Nature Notes

Vol. XI August - 1933 No. 6

wildflowers Flowers of Midsummer

Summer appeared very late in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park this year. As this is written considerable snow still lies about the Lodges and other buildings both at Paradise Valley and Yakima Park. Yet we find many flowers, as usual, impatient to fluant their colors. Both the Avalanche (Erythronium montanum) and Glacier Litles (E. parviflorum) have been in bloom for some time - in fact have passed their peak in the early summer display that never ceases to bring forth comment from park visitors in the Hudsonian zone. The large conspicuous blooms of the Western Anemone (Pulsitilla occidentalis) in most cases have given way to the equally conspicuous and interesting shaggy seed pods. Many of the other earlier flowers of the Hudsonian zone have also spent the greater part of their energy for the year - and so we enter into the second stage of floral brilliance; one that is conspicuous for its varied hues and great number of species and individuals.

A short distance from the Community House at Paradise Valley is a rocky hillside which, to all who know this region well, is a mecca for flower lovers. This spot combines in its small area most of the habitat types found on "The Mountain" and so we find growing there a greater variety of plants than any other area of equal size in this region. On the rocks, their roots anchored in the tiny crevises, one finds the flaming red of the Pentstemon (P. rupicola).

Below where water has prepared an entirely different habitat by contributing to a soggy, moist soil one finds the Marsh Marigold (Calth leptosephala), Lewis' Mimulus (M. lewisii), Rosy Spirea (Spirea densiflora) and others. Between the rocky cliff and the lower moist meadow is a well drained hillside upon which one sees the Mt. Dock (P. bistoides), Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja oreopola), Tiger Lily (Lilium parviflorum) and many other plants preferring a dry soil. This spot is a natural flower garden that will rival many cultivated areas in beauty, effect and arrangement though not a hand has touched it. It is one of many floral gems characteristic of this park - the product of our rugged topography and contributing soil and climatic features.


The more brilliant display of wild flowers is found in the Hudsonian meadows but in the deep woods of the Canadian Zone one finds many plants of interest, also. Pipsissewa or Princes Pine (Chimaphila umbellata) is one of particular note because of its evergreen foliage and delicatly tinged pinkish flowers. Canadian Dogwood (Cornus canadensis) is just now at its height and enlivens the road and trailsides while several species of saprophytic plants - the Many-flowered Indian Pipe (Hypopitys hypopitys) and Barber's Pole (Allotropa Virgata) being the most common lend a strange note to these moist, shaded woodland trails. At this season, too, many of these plants of the lower elevations begin maturing their fruit and in many cases this feature of the plant is as striking and distinctive as the flower. The broad green leaves of the Devil's Club (Echinopaniax horridum) which attract so much attention on the part of strangers to the northwest are enlivened on the contrasting bright red berries of this plant at this time. The turquoise blue berry of the Alpine Beauty or Queenscup likewise is interesting and who would trade the delicious fruit of the huckleberry for its flower - regardless of its beauty.

This also seems to be a "bear grass year". These attractive and conspicuous flowers are known by various names whereever they grow. Bear Grass, Indian Basket Grass and Squaw Grass are the most common of the common names though the botanist knows it as Xerophyllum tenax, the term beign derived from the Greek meaning dry leaf. It prefers dry, sunny open slopes and is quite common in the Silver Forest along the Paradise highway. Bear Grass seems to bloom in cycles here. Usually there is a period of three years of excessive bloom and then a like period when these flowers are rather rare.

Being about four weeks late in the season the flowers of this park, for which it is justly famous, will be better than usual later in the season and visitors arriving at that time will find many of the plants that generally are on the wane still at their best.

Park Naturalist.

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