Subalpine Wildflowers - Blue/Purple

 
Alpine Aster
Alpine Aster

NPS Photo

Aster, Alpine
Oresostemma apligenum

A widespread flower in drier meadows and stony slopes (common in the Sunrise area). Distinguished by a single flower head per stem, with a few small, narrow leaves along stem.

 
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Cascade Aster

NPS Photo

Aster, Cascade
Eucephallus ledophyllus

Though the purple flowers are similar to alpine aster (Oresostemma apligenum), this plant is marked by multiple flowers on each stem, not just one, and also grows to be much taller, reaching 24 inches (60 cm) high. Leaves are hairless on top, woolly underneath, and smaller lower on the stem. Common in subalpine meadows above 5,000 feet (1,524 m).

 
Broadleaf Lupine
Broadleaf Lupine

NPS, Steve Redman

Broadleaf Lupine
Lupinus latifolius

Branched, hairy stems between 12-24 inches (30-60 cm) tall, with 7-8 leaflets per leaf. Abundant in open areas and meadows throughout the park's lower elevations up to about 5,000 feet (1,500 m), where it tends to get replaced by the smaller but similar-looking subalpine lupine (Lupinus articus).

 
Dwarf Lupine
Dwarf Lupine

NPS, Chris Roundtree

Dwarf Lupine
Lupinus lepidus

Less than 6 inches (15 cm) tall, this smaller relative of broadleaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius) grows at higher elevations in the park, generally above 7,000 feet (2,100 m). Grows to form mats with a stout, woody base, and silvery leaves with 5-7 leaflets.

 
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Common Harebell

NPS Photo

Harebell, Common
Campanula rotundifolia

Also known as Scots bluebells, this plant has a recognizable "bell"-shaped blue-purple flower. Basal leaves are round to oval in shape, while leaves along the slender stems are narrow and linear. Prefers open talus slopes, cliffs, and streambanks up to 6,500 feet (1,981 m).

 
A rounded plant covered in clusters of violet flowers grows in between two large rocks.
Elegant Jacob's Ladder

NPS/F. Madsen Photo

Jacob's Ladder, Elegant
Polemonium elegans

Forming dense mounds, this alpine plant has hairy leaves and stems. Leaves have numerous roundish leaflets. Flowers are blue-violet and form dense clusters. Found on rocky ridges at higher elevations than the related low Jacob's ladder, between 7,000-10,000 feet (2,100-3,000 m). This plant is also called sky-pilot.

 
Low Jacob's Ladder
Low Jacob's Ladder

NPS Photo

Jacob's Ladder, Low
Polemonium pulcherrimum

Leaves are mostly basal, with numerous oval to round leaflets, with stems less than 4 inches (10 cm) high. The bell-shaped flowers can range in color from white to blue, with a yellow throat. Common on cliffs and rocky ridges, between 5,000-6,500 feet (1,500-2,000 m).

 
Jeffrey's Shooting Star
Jeffrey's Shooting Star

NPS, Crow Vecchio

Jeffrey's Shooting Star
Dodecatheon jeffreyi

Usually grows in clumps, with long (6-16 in/15-40 cm) basal leaves. The distinctive flowers with folded-back petals rise above the leaves on a leafless stem up to 20 inches (50 cm) tall. Common in wet subalpine meadows and along streams.

 
Mountain Bog Gentian
Mountain Bog Gentian

NPS, Crow Vecchio

Mountain Bog Gentian
Gentiana calycosa

A single flower tops each unbranched stem, with opposite-paired leaves along stem. Common in wet subalpine meadows between 4,500-8,000 feet (approx. 1,400-2,400 m).

 
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Cascade Penstemon

NPS Photo

Penstemon, Cascade
Penstemon serrulatus

A very common plant in the park, ranging from 4,000-6,000 feet (1,219-1,828 m), along streams and in wet, rocky areas. Growing between 6-24 inches (15-60 cm) tall, this plant has unbranched stems topped with a cluster of blue-purple tubed-shaped flowers. Along the stem are pairs of toothed, lance- to oval-shaped leaves, about 4 inches (10 cm) long.

 
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Menzie's Penstemon

NPS Photo

Penstemon, Menzie's
Penstemon davidsonii var. Menziesii

Unlike the related Cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus) which has tall stems, this penstemon species forms dense mats that can be up to 20 inches (50 cm) across. It has short oval leaves, less than an inch in length, along the short stems with several blue-purple flowers. Found tucked into cliff crevices and rocky slopes, between 5,000-8,000 feet (1,524-2,438 m).

 
A patch of plants with single stems topped with whorls of vibrant purple flowers.
Small-flowered Penstemon

NPS Photo

Penstemon, Small-flowered
Penstemon procerus var. tolmiei

Single stems, about 6 inches (15 cm) high, grow along rootstalk, topped in whorled clusters of blue-voilet flowers. Occassional white flowers are possible. Leaves along the stem are lance-shaped and toothless. Common in subalpine meadows and rocky open areas, mostly on the north and east sides of the park.

 
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Alpine Speedwell

NPS Photo

Speedwell, Alpine
Veronica wormskjoldii

Similar to Cusick's speedwell (Veronica cusickii), but distinguished by hairy leaves that can be toothed. Branching from creeping rootstalk, the stems have waxy hairs, grow between 2-12 inches (5-30 cm) tall, and are topped by tiny blue flowers. Found in moist meadows above 5,000 feet (1,524 m).

 
Cusick's Speedwell
Cusick's Speedwell

NPS Photo

Speedwell, Cusick's
Veronica cusickii

Spreads along slender rootstocks to form loose mats, with dark green toothless and hairless leaves along the stem. Widespread in meadows and along streams above 5,000 feet (1,500 m).

 
Tall Bluebells
Tall Bluebells

NPS Photo

Tall Bluebells
Mertensia paniculata

Reaching about 3 feet (1 m) in height, this tall flower has several stems in a tuft with large leaves. The bell-shaped flowers appear pink when a bud, darkening to blue-purple when blooming. Found throughout the park at slighly lower elevations between 2,500-6,500 feet (760-1,980 m), in moist, open areas.

 
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Edible Thistle

NPS Photo

Thistle, Edible
Cirsium edule

Easily identified by its purple, fuzzy flowers and spiny leaves, thistle has stout, leafy stems, ranging from 20-80 inches (50-200 cm) tall. Found throughout the park in open forest, hillsides, and along roads.

Last updated: January 28, 2021

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