Wednesday, August 19, 2009


September Song of the Wildflowers

Reggie accompanies me into the forest across from Henry's Lake to look for late summer wildflowers.

Well, of course, the wildflower season is in decline. It's mid-summer or for this latitude and altitude it is really late summer and most wildflowers are singing their "September Song" (the days grow short when you reach September..when the autumn weather turn leaves to flame..etc). However, it is still interesting to go into the forest and look for nice wildflower specimens. There is still a lot of color to see.

Some of the color is now provided by the leaves and the berries and not the flowers. Today, my Golden Retriever Reggie and I went into the Targhee forest across from the RedRock RV Park and Henry's Lake (near Yellowstone National Park and Island Park, Idaho) to see what wildflowers were still looking relatively nice.

Red Baneberries (poisonous to humans)

The first head-turner just within the forests edge was the Red baneberry (Actaea rubra). It has a beautiful cluster of red berries in a bottlebrush shape. Prior to fruiting these were beautiful little white flowers. The leaves are green, large and coarsely toothed with deeply lobed margins. It's a perennial herbaceous plant, living more than 2 years. Seeds germinate the following year and flower the third year. The plant and the berries are very poisonous to humans (not birds who distribute the seeds). It appears that most mammals avoid them to some extent and there is not much evidence for bears eating them.

Buffaloberries (left) and baneberry growing side by side.

Growing right beside the baneberry was the Canada Buffaloberry or Soopolallie
(Shepherdia canadensis). This is a shrub that also has red berries but not as bright red, numerous or as large as the baneberry. The berries are edible but extremely bitter and are usually eaten with other berries, whipped up into a froth produced by the chemicals in the berry.


Not far away I found the orange colored berries from the Fairybell flower (Disporum trachycarpum). The berries are edible but rather tasteless (according to my sources.) They do make for a nice bright spot in the forest this time of year.

Fairybell berries are bright orange.

The Indian Paintbrush is still lingering to make bright red spots throughout the darkened forest floor. They are especially nice looking when a ray of sunshine manages to get through the forest canapy and shine on them.

Indian Paintbrush

Many other plants are still providing color this late in the season under the forest canopy including the purple Rocky Mountain Asters, a few (rare) yellow Heart-leafed Arnica, the white headed Englemann Asters, the purple Common Harebell, the wild Blue Flax, the yellow western hawkweed, red clover and more.

One of the many wildflowers still blooming is the Wild Blue Flax.

Many of the plants are waning but still provide beauty in the colorful display of their leaves as Fall approaches. The Sticky Geraniums can still be found with blooms, but many of them have leaves that are starting to turn various shades of red and orange. It's fun to search for the most interesting and colorful leaves among the dying plants.

Sticky Geranium plants begin to turn fall colors already.

Some meadowrue leaves have started turning a nice reddish purple color. Contrasting with the still very green leaves, this makes for a beautiful display.

Meadowrue leaves begins to turn colors.

So, even if you are late with your summer vacation, if you come visit us at RedRock RV Park in the middle to the end of August, you'll get to see some of the beauty that the wildflowers give to our area. You might have to look a little closer and be a little less discriminating in your choices, but you'll still enjoy them, I promise.

Western Hawkweed (Hieracium scouleri) dots the forest floor with yellow.

Remember, that beauty is all around you. You just have to look for it. It might make you happy for a few moments. Look down and look closely at the small stuff. You might be surprised at what you find.


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