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Rare plant also grows in rock garden

What a terrific column Andy Gulliford wrote about citizen scientists Al and Betty Schneider (May 8, “Botanists discover Four Corners plants”). And there’s more to the story.

The tiny sunflower profiled, Packera mancosana, is indeed a treasure. As Andy’s column pointed out, this plant only can be found growing in Mancos Shale barrens in one area of Lone Mesa State Park. About 400 plants are there. But you can add 13 more to the roll call. You see, I have eight thriving and blooming in my backyard dryland rock garden. Another five are growing at Denver Botanic Gardens, where I picked up the plants at a special sale two years ago.

Since 2013, Denver Botanic Gardens had been propagating this plant for display and sale. Having such a rare treasure in geographically diverse areas ensures this awesome wee sunflower will not disappear. Call it a socially distanced Noah’s Ark of horticulture.

At that plant sale, I asked a curator about the gray-leaved specimen that I’d never heard of.

“It’s recently discovered and only found in your neck of the woods,” the curator said. Thrilled, I bought the entire batch to repatriate it back to the Four Corners. With luck, I’ll grow some for our Durango Botanic Gardens crevice garden at the library.

Speaking of which, Durango Botanic’s annual Gardens On Tour event is June 26. My garden is one of seven residences featured. So if you’d like to see the enchanting Packera mancosana in person, get your tickets at DurangoBotanicGardens.org.

Mike Smedley