The wild flowers in and near Paradise Valley have been coming and going this season in accordance with a schedule that is two to three weeks in advance of the usual appearance and departure of the blossoms. For this, the very early melting of the snow was responsible.
Nevertheless visitors to Paradise still find numerous varieties of flowers in bloom. In the shady vales and in the higher ridges above the Valley, slopes are still aflame with the tints of Indian paintbrush. Purple asters, too, are abundant, and along the banks of nearly every stream red and yellow mimulus, and Parnassus grass are found. Other species which are by no means scarce are the gentian, Arctic lupine, common lousewort, fireweed, arnica, yarrow, bluebell, rosy spirea, lutkea, several types of saxafrage, seed pods of the western anemone, wild parsnip, pearly everlasting, Indian basket grass, and valerian.
By dint of extra search and a bit of climbing it is not difficult to discover mountain phlox and golden asters in bloom, and the trailing juniper, kinnikinnik, eriogonum and Lyall's lupine. Blossoms of potentilla, red heather, Cusick's speedwell, and Canada thistle, mertensia and pentstemon, while rare, except in favored localities, are still available.
After all, then, the late arrival, although deprived of the satisfaction of enjoying the best flower displays, finds the hillsides still colorful with natural beauty.
One would scarcely expect to find life of any kind thriving in a mass of ice. More undesirable surroundings, even for the lowest forms of animate existence could hardly be conceived. And yet, buried in the bodies of the Glaciers of Mount Rainier National Park, a low form of life actually exists - the glacier worm.
A few days ago, the Park Naturalist gathered samples of these worms from Paradise Glacier; wriggling, dark-brown, thread-like creatures, about one inch long, which now repose in a bottle of formaldehyde in his office, to be viewed by the incredulous.
On cold, cloudy, damp days glacier worms come to the surface of the ice and at such times millions of them may be seen. But when the day is bright and sunny they manage to burrow into the ice for a short distance. They may also be seen at the slushy edge of the snow covering the glaciers.
Evidently there are few if any conditions to be found on Mount Rainier under which some form of life is impossible, but this worm seems to have selected the strangest environment of all. It is altogether probable that its food consists of one of the microscopic, yeastlike vegetable growths that flourish on the ice. One of these is known as red snow, because of its pinkish tinge.
Hopping about on the glacial ice in vast numbers are minute insects somewhat resembling fleas. Perhaps it is due to the prescence of these, and of the worms, that several species of bird such as the rosy finch, the spotted sand piper and the pipit seem to find the securing of such cold storage food from the forbidding surfaces of glaciers easier than foraging for supplies in the woods and on the flowering slopes of the Park.
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