Nature Notes

Vol. VIII July 15th, 1930 No. 8

Season's Flowers sketch of flower

Summer now strides into the high alpine meadows about the great Mountain, and with it comes the first of those legions of colorful blooms which soon will blaze forth in a medley of color on every hand. The delicate beauty of the Avalanche and Glacier Lilies is now on the wane. In their place the more vivid reds, blues and yellows are beginning to blaze from the mountainsides.

Most noticeable of these is the bright cerise of the Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) which, by its own flagrant beauty, seeks to conceal its lowly character. It is partly parasitic on the roots of other plants--exacting tribute so that it may have its place in the sun. But few of our common flowers are "borne to blush "un seen". In the moist, boggy areas we find rosettes of thick, bright green leaves from which groups of deep purple, distinctively formed flowers are held aloft upon their succulent stems and we recognize it immediately as the Shooting Star--our Dedocatheon jeffreyi--which is sometimes referred to as Lovers Dart or Bird's Bill. Then here and there are large groups of yellow blossoms wherein the Suksdorf's Buttercup and the Potentilla vie for the attention of the passer by. Quite often, too, does their superficial similarity confuse the hiker wherein the identity of one or the other is lost. But look closely and their differences are easily ascertained; for the Potentilla, which owes allegiance to the Rose Family, has strongly notched petals surmounting bright green sepals while the glossy, "varnished" appearance of the Buttercup's petals are sufficient to enable any novice to recognize it for what it really is.

A species of Claytonia, which might be termed Spring Beauty, seems to be particularly abundant this year in these Hudsonian meadows. It is a small white flower--its petals delicately veined with purple.

sketch of claytonia and shooting stars

Heathers are coming on too. The Red (Phyllodoce empetriformis), the yellow, which belongs to the same genus as the Red, and the White, which botanists term Cassiope mertensiana, give evidence of great abundance in their chosen habitats later on.

On the hillsides in moister locations droops the herbacious columns of the Mertensia, its numerous bell-like blue and pink flowers hanging languidly from their stems. "Languid Lady" it is sometimes called--nor is that term far fetched. The most numerously represented family, however, is the Figwort, for this group boasts, at the present time several species of Mimulus, including the well known Red Mimulus or Lewis's Monkey Flower, three or four kinds of pentstemon, most beautiful and striking of which is the Red Penstemon which decorates, in stiking contrast, the harsh rocky locations with compact masses of scarlet. Among others of this family are the Paintbrushes, already mentioned, and the Turtleshead (Chelone) which is found at the lower elevations.

There is also the Mt. Phlox, Tolmie's Saxifrage, Cusick's Speedwell or Veronica, and the beautiful flowers of the western Anemone are now giving way to those shaggy, distinctive seed pods which are so conspicuous at our later season.


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