Nature Notes

Vol. VIII July 1st, 1930 No. 7

Paging Summer

And here we are again -- back on the threshold of our short but brilliant season of flowers! Where, but a few short weeks ago we saw deep drifts of snow that seemed intent upon forever holding the sub-alpine meadows in a state of permanent wintry isolation, we now find the first blooms of summer time.

These deep drifts are now rapidly vanishing. In their places appear the green mountainsides, with the leafless, dwarf Huckleberry bushes and the shrubby growth of the Heather still twisted and bent from the weight of the heavy winter snow which so recently relinquished its hold upon them. And in these snow-encircled patches of green we see large groups of that most famous flower of "The Mountain" -- the Avalanche Lily (Erythronium montanum) which, with its near relative the Yellow Avalanche Lily or Glacier Lily (Erythronium parviflorum) is the first of our flowers to bloom in the subalpine meadows. So soon do these plants come in after the snow melts to expose bare ground that at this season picking flowers with one hand and throwing snowballs with the other could be -- were picking flowers permitted in the National Parks -- a common occurrence.

Countless rivulets flow from these melting snowbanks to converge in low basins where in the boggy soil the Marsh Marigold is very abundant. Its thick succulent stems and leaves easily distinguish it as a plant that thrives in such a habitat. It is the first of the Buttercup family to be in full bloom in these meadows while the Western Anemone (Pulsitilla occidentalis) another member of that family, is right on its heels. This latter flower prefers the moist though better drained slopes and clothes its thick, stocky stem with minute hairs as if in protection from the chill breezes which sweep off the snowbanks nearby. Their purple-white flowers are a familiar sight at this time. Later the characteristic, shaggy seed clusters will serve to remind our visitors of its relationship to the Pasque Flower of which, as its State Flower, South Dakota is justly proud.

avalanche lily
marsh marigold and western anemone

At the lower elevations just now Indian Basket Grass -- known by a variety of common names, Bear Grass and Squaw Grass being the most generally used -- is exceedingly abundant. It looks as if this is to be a "Basket Grass Year" for practically every plant boasts of several stalks of these conspicuous white flower clusters. thimbleberry The first of the Indian Paintbrush has already made its appearance while here and there, upon the black face of the steep basaltic cliffs, we see here and there the brilliant crimson of one of our several species of Pentstemon (Pentstemon rupicola). Along the roads and trails or similar open places in the woods are tangles of salmonberry bushes festooned with numerous red flowers while the large, white blossoms of the Thimbleberry also attract quite a lot of attention.

We cannot slight the less conspicuous flowers of the deep woods -- the several members of the Lily of the Valley family which are very abundant now. The Twisted Stalk, Star Flowered Solomen's Seal and Fairy Bells run to abundant foliage and so the delicate flowers that are hidden therin are often overlooked. And lastly, among the many flowers now in bloom which lack of space prohibits us from mentioning, is the Canada Dogwood or Bunchberry and the Alpine Beauty or Queenscup. These two serve to brighten the shaded trails of the deep woods at this time with their cheery white flowers.

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