Plant ID Walk: Table Rock (mesa)

My husband and I took a walk one day in early summer up to the top of a mesa on his parents’ land near Colorado Springs, Colorado called Table Rock.  The environment on top of the mesa is very dry, very rocky, and very windy, and as a result much of the flora hugs the ground closely.  It is the first place on the ~80-acre parcel of land to dry out in the summer.  There are small caves and splits in the rock at the top that create wildlife habitat and microclimates.  A lot of wildlife calls Table Rock home, including mountain lions, bats, deer, foxes, raccoons, hawks, and falcons.  In a permaculture design, the marginal land on top of Table Rock and its steep sides would be best left to nature as Zone 5.

Here is a sampling of some of the plants found on Table Rock:

Stonecrop (Sedum stenopetalum):

Stonecrop (Sedum stenopetalum)

The rocks have long since split here and formed a pit about 5 feet deep.  In this pit is a microclimate that is warmer at night, cooler by day, that collects more water than the surrounding mesa top.  As a result, the plants in the pit are a lot larger and greener than others on the mesa.  In this pit I found Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii), wild lily-of-the-valley (Smilacina stellata), and thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus).

Microclimate in rock pit on Table Rock mesa

Desert indian paintbrush/Early paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa):

Desert indian paintbrush/Early paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa)

Nylon hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus viridiflorus):

Nylon hedgehog cactus (Echinocerus viridiflorus)

A species of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha):

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha)

Daisy species (Erigeron tracyi):

Daisy species (Erigeron tracyi)

Sarah Spotten currently lives in Colorado. As part of her PDC course she is posting occasionally on topics related to her curriculum.

You can see other posts by Sarah here. You can read more about her current projects at

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