Wildflowers

Closeup of speckled petals of a white flower
The appearance of wildflowers announce spring in the park. Enjoy the wildflowers, but don’t pick them.

NPS / Neal Herbert

 

Wildflowers such as lupine and arnica often grow under the forest canopy, but the most conspicuous wildflower displays occur in open meadows and sagebrush-steppe. The appearance of beauties, glacier lilies, and steer’s head announce spring in the park. Soon colors splash the slopes, especially on the northern range—yellow from arrowleaf balsamroot, white from phlox, reds and oranges from paintbrush, and blue from penstemon and lupine. Goldenrod and asters indicate the coming of fall. (View Yellowstone's Wildflower List with Blooming Times)

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.

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. Dalmation toadflax, yellow sweetclover, ox-eye daisy, and other exotics compete unnaturally with native plants. For this reason, and for the continued integrity of the Yellowstone ecosystem, these exotics are controlled.

 

Previous Years' Blooms

 

April 18, 2016 Update

Natives on the Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

  • Shooting star (Dodecatheon conjugens)
  • Sagebrush buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus)
  • Jove's buttercup (Ranunculus jovis)
  • Leafy musineon (Musineon divaricatum)
  • Kittentails (Besseya wyomingensis)
  • Woollypod milk-vetch (Astragalus purshii)
  • Hood's phlox (Phlox hoodii)

Nonnatives on the Yellowstone River Trail or Lava Creek Trail

  • Honrseed buttercup (Ranunculus testiculatus)
  • Desert alyssum (Alyssum desertorum)

Around the Heritage and Research Center

  • Alyssum alyssoides (Pale alyssum) in the Brassicaceae, exotic.
  • Atriplex gardneri (Gardner's saltbush) in the Chenopodiaceae, native.
  • Microsteris gracilis (Pink microsteris) in the Polemoniaceae, native and adorable.
  • Musineon divaricatum (Leafy wild-parsley) in the Apiaceae, native.
  • Phlox hoodii (Hood's phlox) in the Polemoniaceae, native.
  • Ranunculus testiculatus (Hornseed buttercup) in the Ranunculaceae, exotic.
  • Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Greasewood) in the Sarcobataceae, native.
  • Taraxacum officinale (Common dandelion) in the Asteraceae, exotic.
Around the Park
  • Pasque flowers (Anemone patens var. multifida) from Garnet Loop



 
White blooms next to grass
Spiranthes romanzoffiana or Hooded lady's-tresses

NPS/Zachary Wilson

August 4, 2015 Update

Spiranthes romanzoffiana or Hooded lady's-tresses was observed along the Gibbon River.

 
Small white flowers line the edge of a creek bank
Ranunculus trichophyllus or threadleaf crowfoot, an aquatic plant, is in full bloom on Rose Creek. Look for it in most streams in the park. 

NPS/Zachary Wilson

 

July 16, 2015 - Update on Mount Washburn and Slough Creek

 
A close-up of hot pink petals and green leaves
Showy Indian-paintbrush (Castilleja pulchella) is blooming on Mount Washburn.

NPS

 
A close-up of yellow petals that turn to pink
Yellow columbine (Aquilegia flavescens) is blooming on Mount Washburn.

NPS

 
A close-up of white flowers with yellow arrowleaf balsamroot blooms in the background
Parry's catchfly (Silene parryi) is blooming on Mount Washburn.

NPS

 
A close-up of white and purple blooms in shade
Mountain larkspur

NPS

Mountain larkspur (Delphinium glaucum) is currently blooming at Slough Creek.

 

June 24, 2015 Update

Our biological technicians Katrina Park and Monica Lomahukluh took these photos while they were in the field over the course of a few days.

 
A close up look at orange petals
Orange paintbrush (Castilleja species) near Dunraven on June 22, 2015.

NPS

 
A yellow flower droops between leaves
Yellow bell (Fritillaria pudica) near Canyon on June 22, 2015.

NPS

 
Close-up image of bloom with yellow in the center and pink towards the end of the petals
Cut-leaved anemone or Pacific anemone (Anemone multifida) near Old Gardiner Road on June 23, 2015.

NPS

 
Close-up of red-to-orange blooms on a stem
Striped coral-root (Corallorhiza striata) in the northeast/Beaver Ponds under the canopy of the forest floor on June 22, 2015.

NPS

 
A close-up of bright purple petals among green leaves
Calypso or fairy-slipper (Calypso bulbosa) near Hellroaring on June 24, 2015.

NPS

 
A small white flower near the ground
Spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata) near Canyon on June 22, 2015.

NPS

 
A field of yellow flowers and green leaves in front of a treeline
Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) near Lake on June 22, 2015.

NPS

 
Purple blooms and fine leaves
Jacob's ladder (Polemonium pulcherrimum) near Lake on June 22, 2015.

NPS

 
A circular spread of a plan with yellow blooms
Twinpod (Physaria acutifolia) on the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces.

NPS/Voight

Twinpod (Physaria acutifolia) is blooming on the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces, as of May 21, 2015.

We have a couple of other species of bladderpods in the park. It is hard to tell them apart, but if you are on the terraces, you are probably seeing Physaria acutifolia. If you are on the northern range, tou might see the yellow blooms of common twinpod (Physaria didymocarpa var. didymocarpa).

 

More Information

Last updated: March 23, 2017

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