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Saturday March 25th 2023

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Anemone Hill: Does It Need an Obituary?


Anemone Hill, ca. 1909-1916 (Carnegie Library)

I am 93 years old, arrived in Boulder in September, 1946, and lived in the uppermost cottage (701) in Chautauqua. I had grown up in New York City, but had been a young naturalist since age 5. When I was twelve I became an  avid birder, and learned my first botany in the field using a book on the trees and shrubs of the New York City region in winter condition. I was given a mint copy of Gray’s Manual of Botany by a biology teacher who had to have the book for a college course but had never opened it. With the help of a lady from the New York Botanical Garden I learned to use this, my first botany book, sitting in the meadows and learning how to use the keys.

By the time I was hired at the University of Colorado, I had already learned the flora of New England and New York State, spent three years in Iowa studying the flora of the mid-western prairies, and five years in the Pacific  Northwest studying the floras of the Canadian Rockies, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. My early experience was extremely useful here in Colorado, because it is here that all of these geographical elements merge in a very interesting way.

Anemone Hill Trail-Open Space Board of Trustees Recommendation ( click to enlarge

The area now including the Mountain Parks and Open Space was already famous because of the occurrence, in Long Canyon, of the eastern North American Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera, and the colony of a fern, Asplenium  adiantum-nigrum, on Ricky Weiser’s property at White Rocks. There were few trails, and few people, no horses, and no dogs.

I helped the staff of Parks and Open Space in assembling an herbarium of the vascular plants. In addition, Ron Wittmann and I have assembled and provided the open space herbarium with a set of the bryophytes (mosses) as far as we have discovered them. Jim Corbridge and I have published a little book of colored pictures of 75 species of the mostly easily recognized lichens. Urless Lanham’s daughter published a popular account of the plants of the Mesa Trail. My books on the entire Colorado Flora were preceded, in1949, by a mimeographed book on the flora of Boulder County. I have trained a great many students in my field courses by using the Mountain Parks as their outdoor laboratory. One of these, Tim Hogan, has published a new catalog. Perhaps it is not generally realized how much scientific work has been published about this remarkable area (see references). It is internationally recognized as a ecosystem treasure.

When I arrived in Boulder the Flatirons were recovering from an earlier period of exploitation. A quarry scarred the lower face, and great numbers of trees had been burned or cut by the early settlers. Our little town numbered 14,000 residents. We had no idea that population pressure would soon descend on this extraordinary area, so rich in vegetation and wildlife. The mere press of bodies with feet, the automobile exhausts, and deliberate defacing of the rocks soon began to tell, and many residents made plans to move to higher ground close to nature.

Some foresighted individuals got together and began to resist this development. I was active in the preparation of arguments supporting the Blue Line Amendment, and I was a member of the citizens’ committee to oversee the construction of NCAR. The cooperation of the scientists was a strong beginning to a serious effort for preservation, and at the time preservation was the most important mission.

Times change, and memory goes as we oldsters disappear. The turnpike, more water from the western slope, the population explosion, the growth of the university, and our vigorous climb out of the Great Depression has made Boulder a resort. Not only has the town become a city re-created from its lowly birth, but it is now recreated (without the hyphen!). Extreme recreation is the current rage. Climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, and horse riding have taken over. Preservation? Aren’t there other immense areas of mountains and forest easily available?

We no longer have neighbors, we don’t greet each other on the street, we don’t walk, but we have dogs. I love dogs. I had two papillons. My daughter has seven Border Collies, and she trains dogs, but she has to go far afield to find a barn where dogs could get proper training. How many people who love dogs take the trouble to train them, or to train themselves to be considerate of other dogs or people? Where is the millionaire who would donate a center for the training of people and their dogs in what I am beginning to feel is the doggiest town in America. Dogs are just as happy walking beside us on the street.

It was my student in General Biology in 1947 who missed classes before a weekend, and when questioned about his absence, he replied that he had been in jail. It was Joe Matesi, later a physician in Indiana. He had gone up on the third Flatiron at night and painted CU on the face. Subsequently, the CU was modified by the an Oklahoma fan to OU, and later to ICU. The modifications were only temporary, and an attempt was made to erase the original letters. But in the proper lighting, the CU is still visible after 65 years! How many folks riding the Skip even look out the window to see it?

I myself was guilty of a early insult to the area. In the search for a small Christmas tree, Sam Kipp and I cut two small Douglas-fir trees from the upper Bluebell Canyon. At the time, there were evidently no restrictions, but the guilty memory will not be erased.

Centuries after Man has wreaked his havoc on the last places on earth that can be said to be at all pristine, our “protected” places will still recover and outlive us all, but is it too much for us Boulderites to remember the real reasons why we have tried to save what we still have? A week or so ago, I took some of my family to the west end of the bike path in lower Boulder Canyon. I intended to show them the display of mosses that I had seen on the steep slope by the trailside. This was one of the only spots where I had easy access to my four-wheel walker. The slope was totally denuded of mosses. Human feet loosened the soil, resulting in landslides. The mosses, still alive, were only surviving in the ditch at the bottom. Some one or ones simply had to get to the climbable cliff above! Bit by bit, we chew on our finest local scenery and the ecosystem that occupies it.

Let’s agree finally to leave our open space alone!


Cockerell, T.D.A. 1905. Tables for the identification of Rocky Mountain Coccidae (Scale Insects and Mealybugs). Univ. of Colo. Studies 2:189–208.

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1907. The bees of Boulder County, Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies 4:239–260.

Cockerell, T.D.A,. 1907. The Protozoa of the University Campus. Univ. of Colorado Studies 4:261.

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1911. The fauna of Boulder County, Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies 8:231—236.

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1912. The fauna of Boulder County, Colorado, II. Univ. of Colorado Studies 9:41–52.

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1917. The fauna of Boulder County, Colorado. III, IV. Univ. of Colorado Studies 12:5–26.

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1927. Zoology of Colorado. Univ. Of Colorado Centennial Series, Vol. 3. 262 pp. Illustr.

Dodds, Gideon S. 1908. Geology and physiography of the mesas near Boulder. Univ. of Colorado Studies 6, No.1.

Hogan, Tim. 1993. A floristic survey of the Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado. Natural History Inventory of Colorado No. 13. 63 pp. Univ. of Colorado Museum.

Froiland, Sven Gordon. 1952. The biological status of Betula andrewsii. Evolution 6:268–282.

Henderson, Junius. 1904. Paleontology of the Boulder area. Univ. of Colorado Studies 2:87–94.

Henderson, Junius. 1904. Additional list of Boulder County birds. Univ. of Colorado Studies 2:95–106.

Henderson, Junius. 1909. An annotated list of the birds of Boulder County, Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies 6: 215–218.

Hicks, Charles H. 1926. Nesting habits and parasites of certain bees of Boulder County, Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies 15:215–248.

Juday, Chancey. 1904. Fishes of Boulder County, Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies 2: 113–114.

Ramaley, Francis. 1908. Climatology of the mesas near Boulder. Univ. of Colorado Studies 6, No. 1.

Ramaley, Francis, & Leon Kelso. 1931. Autumn vegetation of the foothills near Boulder, Colorado. Univ. of Colo. Studies 18:239–156.

Robbins, W. W. 1908. Distribution of deciduous trees and shrubs on the mesas. Univ. of Colorado Studies 6, No. 1.

Robbins, W. W. 1912. Preliminary list of the algae of Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies

Rohwer, Sievert A. 1909. The Bembicid wasps of Boulder County, Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies 6:243–248.

Rohwer, Sievert A. 1913. The sawflies of Boulder County, Colorado. Univ. of Colorado Studies 9:91–104.

Weber, W.A. 1946. Botany of the Boulder area. [in] Natural History of the Boulder Area. Univ. of Colorado Museum, Leaflet 13. Pp. 43–46.

Weber, W. A. 1948. White Rocks. Green Thumb, October. Pp. 6–8, 5 photos.

Weber, W. A. 1949. The flora of Boulder County, 200 pp. Mimeographed. Dept. of Biology.

Weber, W. A. 1965. Plant Geography in the Southern Rocky Mountains. Pp. 453-468, in The Quaternary of the United States (H. E. Wright Jr., & D. G. Frey, eds.)

Weber, W.A.2003. The Middle Asian Element in the Southern Rocky Mountain Flora of the western United States. Journal of Biogeography 30:649–685.

Weber, W. A., & J. N. Corbridge. 1998. Colorado Lichen Primer. 48 pp. 72 color plates. Univ. of Colorado Press.

Weber, W. A., & R. C. Wittmann. 2011. Colorado Flora: Eastern Slope. (In press) University Press of Colorado.

Weber, W.A. 2001. Colorado Bryological Hot Spots. 1. Boulder Mountain Park. Evansia 18(4):1430–146.

Weber, W, A. 2007. Bryophytes of Colorado: Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts. 222 p., 8 plates. Pilgrims Process.

Weber. W. A. (With S. V. Clark and Vera Komarkova). Map of mixed prairie vegetation, Rocky Flats, Colorado. Inst. Alpine & Arctic Res., Occasional Paper 35:1–66, map.

Weber, W. A. (With Richard Zander). 1997. Didymodon anserinocapitatus (Musci, Pottiaceae), new to the New World. Bryologist 100:237–238.

Weber, W. A. (with Richard Zander). 2003. Anoectangium handelii (Pottiaceae, Bryopsida) in the New World. Bryologist 107:48–49.

Zander, Richard H., & Ryszard Ochyra. 2001. Didymodon tectorum and D. brachyphyllus in North America. Bryologist 104:372–377.

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