Montana Outdoors

May 25, 2018


Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , — montucky @ 10:29 am



Chokecherry blossoms are now about at the end of their cycle now here in western Montana. Judging by the abundance of blossoms this year the wonderful berries should be plentiful in a few more weeks and I look forward to using their juice to make jelly or syrup which I enjoy more than any other.


Chokecherry ~ prunus virginiana

*** CAUTION! ***

I have used the juice for many years in making delicious jelly and syrup but have always extracted the juice while being careful to avoid crushing or including the large seeds which can be toxic. Following are excerpts from several sources that warn of the potential toxicity of parts of the plant (including the seeds):

“Chokecherry is toxic to horses, moose, cattle, goats, deer, and other animals with segmented stomachs (rumens), especially after the leaves have wilted (such as after a frost or after branches have been broken) because wilting releases cyanide and makes the plant sweet. About 10–20 lbs of foliage can be fatal.” (From Wikipedia)

“Warning: New growth, wilted leaves, or plant parts that are injured by frost or drought are poisonous to cattle and humans. The toxin, hydrocyanic acid, is formed in the animals stomach. Hydrocyanic acid quickly affects animals and causes difficulty in breathing, slow pulse, dilated pupils, staggering and loss of consciousness before death. Chokecherry toxicity is highest during the spring and summer; however, leaves are non-toxic by the time fruits mature.” (Rangeland Ecosystems) (From Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database)

“CAUTION: PARTS OF THIS PLANT CAN BE POISONOUS. The seeds are toxic due to production of hydrocyanic acid in the leaves, stems and seeds. The almond-like nuts are treated to deactivate the poisonous glycosides before they are put on the market. Cases of illness and deaths have been traced back to eating the seeds of these trees.” (From the USDA Plant Fact Sheet)


May 24, 2018

The saga of a Waterleaf

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , — montucky @ 9:30 pm

Wednesday I made an excursion up the road to the Big Hole Lookout trail head and was able to drive that far. I decided to hike a few hundred yards up a gated road where there is a clearing through the trees that allows a pretty good view over the Clark Fork Valley and I thought I would get a picture from there. Since that was a short distance I put a 35mm prime lens on my camera for the shot, tucked my macro lens safely in my pack and left it in the Jeep and headed up the road. I should have known better. A mile and a half up the road when I bent down to take a picture of some very, very fresh bear scat (probably no one wants to see that picture) I noticed on the hillside below the road there was a little bit or purple showing.

When I investigated the spot where I saw the color, I was delighted to find that it was a wildflower that I had seen only once before, a decade ago; A Ballhead Waterleaf. These photos were the best that I could do with the 35mm lens.

Ballhead Waterleaf

Ballhead Waterleaf

Ballhead Waterleaf

Ballhead Waterleaf ~ hydrophyllum capitatum

Yes, I did get the shot of the valley that I wanted before I continued to wander and later another of Baldy Mountain off to the northeast, Those flowers are living in a beautiful piece of back country!

Clark Fork River valley

Clark Fork River Valley

Baldy Mountain

Baldy Mountain, photographed from the Big Hole Lookout road

May 23, 2018

Small-flowered Penstemons

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , — montucky @ 9:46 pm

Yesterday on a hike on the Spring Creek trail I found some of (I think) the prettiest wildflowers in bloom: Penstemons. A close-up look at them always stirs my imagination and I adore the subtle and delightful colors. Their faces make me think of festive little clowns.

Small-flowered Penstemon

Small-flowered Penstemon

Small-flowered Penstemon

Small-flowered Penstemon ~ penstemon procerus

Indian Paintbrush

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , , — montucky @ 9:52 am

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

Common Red Paintbrush, also called Scarlet Indian Paintbrush ~ Castilleja miniata

It seems a little early for these to bloom here, but they are at a low elevation on a sunny hillside in a sheltered canyon and seem to be in full bloom. The species name miniata refers to the scarlet red color “minium”, an oxide of lead.

May 22, 2018

Upland Larkspur

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , — montucky @ 1:35 pm

Upland Larkspur


Upland Larkspur ~ delphinium nuttallianum

Larkspur is another plant that is toxic to cattle and highly toxic to humans. Interestingly, it doesn’t affect sheep and so sheep can be used to eradicate it from restricted ranges.

May 20, 2018


Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , , — montucky @ 9:18 pm

Sascatoon, Western Serviceberry

Saskatoons, Western Service berries

Saskatoon, Western Serviceberry ~ amelanchier alnifolia

These blossoms are among my favorites for three reasons. They are pretty in their own right, the shrubs get up to 15 feet tall and decorate the spring landscape with large splashes of white in the spring, and the berries are my favorite of all the wild berries (despite containing a lot of small seeds).

The plump purple berries have a light taste, but at their peak of ripeness they are sweet and juicy with a taste that is unexplainably pleasant. The locals here call them Service Berries and pronounce it “Sarvice Berries” for some reason I never did understand. The best way to eat them is not one berry at a time, but to pick a whole big handful and pop them in your mouth all at once. You will experience a big rush of their unique flavor and juicy sweetness.

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