Recently the Naturalist followed the old Glacier Trail from Paradise Valley to the terminus of the Nisqually Glacier. It is an old trail, excessively steep and little used, but very interesting to the geologist or botanist. After leaving the forest below Paradise Valley the trail comes out on the face of the lava cliff above the Glacier. For some distance it follows the point of contact between the granite and the first lava flows--therefore, the geological interest.
On the basaltic columns above and especially on the talus slope below are rock gardens beyond comparison. Masses of green above--blue greens of the balsms, yellow greens of the cedar, gray greens of the willows, and green greens of the dwarfed alders. In between are patches of crimson and purple pentstomen, white saxafragas, yellow stone crop, purple asters, blue phlox, orange paintbrush, all beyond reach on perpendicular cliffs. In places the trail is blasted from solid rock, clings to the face of the wall, and the flowers grow in the tiny niches and crevices above and below.
Anthers woolly, foliage glaucous, branches prostrate, leaves broadly ovate, petioled, puberulent, corolla rose-crimson, is a detailed description according to the botanists, but not adequate for what is to my mind the most strikingly beautiful flower blooming in the high country just now. Perhaps you have noticed them, small patches of vivid red growing on the bare face of basaltic cluffs or on the tips of lava peaks between four and six thousand feet elevation.
Look closer--it is seldom possible--and you will find a dwarfed shrubby stem with heavy, but small, leaves growing from cracks in the rock where no soil is to be seen, forming matts a few inches high and a foot or more across that are literally covered with a mass of brilliant red flowers.
It is one of the wild foxgloves but very different in its manner and place of growth from the tall digitalis of the garden. The flower is similar except in color but the rigid climatic conditions of its high alpine home have caused the marked changed in the form of the plant. (See cover).
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