Montana Outdoors

July 9, 2009

Would a Pipsissewa by any other name still smell as sweet?

On July 6, on a walk along the upper part of Buffalo Bill Creek I took this photo, thinking, well, I don’t know exactly what I was thinking.


Then on the following evening while hiking on a favorite trail that meanders along the Loneman Divide I saw another member of the same species in bloom and realized what I had been thinking the night before. They are very small (the blossoms stand only about 3 inches high) and they always look right at the ground and so photographing them is difficult because it involves getting dirt up your nose and being pricked by wild rose thorns in places that really shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company. However, despite those minor inconveniences along with the additional inconvenience that the sun had just set and another potential inconvenience that a big old bear had recently torn apart a log about 10 feet away looking for grubs, I gave it my best shot.



I am personally indebted to the Cree Indians because I just love the name “Pipsissewa” and it comes from their word “Pipisisikwea”! It’s also known by the name “Prince’s-pine”, although I have absolutely no idea why that is, and the scientific name Chimophila umbellata.


  1. It looks like candy! How beautiful!


    Comment by Tabbie — July 10, 2009 @ 1:06 am

    • I hadn’t thought of that Tabbie, but it does look like candy!


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  2. “Pipsissewa” What a delightful word for a delightful plant! It looks like the kind of plant a child would invent 🙂 Great close-up!


    Comment by Maureen — July 10, 2009 @ 8:27 am

    • That’s probably my favorite flower name. They are fairly common in the forest but so small they are usually not noticed and I’ve read that they are root parasites and so can’t be transplanted.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  3. Do you know what Pipisisikwea means?


    Comment by scienceguy288 — July 10, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

    • The meaning of the word is “it breaks into small pieces” because some folks believed that the leaves contained a substance that was supposed to disolve kidney stones.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

  4. This is a totally unique little flower. Nice macro shots!! Love them. Thanks for all the indignities getting the shot to bring to us. 😀


    Comment by Iona — July 10, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

    • It is indeed a unique little flower and a pleasure to find. When I’m photographing these tiny wildflowers my elbows usually look as though I just finished a rugby match but that’s OK. I’m always excited to see what the macro lens will disclose.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  5. I guess I missed this post somehow-another wow from me! Pretty colors! Good thing the old bear had already eaten his grubs.


    Comment by Candace — July 11, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

    • This was the first that I saw this summer and I was rather excited to see it. Last night I was walking along an old abandoned trail in another area and there were hundreds of them in full bloom.


      Comment by montucky — July 12, 2009 @ 8:52 am

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