"Some of our friends said they saw little pink elephants in Rocky Mountain National Park this past summer. Were they suffering from some strange form of altitude sickness that causes hallucinations?"
Well...not exactly. "Little pink elephants" is one name for a much loved wildflower that blooms in wet meadows all over Rocky Mountain National Park. Other names include elephant heads and red elephants, and elephantella. The scientific genus name is Pedicularis groenlandica. It is a member of the Figwort family or Scrophulariaceae which also includes the domestic foxgloves and snapdragons, as well as the wild and domestic penstemons.
Elephantella starts blooming in June in the lowest parts of the park, but can be seen as late as August in some areas. It is most frequently found in wetlands, and if you find little pink elephants, you know the soil in the area is moist most of the summer.
So watch carefully the next time you visit Rocky Mountain National Park-- you, too, could see little pink elephants dancing across the meadows!