I’ve lived in Colorado almost 30 years now and I don’t recall ever seeing a Rocky Mountain bee plant. This is odd for a lot of reasons, including the fact that I’m outside all the time and I love flowers. Or, for some reason maybe I never noticed them. If that’s the case, though, how could one not notice these plants? They’re spectacular! In fact, the US Forest Service refers to them as “one of the showiest wildflowers in the western and prairie regions of the United States.”
I happened upon acres full of them a month or so ago. And yes, the flowers were FULL of bees. Other pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and wasps also enjoy the blossoms. The whole plant can be four-feet high (or taller) and have dozens of stems that each contain a cluster of dozens of flowers. And, see the pods drooping down? Those pods contain the seeds.
This plant also has a lot of nicknames! It’s referred to as stinking clover, skunk weed (no, the plant does not smell very good at all), and Navajo spinach. Native Americans eat the fruit and leaves of the bee plant, which are apparently a good source of vitamin A and calcium. The plant was also used medicinally in teas, to treat fever, stomach aches, and more. And, if all that isn’t amazing enough, the plant is also used to make dyes for rugs, blankets, pottery, and baskets.
While the Rocky Mountain bee plant has a very long blooming season, fall has arrived. But next year, I’ll be on the lookout for sure!