Montana Outdoors

May 3, 2007

May wild flowers, part 2

These photos were taken yesterday along the eastern edge of one of the roadless areas that the Wilderness Bill, H.R. 1975 would protect, the Teepee-Spring Creek area, in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. The mountainsides on this side of the area are very steep. If there isn’t a mountain goat somewhere back in your ancestry on one side of the family or the other, you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable hiking up into it. I usually enter from the top, but last fall I did spend a day hunting there from the bottom and I still haven‘t fully recovered.

Now, back to the wild flowers.

This one is the Calypso Orchid, or Fairyslipper, Calypso bulbosa (Orchid family). The stem is only about 4 inches tall and the flower is 1 to 1 ½ inches long. It’s very rare and easy to overlook, but in my opinion certainly deserves to be called an orchid. I don’t get to see them often.

Calypso Orchid; Fairy slipper

Not really a flower at all, this Scouring Rush, Equisetum hyemale, has a spore-producing structure at its tip.

Bamboo family, maybe?

The Glacier Lily, most often around here called the Dogtoothed Violet, Erythronium grandiflorum(Lily family), has been one of my all time favorites. I remember when I was very young, we would make a special trip into the higher elevations (they are found up to 12,000 feet) each spring just to see these when they start blooming. They grow up to 16 inches tall and the flowers are around 2 inches long. They are plentiful in many areas of western Montana and bloom for about a month.

Dogtooth Violet

Wild Strawberries are quite plentiful, and the fruit, although very small is much sweeter than the much larger commercial varieties. They get no larger than about ¼ inch in diameter. We have quite a few in our yard, and although I will eat one or two each summer, I usually leave them for the Robins.

Wild strawberry blossoms

I think this is one of about 20 species of Dwarf Monkeyflowers, (Figwort family). The flowers are only about ½ inch wide and come in many different colors. They rarely exceed 2 inches in height but add tiny bits of color among low-growing greenery. I’ve often seen them growing in small clumps of kinnikinnik.

Dwarf Monkeyflower

Oops! How did he get in here? This is a rare “snake flower”. The Gopher snake, commonly called the Bull snake is actually fairly common in Montana and can get as long as 7 feet or more. When I was about 8 years old I remember seeing one on my grand parents’ ranch that reached completely across a small dirt road which was about 8 feet wide. This is a young one, 2 to 3 feet long, but quite fat. He looks well fed. I had to rile him up a bit to get him to coil up and stay still, so he wasn’t too happy with me. His markings are close enough to those of the Diamondback rattlesnake that he can usually get a certain amount of respect by acting like one, but I know better. I photographed him in macro mode with the lens about a foot from his nose.

Gopher snake or Bullsnake

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