Shrubland Habitats in the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge
Shrublands are one type of habitat found in the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and one specific type, “Tall Upland” shrublands, make up roughly 34 acres of the refuge. T are important areas that provide habitat to many different plants and animals.
Tall Upland shrublands are mainly associated with higher levels of onsite groundwater. The groundwater seeps and pools, which allows for a unique microhabitat to form. Plant types found include waterleaf, roots, ferns, and bedstraw. Fruits produced in this environment include the Hawthorn berry or Haw, Chokecherry, Wild plum and root vegetables from the Sweetroot to Anise root. Different types of flowers also thrive in the shrublands. These include the Colorado violet and Rydberg’s violet. Other flowers here like Carrion flowers, are notorious for its smell of rotten flesh and ability to attract scavenging insects!
There are also some woodland areas within the shrublands of the park. In Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, shade and coverage is produced from
its three main species of trees including Cottonwood, Siberian elm and Peachleaf willow. The Cottonwood tree is among largest of the deciduous
trees found in North America, standing some 20 to 45 meters tall. These trees benefit from the riparian, or wetland, environment because the soils
are primed for seed germination. In addition to its girth of large trees, the woodlands habitat is also home to earthbound shrubs such as Leadplant,
Coyote willow and Snowberry. The shrubland and woodland habitats work well together!
The shrublands in the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge provide food for many animals. There are Coyote willows, which are dense thickets of thin, green leaves that provide nourishment to creatures as small as birds, and to those as large as elk. Another type of willow, the Narrowleaf, is also found in the shrublands. This species produces a flower in springtime which bears a fruit that houses tiny seeds contained in silky threads!
The Tall Upland Shrublands is a habitat that provides shelter to animals among its shrubs and trees. It also provides nourishment from the leaves and fruits that grow here.
Learn more about the wildlife in the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge here!
Photo Courtesy of The Denver Post.