One of the most beautiful flowers in June is golden banner. It is in full bloom in my yard, but it starts blooming as early as April and May on the high plains. There are large yellow patches of golden banner now blooming throughout the foothills.
Soon it will march even higher with its yellow banners sparkling until it is blooming at Echo Lake in July and occasionally a bit higher above timberline in August.
Some people view it as a brilliant wildflower, and others consider it a noxious weed. It is a native plant that belongs to the pea family, which has brilliant yellow pea-shaped flowers. In some books, it is also known as the golden pea, and still others call it false lupine. Golden banner belongs in the Genera Thermopsis. This name comes from the Greek thermos, which means lupine, and opsis, which means like. Therefore it is a lupine-like plant.
There are two species commonly found on the eastern slope of Colorado, Thermopsis Montana and Thermopsis divaricarpa. T. rhombifolia is strictly a plains plant and is never found in the mountains. It has curved seedpods, which sometimes curve into a complete circle.
Several years ago, to enlarge my vegetable garden, I dug up a small grassy area. When I came across a clump of golden banner, I became fascinated with its root system, and since I had to dig it out, I took the time to do it thoroughly and to look at how it grew. It was a large, tough root system that went very deep and often went off in new directions.
When an exploring root ran into a stone, it often went around and around it, often many times, making coils of roots before it went off in a new direction.
The roots were tough and thick, forming a mat beneath the plant that other plants could not easily penetrate. For this reason, golden banner grows in large patches with very little competition from other plants.
This is also the reason why some people do not like golden banner. These people overgraze their pastures until golden banner is all they have left. That clump I dug out that day did not come back, and I had a fine vegetable garden. But if it is your pasture, it will withstand the trampling of hooves and continue to grow when everything else has been eaten.
I just like to think of it as the native wildflower that it is. It was growing here long before my time. Enjoy it, and I hope others will, too.
The large individual flowers are sometimes over an inch wide, and the cluster is usually 6 inches or more long. The flower is a typical pea flower with a large black petal known as the standard. In front of this is a pair of petals known as wings. Between them, two petals are joined together in what is known as the keel. This contains the stamens and pistil, which are the important parts of the flower.
All peas have this type of flower; many people think they look like small butterflies. The flowers are much larger than our lupine flowers, and since it is so hardy, I think it probably would do no harm to pick a few.
At any rate, it is good to see one wildflower that is seemingly strong enough to hold its own against our encroachment. Many of the more delicate flowers have begun to disappear, and sadly, I expect to see more disappear in the near future.