By Sharon Sjostrom

We know of them as Rocky Mountain Spring Beauties, or Claytonia rosea. I saw the first lancelike leaves a few weeks ago, their distinctive deep green lying on the ground attached to a thin stem. Last week, their delicate white to light lavender flowers greeted me along the trail. These little flowers always bring me the gift of strength and resilience. They’ve survived the cold and dark Colorado winter, and they push up through the half-frozen soil to welcome the sun back for another spring. They don’t seem to care that they will be buried under another snow. Each plant flowers several times with buds open only a few days, just long enough to share some love with the early spring insects looking for a sweet meal. It amazes me to consider that these flowers, various species indigenous to North America and eastern Asia, emerged over 100 million years ago while dinosaurs still roamed the earth and that they survived the last great extinction. The roots of these little forest friends are a tuber (think mini potato, aka “fairy spud”) that, along with the vitamin-rich leaves, were an important spring food source for early humans. As you explore the outdoors, whether it be the trails or your backyard, what do you see blooming? And how can we be better stewards of these life-giving gifts in our environment?