole pine is fairly thin, minimizing the defense the tree has to fire. The heat of a forest fire sweeping through stands starts the opening of the cones that may have been closed and attached to the branches for up to 20 or more years. The way that these stands regenerate is so densely populated that they self thin, or out compete, each other leaving dead trees in the stand. These dead trees often fall and become a dry ladder fuel to accelerate the fire to the crown of the tree. Lodgepole pine are very susceptible to Bark Beetles (especially the mountain pine beetle) which inflict heavy damage in stagnated stands. Lodgepole pines reside from 1300 to 11,500 feet in elevation in pure dense even-aged stands or in a mixture with several other conifers.
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) - The Ponderosa Pine has a very distinct bark. Unlike most conifers, it has an orange bark, with black lining the crevasses, where the bark "splits". This is most noticeable amongst older Ponderosa Pines. They have long needles which can grow from 3 to 12 inches. When the needles are crushed it gives off a turpentine smell. Cones are oval and hard with diamond shaped scales.
Douglas Fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii) - Leaves can have a yellow-green or blue-green color. Bark is smooth on young stems, becoming thick and divided when older, nickname "alligator bark". Cones are distinct with a "fork-like" tail sticking out from each scale. Elevation of growth from 2,000 to 8,000 feet in our Region.
Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) - Bark is smooth and chalky on young stems; furrowed and scaly on old trunks. Firs in the this Rocky Mountain Region grow from 8,000 to 12,000 ft in elevation. The needles are short and gentle to the touch giving it a nickname of "friendly fir". Firs occur in limited pure stands and within mixed forests, and is very shade tolerant. The crowns are dense, narrowly pyramidal, and symmetrical. Cones are oval and symmetrical. Because of its shallow root system windthrow can cause extensive damage.
Engelmann Spruce (Picea Engelmannii) - Blue-green leaves that give off a rank odor when crushed. Cones are long and papery. Bark is thin, loosely attached scales. Elevation of growth in our region is 4,000 to 12,000 ft. Spruce beetle, mistletoe and windthrow can cause extensive damage.
Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) - Dull blue-green or bluish leaves. Elevation of growth is 6,000 to 9,000 ft. Although it is grown for ornamental purposes you would hardly see it as ornamental in nature. Typically prefers moist soils and locations near streams.
Aspen (Populus tremuliodes) - Aspens typically grow in large clonal colonies derived from a single seedling, and spreading by means of root suckers. Bark is smooth, greenish white to cream color. Elevation of growth is from sea level to 10,000.
Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii) - A deciduous small tree or large shrub. Elevation of growth is 5,000 to 8,000 ft. Grows to be 20 to 70 ft tall. Usually associated with growing around Ponderosa pines.
Narrowleaf cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) - A tree that grows to 50 feet tall. It's leaves are the narrowest leaves of all the poplars, it is almost "willowlike". It is used as a yard tree and used for fuel and fence posts.
Willow Salix species - There are over 400 species of Salix species in the Northern Hemisphere. Honey bees depends on these for nectar and pollen. Historically a precursor for aspirin was derived from the bark of the willow. As pretty as these are they are very short lived.
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
Common juniper (Juniperus communis)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Fringed sage (Artemisia frigida)
Red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Wild red rasberry (Rubus idaeus)
Buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis)
Red elderberry (Sambucus microbotrys)
Mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana)
Silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana)
Mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina)
Shrubby cinquefoil (Pentaphylloides floribunda)
Wood's Rose (Rosa woodsii)
Rose hips (Rosa sp.)
Twinberry honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrate)
Wax currant (Ribes cereum)
Antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Oregon grape (Mahonia repens)
Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Great Basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus)
Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides)
Needle and thread grass (Hesperostipa comata)
Junegrass (Koleria macrantha)
Dirty (Baker's) Dozen: Noxious Weeds on the Medicine Bow-Routt and Thunder Basin
Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula L.)
Musk thistle (Carduus nutans L.)
Hoary cress (whitetop) (Cardaria draba)
Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens)
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)
Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa)
Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)
Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica)
Houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale)
Black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb)