Summer is outdistancing itself. The season is at least three weeks ahead of itself -- in fact the first of our Gentians have been found. This flower, most tardy of all the blooms on "The Mountain" is but one indicator of our advanced season. Perhaps their rich, deep blue flowers will be found early enough to delight the eyes of our later visitors.
Most abundant of our flowers at this time, however, are the Heathers - Red, Yellow and White - and everywhere along the trails the hiker is privileged to observe great splashes of color. Then upon observing closer the rare beauty of the plants is brought to light. None of these, of course, are the true Scotch Heather, yet, in spite of this, the brilliant color and beauty of these plants is enough to coax any Scotchman along the trails "Er-r-r-ly in the mar-r-r-nin"'. The Lupines, too, enliven our meadows at this time. Three common species are found -- tall, beautifully formed plants in the lower meadows to the small, dwarfed Lyall's Lupine that inhabits the dry, rocky soils high on the hills and windswept ridges where its keeps a tryst with the battered trees of timberline. There, too, we find that interesting plant pioneer, Tolmie's Saxifrage, its small white flowers hold above the dry, rocky inhospitable soils which it prefers -- and thus it serves to brighten an otherwise barren habitat. And in so doing it breathes of historic romance as well, for Tolmie, the man for whom the plant is named, first discovered this plant back in 1833 when he journeyed far into the wilderness about the base of The Mountain in what is new the northwest corner of the Park. Dr. Fraser Tolmie was the first white man to visit the region which today is embraced by the boundaries of Mt. Rainier National Park and a peak as well as a flower commemorates his memory here.
Mountain Phlox (Phlox diffusa) decorates the trailside and this plant also prefers dry locations while in moister places we have the deep blue of the Speedwell or Veronica which attracts the eye to its individual beauty by growing in small groups -- thus alienating itself from that flower that was "born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air." The white flower heads of the Mountain Dock or Smartweed dance gracefully in the breezes upon their long, slender stems and the shaggy, blond seed pods of the Western anemone -- the flowers of which contribute so much to early season beauty of our meadows -- dot the hillsides in profusion. Beautiful as is the large white blossom of this flower its seed pod loses nothing by comparison.
Even yet, here and there where lingering snowdrifts have retarded the development of our flowers, we still find small groups of that most famous flower of "The Mountain"--the Avalanche Lily, though those blooms have largely departed for another year, leaving behind as mementoes of their early summer abundance their triangular shaped seed pods. Also we find a few lingering blossoms of the Bear Grass or, as it is known here, Indian Basket Grass, that earlier was so conspicuous upon our hillsides. Mountain Ash, dwarfed and shrubby due to harsh weather conditions and the short growing season, is just now in bloom while the shiny leaved plant--the White Rhododendron--is now cloaked in the brilliance of its cream white, numerous blossoms. "Rose-tree" it's name signifies and its beauty is of its title.
But as the higher meadows are alive with color the deep wooded sections of the lower slopes also offer much of colorful interest. Fireweed blooms in abundance along the roads and trails. Many interesting Pyrolas are found along the shady trails while the large leafed, prickly Devil's Club is glorified in its cluster of bright red berries. The Red Elderberry, too, comes rightly by its name at this season for it forms a conspicuous note of color amid the evergreens. The dainty Pipsissewa or Prince's Pine deserves mention on account of its waxy pink flowers and there are countless others that add to the enjoyment of visitors--regardless of whether they are botanically inclined. Our flowers are interesting enough and varied enough to attract anyone to their beauty.
And so the season progresses. Each week - each day - new things of interest are seen. This is a botanist's paradise.
C. Frank Brockman.
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