Driving past Chapman Hill, I noticed at the bottom of the slope a wide swath of plants with pinkish-purple flowers. It looks like a bunch of thistle! What's wrong with the city? Can't it manage to spray thistles on its own property? Do we have to call La Plata County weed control? - Thistle Hater
Set down the herbicides and take a deep breath.
From Florida Road, the pinkish-purple blooms do look similar in color to invasive knapweed and its noxious kin.
But up close, you'll see Chapman Hill has a bumper crop of something quite different, according to Cathy Metz, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
"I know it's not thistle, but I'm not an expert," Metz said. "So let me call up Leigh Gillette, who is an expert in this kind of thing."
Gillette is an education coordinator with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and is studying prairie dogs at Chapman Hill.
Metz reported back that the plant in question is Rocky Mountain beeplant. For you horticulturalists out there, its official Latin name is Clemoe serrulata.
"Beeplant is a native wildflower, and the bees seem to love it," Metz said, an attribute confirmed by a recent reconnoiter of the hillside.
As Mrs. Action Line's students would say, "Dude, it's like the bees were like totally into that stuff."
Beeplant is an annual, which means it lives just one summer, but it reseeds prolifically.
Metz speculated that the impressive patch of beeplant was the result of all the snow last year plus extra moisture from snowmaking.
"Either way, it's not thistle or a noxious weed," she confirmed. "It should come back next year, too."
My wife and I have a patch of mostly native xeric wildflowers in front of our house. Sometimes owners allow their dogs to stroll through and let them to do their business. Every now and then children pick some of the flowers. At night deer will sample the salad bar. And in fall, a bear infrequently will come through looking for a place to do its business (they don't always use the woods). But a strange thing happened recently. A middle-aged guy came tiptoeing through our patch. Said he's new to the "hood" and wanted to check out the 50/50 mixture of sheep fescue and blue gramma grasses we planted. When I saw this fellow in our wildflowers, I yelled at him. It embarrassed my wife. You have a reputation as being a knowledgeable gardener, so I have a question for you: Is this guy one of those invasive species I've read about? - Botanically puzzled
Yes, the interloper was an invasive pest known by its official Latin name Horticulturus busybodius, a mostly harmless species with an annoyingly insatiable need to poke around in other people's gardens.
In their normal habitat, these trespassers can be benign. But bait them with attractive or innovative landscaping, and they ignore boundaries in their quest for closer botanical encounters.
The only proven method of control, short of eradication, is tall fences.
However, some property owners have reported success in repelling Horticulturus busybodius by replacing well-designed plantings with boring shrubs such as junipers, mundane flowers such as petunias and marigolds, and smothering everything else with a sea of uninteresting bark or river-rock mulch.
Action Line takes great care in not trampling plants when smitten by an interesting garden. Please accept the humblest of mea culpas for startling your wife and disturbing your bucolic setting.
Furthermore, Action Line vows to heed Mrs. Action Line's wise counsel, such as, "Don't go up there," "It's not your property," and "What if someone's home?"
E-mail questions to actionline@
durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you need to put the "guard" in garden.