Montana Outdoors

April 10, 2007

Thirty miles of flowers

Filed under: Environment, Flowers, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 8:15 pm

The current forecast for 2007 is for a long fire season with a very early start, and when I hear that I think also of the beautiful flowers that are among the first plants to cover a burned area after a fire.

“fear the Fireweed, not the fire” (from The Sun Singer). In that context in Malcolm Campbellā€™s novel there was a very good reason for those words of caution, and knowing the beauty of the flowers made it an especially enjoyable scene.

Fireweed1

Fireweed derives its name from its ability to act as a colonizer on the burned site after a wildfire, and grows there prolifically for many years until the trees finally grow back to their normal state and again take over the forest, and even then they still populate any clear areas.

Fireweed2

On August 4, 2000, separate lightning strikes ignited five fires in one small area of very rugged terrain in western Montana, where these pictures were taken. The fires proceeded to grow, finally merging together into one large one which covered 18,917 acres (about 30 square miles). Even now, six years later, in the fall of the year Fireweed is still abundant throughout the entire burned area.

Fireweed3

In the background of the next two pictures can be seen some of the burned firs and lodge pole pines still standing. Some of them are now the source of my firewood supply for the winter.

Fireweed4

This fire was close to home for me: it was about fifteen miles to the east, and during the day I could watch the slurry bombers drop their loads of fire retardant. During the night, the sky over that area was bright orange, and tall flames were clearly visible as they swept over the crest of the ridge. Today Fireweed is still there, but the grasses are back and small trees are already beginning to re-grow the forest.

Fireweed5

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