Wildflowers in the mountain meadow.

NPS Photo / Walker Hall


Plants that grow in any given place change over periods of years or decades.

This process is called plant succession or more broadly, ecological succession, because as the plants change so do the microorganisms and animals.

In places of bare vegetation, smaller plants like mosses, grasses and flowering plants begin this process. Aspen then start to grow in these open, sunny areas and lodgepole pine trees populate open, burned areas.

Eventually, these trees create too much shade for their seedlings to survive and are succeeded by ponderosa pine, Engelmann Spruce, Douglas Fir or Subalpine fir at varying elevations.

A mixture of all of these plants forms a climax vegetation that will stand over time unless disrupted by natural disturbances such as avalanches, wind storms, floods or climate change. The process then begins all over again.


NPS photo Algae Microscopic colors and patterns abound anywhere where water is found.

Invasive Exotic Plants
Invasive Exotic Plants

Don't be fooled. Cunning plants can upset vegetation processes in the native landscape.


Ancient pioneers of the plant world interact with living and non-living organisms.

Mosses & Liverworts
Mosses & Liverworts

Thank bryophytes for lime green cushioning on top of Rocky ground.

Golden aspens color the pine forest in RMNP.
Trees & Shrubs

These mighty groups of plants have deep roots in Rocky's landscape.

Columbine, which is the state flower of Colorado, is abundant in the park.

Color and variety paints visual masterpieces all around the park.

Last updated: May 11, 2018

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1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


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