Few people fail to appreciate the beauty of "The Mountain's" sub-alpine meadows in mid summer. And just now the flowers which contribute to this beauty to a great extent are fast becoming more numerous, more varied and more colorful.
While the low wooded slopes are giving way to the alpine meadows in the matter of floral beauty, there is one group of plants which attract attention at this time. Odd and unique, they are very interesting because of their departure from the ordinary. These are the saprophytes and two members of this group are very common in the moist duff of the forest floor at this time. The Indian Pipe is very common. Creamy-pink in color and wax-like in general appearance it is rare indeed that the hiker fails to stop and inspect this interesting plant further. And the Barber Pole! Nature, though failing to give this plant the necessary green food manufacturing pigment, has apparantly attempted to make up for this difficiency by clothing this saprophyte in a spectacular combination of red and white. It recalls memories of tie old fashioned pepermint sticks or, as its common name implies, the trade mark of a barber shop. One person remarked that it looked like "asparagus with a pepermint complex".
Sweet-After-Death is also very evident at the low elevations and on thee rocks one finds the yellow flowers and thick, green leaves of the Sedum or Stonecrop.
But we started to talk about the sub-alpine meadows. One still finds the Avalanche Lilies in large beds though their yellow cousins, the Glacier Lilies, are now almost among the missing for another year. Yet, the meadows do not lack the yellow tint for the Potentilla and the Suksdorf's Buttercup are very capable of taking up that burden. At first glance these two plants may be easily mistaken but closer observation will enable one to pick out certain characters by which they may be distinguished. The shiny petals of the Buttercup, the length of the flower stem, the absence of a notch in the petals and, often, the lack of sepals are outstanding characteristics of this flower in which it differs from the Potentilla.
Like the Avalanche Lily the Western Anemone, while still present in great numbers, is past its hey-day for the season. But the characteristic shaggy seed pods are coming to the fore. And the seed pods are as interesting flower if not more so. Valerian is present in large quantities the large cabbage-like leaves of the Hellebore are now almost unfolded. The Hellebore is conspicuous because of size though it contributes little in the matter of beauty. Indian Paintbrush, Red Heather and the Tiger Lily add color to the meadows while along the streams both the Red and Yellow Mimulus - usually late flowers - are just beginning to become evident. But most colorful of all in contrast to its rugged background, is the Scarlet Pentstemon. This is often referred to as Pride-of-the-Mountains - and so it is. Flaming scarlet, it forms a vivid contrast to the dull, dark grey of the basaltic cliffs where it is most generally found. And so summer, in all its colorful glory, takes the center of the stage!
(C. F. B.)
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