Wildflowers

Two pink wildflowers blooming
The appearance of wildflowers announce spring in the park. Enjoy the wildflowers, but don’t pick them. This is bitterroot. Look for it in late June along the Beaver Ponds Trail near Mammoth Hot Springs.

NPS / Jacob Frank

 

Wildflowers such as lupine (Lupinus argenteus) and arnica (Arnica cordifolia) often grow under the forest canopy, but the most conspicuous wildflower displays occur in open meadows and sagebrush-steppe. The appearance of springbeauties (Claytonia lanceolata), glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum), and steershead (Dicentra uniflora) announce spring in the park. Soon colors splash the slopes, especially on the northern range—yellow from arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), white from phlox (Phlox multiflora), reds and oranges from paintbrush (Castilleja), and blue from penstemon (Penstemon montanus) and lupine. Goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis) and purple asters indicate the coming of fall.

The Yellowstone is a wild-flower garden. Wander where you will, you have the ever-new charm, the finishing touch, the ever-refreshing radiance of the wild flowers.
—Enos Mills, Your National Parks, 1917

 

Finding Flowers

Elevation, relative temperatures, soil types, and precipitation patterns all play a role in what you find blooming in various areas at different times of the year. In addition, far-reaching events such as fires can cause spectacular blooms of species that thrive on the conditions these events create.

Remember that many of Yellowstone’s wildflowers are also very important parts of animal diets. The bulbs of spring beauty and glacier lily, for example, are vital spring foods of the grizzly bear. Wild strawberries are collected by ground squirrels and chipmunks; the seeds of most wildflowers are used by birds and insects. Even the petals of many flowers are eaten by animals. Bees and other insects collect nectar and pollen.

Review the list of reported sightings from the current and previous years to see when some wildflowers have been spotted.

Exotic Species

Exotic plants—escaped domestics and “weeds”—can be found in Yellowstone. Look for them in disturbed sites such as roadsides where they have little initial competition and frequent redisturbance. Dalmation toadflax (Linarea dalmatica), yellow sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis), ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), and other exotics compete unnaturally with native plants. For this reason, and for the continued integrity of the Yellowstone ecosystem, these exotics are controlled.

 

White Flowers

Plant

Location

Blooming Period

Marsh marigold

Wet meadows, parkwide & Beartooth Mountains

May–July

Northern bedstraw

Northern range

July–August

White geranium

Moist areas, parkwide

July–August

Phlox

Parkwide

May–July

Wild strawberry

Parkwide

May–July

Yampa

Meadows, parkwide

July–August

Cow parsnip

Wet areas, parkwide

July–August

Evening primrose

Gardiner/Mammoth areas

May–June

Ladies tresses

Thermal areas, meadows

July–August

Woodland star

Meadows, parkwide

May–June

Yarrow

Parkwide

June–September

Pussytoes

Parkwide

June–July

Spring beauty

Parkwide

April–June

Bistort

Meadows, parkwide & Beartooth Mountains

June–August

 

Yellow Flowers

Plant

Location

Blooming Period

Arnica

Parkwide

June–August

Groundsel

Parkwide

June–September

Yellow bell

Hayden Valley, Dunraven Pass

May–June

Glacier lily

Lake area, Dunraven Pass

May–June

Cinquefoil

Parkwide

June–August

Stonecrop

Barren areas, parkwide

June–August

Yellow monkeyflower

Thermal areas, bogs, creeks

May–August

Rabbitbrush

Northern range

August–September

Balsamroot

Northern range

June–July

Prickly pear cactus

Gardiner/Mammoth area

Late June

Yellow pond

lily Ponds, slow streams, parkwide

July–August

Sulfur buckwheat

Parkwide

June–August

Globeflower

Wet areas, Beartooth Mountains

May–June

Helianthella

Dunraven Pass

July–August

Yellow violet

Moist meadows, parkwide

May–June

 

Red & Pink Flowers

Plant

Location

Blooming Period

Shooting star

Meadows, parkwide

May–June

Prairie smoke

Meadows, parkwide

June–July

Coralroot

Forest floor, parkwide

June–July

Bitterroot

Northern range

May–June

Elephant head

Moist meadows, parkwide

June–July

Twinflower

Moist forests

June–July

Paintbrush

Parkwide

June–August

Wild rose

Northern range

June–July

Sticky geranium

Northern range, meadows, parkwide

June–August

Fireweed

Parkwide

July–August

Lewis monkeyflower

Dunraven Pass

July–August

 

Blue & Purple Flowers

Plant

Location

Blooming Period

Fringed gentian

Geyser basins & meadows, parkwide

May–August

Harebell

Parkwide

July–August

Wild flax

Dry meadows, parkwide

June–August

Penstemon

Meadows, parkwide

June–August

Lupine

Parkwide

June–August

Forget-me-not

Northern range

June–July

Phacelia

Northern range, Dunraven Pass

May–July

Stickseed

Northern range

June–July

Bluebells

Meadows & along streams

May–July

Clematis

Northern range

May–June

Larkspur

Meadows, parkwide

May–August

Monkshood

Moist areas, parkwide

June–August

Wild iris

Northern range

June

Pasqueflower

Northern range

May–June

Aster/fleabane

Parkwide

May–September

 

2017 Reported Blooms

Reported Sighting

Scientific Name

Common Name

Location

Status

March 23, 2017

Ranunculus jovis

Jove's buttercup

Tower Junction

Native

March 23, 2017

Phlox hoodii

Hood's phlox

Gardiner basin

Native

March 23, 2017

Lewisia rediviva

Bitterroot (leaves visible)

Gardiner basin

Native

March 23, 2017

Draba oligosperma

Few-seeded draba

Lower elevations

Native

March 23, 2017

Alyssum desertorum

Desert alyssum

--

Exotic

March 23, 2017

Ranunculus testiculatus

Hornseed buttercup

--

Exotic

 

2016 Reported Blooms

Reported Sighting

Scientific Name

Common Name

Location

Status

April 18, 2016

Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Native

April 18, 2016

Ranunculus jovis

Jove's buttercup

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Native

April 18, 2016

Dodecatheon conjugens

Shooting star

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Native

April 18, 2016

Musineon divaricatum

Leafy musineon

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Native

April 18, 2016

Besseya wyomingensis

Kittentails

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Native

April 18, 2016

Astragalus purshii

Woollypod milk-vetch

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Native

April 18, 2016

Phlox hoodii

Hood's phlox

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Native

April 18, 2016

Atriplex gardneri

Gardner's saltbush

Heritage and Research Center

Native

April 18, 2016

Microsteris gracilis

Pink microsteris

Heritage and Research Center

Native

April 18, 2016

Musineon divaricatum

Leafy wild-parsley

Heritage and Research Center

Native

April 18, 2016

Phlox hoodii

Hood's phlox

Heritage and Research Center

Native

April 18, 2016

Sarcobatus vermiculatus

Greasewood

Heritage and Research Center

Native

April 18, 2016

Anemone patens var. multifida

Pasque flowers

Garnet Loop

Native

April 18, 2016

Ranunculus testiculatus

Honrseed buttercup

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Exotic

April 18, 2016

Alyssum desertorum

Desert alyssum

Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

Exotic

April 18, 2016

Alyssum alyssoides

Pale alyssum

Heritage and Research Center

Exotic

April 18, 2016

Ranunculus testiculatus

Hornseed buttercup

Heritage and Research Center

Exotic

April 18, 2016

Taraxacum officinale

Common dandelion

Heritage and Research Center

Exotic

 
The white flowers of Yellowstone sand verbena grow in a ball shape.

Rare Plants

Yellowstone sand verbena occurs along the shore of Yellowstone Lake.

Pale green stems and bright yellow flowers of the Yellowstone Sulphur Flower.

Yellowstone Sulphur Flower

Yellowstone sulphur flower is only found in the Firehole River drainage.

Alpine scene showing trees, grasses, and distant mountains.

Vegetation & Resources Management Branch

Park employees inventory, monitor, manage, and research the vast array of plant communities in the park.

Elk graze across a grassy hillside while a forest grows on the mountain-side beyond.

Plants

Spring is a time for plant growth, fueling the return of many migratory species.

Last updated: August 7, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

307-344-7381

Contact Us