The Colorado State Botanist
Today is the anniversary of the death of Colorado State botanist Hazel Schmoll.
Hazel was born in a sod cabin in McAlester, Kansas, in 1890. Her family settled in Colorado when she was just two years old.
Hazel was the first woman to earn a doctorate in botany from the University of Chicago. Early in her career, Hazel had the exciting opportunity to work with Alice Eastwood.
When it came to her beloved Rocky Mountains, Hazel was an active conservationist, and she regularly taught others about the ecology of the mountains. Hazel led the effort to protect the Colorado Blue Columbine Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea). Also known as Rocky Mountain Columbine, Colorado Blue Columbine is a herbaceous perennial with bluish-purple and white blooms that appear spring and early summer. Colorado Blue Columbine can grow up to 3 feet tall with a spread of about 2 feet.
The word Aquila is Latin and means eagle, a reference to the claw-like spurs on the blossom. The word Columbine is derived from the Latin word for dove and refers to this little trick: if you tip the flower over, it looks like five little doves huddled together. Columbine.
Hazel's favorite flower, the Colorado Blue Columbine, was first discovered on Pikes Peak in 1820. As the state flower, it has significant symbolic meaning to Colorado; the blue represents the sky, the white represents snow, and the gold is a nod to the state’s gold mining history, which attracted so many settlers to Colorado.
The Colorado Blue Columbine is so beautiful that it actually became a threatened species after people were digging it up for their rock gardens. In 1925, legislation was passed making it illegal to pick the Rocky Mountain Columbine.
It was Hazel Schmoll who said,
"I hope we can keep some wilderness areas. People need some places where they can get away from the crowds and be refreshed by nature."