Subalpine Wildflowers - White

 
Tucked between rocks, a small plant with whitish-green leaves and dense clusters of white flowers.
Alpine Smelowskia

NPS Photo

Alpine Smelowskia
Smelowskia calycina

An uncommon alpine plant that can grow at elevations up to 10,000 ft (3,000 m), such as around Camp Muir. Growing on rocky ridges or slopes, the plant forms a low cushion of leaves covered in white hairs with a few flowering stems. Stems are topped in a dense cluster of white flowers with pinkish sepals.

 
American Bistort
American Bistort

NPS Photo

American Bistort
Polygonum bistortoides

Perennial with one to several unbranched flowering stems 8-28 inches (20-70 cm) tall and narrow, oblong basal leaves about 4-8 inches (10-20 cm) long. Very common in subalpine meadows, and can be one of the earliest flowers blooming at Paradise.

 
Avalanche Lily
Avalanche Lily

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Avalanche Lily
Erythronium montanum

Stems are 6-16 inches (15-40 cm) long, with usually 2-3 flowers each. It takes many years for these plants to begin flowering, but they grow in abundant colonies throughout subalpine regions in the park. They are often the first to flower along the edges of melting snow. Closely related to glacier lily.

 
Bear Grass
Bear Grass

NPS Photo

Bear Grass
Xerophyllum tenax

Stems of this tough flower can be 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, emerging from large clumps of grass-like basal leaves. The leaves were historically used by native peoples to weave hats, baskets, and capes. Bears have been known to eat the fleshy bases of the leaves in spring, giving the flower its name.

 
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Alpine Buckwheat

NPS Photo

Buckwheat, Alpine
Eriogonum pyrolifolium

This common alpine plant grows in small cushions about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) across with oval- to elliptical-shaped basal leaves. Leaves have woolly hairs underneath while the top of the leaves are hairless and greenish-yellow. Flowers range in color from white to greenish-white to pinkish-white. This plant is sometimes called "dirty socks" due to the distinctive smell of the flowers. Found on rocky slopes between 5,500-8,000 feet (1,676-2,438 m).

 
Heartleaf Buckwheat
Heartleaf Buckwheat

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Buckwheat, Heartleaf
Eriogonum compositum

This plant's characteristic heart- or arrow-shaped leaves are dark green, hairless on top and with wooly undersides. Creamy white compound flowers top the unbranched, 6-16 inches (15-40 cm) long stems. Found on rocky slopes above 5,000 feet (1,524 m).

 
Sickletop Lousewort
Coiled-beak Lousewort

NPS/C. Roundtree

Coiled-beak Lousewort
Pedicularis contora

Flowers are creamy white, with a large upper lip that curves in a half circle and tucks into the lower lip. This lousewort stands about 6-15 inches (15-40 cm) tall, with slender, mostly basal leaves.

 
A plant with kidney-shaped leaves and white flowers on tall stalks. An inset photo in the lower right shows a detail of the white flower, with fringed petal edges.
Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus

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Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus
Parnassia fimbriata

Leaves broad, kidney-shaped on short stalks. Tall flowering stems with a single flower at the top. Flowers are white with five petals. The lower portion of the petal edges are fringed. Very common in wet subalpine meadows above 4,000 feet (1,219 m), though it can be occasionally found at lower elevations such as along Westside Road.

 
Grey's Lovage
Gray's Lovage

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Gray's Lovage
Ligusticum grayi

Stems 8-24 inches (20-60 cm) tall, with compound flowers with 7-10 rays. Leaves mostly basal, divided into many toothed leaflets. Widespread in meadows and along streams between elevations of 5,000-7,000 feet (1,500-2,100 m).

 
Marsh Marigold
Marsh Marigold

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Marsh Marigold
Caltha leptosepala

Leaves basal, oval to round with heart-shaped base. Grows in wet meadows, bogs, and stream-sides above 4,000 feet (1,200 m).

 
A shrub covered in large plumes of creamy white flowers.
Oceanspray

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Oceanspray
Holodiscus discolor

Also known as creambush, this shrub has large plumes of creamy white five-petaled flowers. Leaves are hairy on the underside, with toothed margins. Common in open forests and along road sides from low to middle elevations, particularly along Stevens Canyon Road.

 
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Parry's Catchfly

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Parry's Catchfly
Silene parryi

Flowers are white, about half an inch long (12-15 mm), and appear 4-lobed at the tip. Mostly basal leaves, with pairs of narrower, smaller leaves on the stems, which grow to be 8-20 inches (20-50 cm) tall. Found above 5,000 feet (1,524 m) on rocky slopes and dry meadows.

 
Partridgefoot
Partridgefoot

NPS, Steve Redman

Partridgefoot
Luetkea pectinata

An evergreen shrub with creeping woody stems that spread out to form mats. Leaves are segmented and form tufts at the end of branches, while flowering stems are 4-8 inches (10-15 cm) tall with dense, terminal flowers. Common in drier meadows and open talus slopes.

 
Pasqueflower blooming (left); several pasqueflower seedheads (right)
Pasqueflower (left) with several pasqueflower seedheads (right).

NPS Photo

Pasqueflower / Western Anemone
Anemone occidentalis

The entire plant is coated in long hairs, with segmented leaves and 4-12 inches (10-30 cm) tall flowering stem. The feather-like "mouse-on-a-stick" seedhead (pictured right) is a common sight in Mount Rainier's meadows.

 
Pearly Everlasting
Pearly Everlasting

NPS Photo

Pearly Everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

Weedlike plant that spreads via rootstock to form clumps of stems 24-40 inches (60-100 cm) tall, with narrow leaves along stem. Leaves are dark green on top, with a white-woolly underside. Numerous, dense flowerheads top the stem. Found throughout the park from low elevations, particularly along roadsides, up to approx. 6,000 feet (1,800 m).

 
A low, leafy plant with a flowering stem lying along rocky ground.
Narrow-sepaled Phacelia

NPS Photo

Phacelia, Narrow-sepaled
Phacelia hastata var. leptosepala

Taller than other phacelia species, this plant can be 12-20 inches (30-50 cm) tall, with curving stems. Leaves are roughly hairy and the basal leaves have a pair of lobes at the base of the blade. Flowers are white and bell-shaped. Uncommon, but found in open, rocky ground between 3,000-5,000 feet (900-1,500 m) elevation.

 
Several small white five-petaled white flowers.
Mountain Sandwort

NPS Photo

Sandwort, Mountain
Arenaria capillaris

This common subalpine wildflower grows in spreading mats, with narrow, thread-like leaves, and numerous flowering stems. The flowering stems can be up to 12 inches (30 cm) high, supporting several small, white flowers.

 
A mat of small thick green leaves with a single white flower on a short stem.
Tolmie's Saxifrage

NPS Photo

Saxifrage, Tolmie's
Saxifraga tolmiei

Forming low mats, this plant has alternating, thick green leaves with inrolled edges. The flowering stems are usually leafless, sparsely hairy, and topped with 1-3 flowers. The flowers have five white petals, but the stamen filaments are wide and can make the flower look like it has ten petals. Common on higher subalpine to alpine talus slopes between 5,500-9,000 feet (1,700-2,700 m) elevation.

 
A mound like plant with green leaves edged in white with numerous clusters of cream-colored flowers. An inset image in the upper right shows a detail of the tiny flowers.
Silverback Luina

NPS Photo

Silverback Luina
Luina hypoleuca

Growing from woody rootstock, this plant forms mounds up to 3 feet (1 m) across. Each stem has numerous green leaves that are thickly woolly on the underside. The creamy flowers form disks at the ends of the stems. Common in dry, rocky areas up to 6,000 feet (1,800 m).

 
Left: The white clustered flowers of Sitka Mountain Ash. Right: A cluster of bright red berries produced from the flower.
Sitka Mountain Ash flowers (left) eventually turn into bright red berries (right).

NPS Photo

Sitka Mountain Ash
Sorbus sitchensis

This six foot-high (2 m) shrub grows in thickets and is widespread above about 4,500 feet (1,400 m). Leaves are divided into 7-9 leaflets, with toothed edges. Flowers in tight clusters at the ends of branches, and produces bright red berries favored as a food source by birds and other wildlife.

 
Sitka Valerian
Sitka Valerian

NPS Photo

Sitka Valerian
Valeriana sitchensis

Very common in subalpine regions, this flower can often be seen rising above other wildflowers in the meadows. It has hairless leaves and a square stem, and ranges in height from 24-47 inches (60-120 cm) tall.

 
White Mountain Heather
White Mountain Heather

NPS Photo

White Mountain Heather
Cassiope mertensiana

Small, scale-like evergreen leaves arranged in four rows cover stems up to 12 inches (30 cm) long. Common in subalpine parkland, where it can form extensive mats.

 
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White Rhododendron, with a bumblebee.

NPS Photo

White Rhododendron
Rhododendron albiflorum

A common shrub, also known as Cascade azalea, found in the park on open slopes and meadow edges above 3,500 feet (1,066 m). White flowers grow on top of the previous year's growth and tucked underneath the leaves from the current year. It can grow to be 3-6 feet (1-2 m) tall.

Last updated: January 28, 2021

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