Montana Outdoors

September 14, 2011

Wildflowers at Blossom Lake

(These photos were taken during a hike to Blossom Lake in the Evans Gulch roadless area in western Montana on August 31, 2011. Though late in the year, there are still several species of wildflowers in full bloom there.)

Subalpine Spirea

Subalpine Spirea

Subalpine Spirea ~ Spiraea densiflora

Scouler's St. Johnswort, Norton's St. Johnswort

Scouler's St. Johnswort, Norton's St. Johnswort

Scouler’s St. Johnswort, Norton’s St. Johnswort ~ Hypericum scouleri

Pinedrops

Pinedrops

Pinedrops ~ Pterospora andromedea (Saprophytic perennial)

Pinedrops are saprophytic perennials with unbranched flowering stems, fleshy at flowering, then turning fibrous and persisting as dried stems for over a year. (Saprophytes do not have green leaves or contain chlorophyll and cannot manufacture their own food and therefore do not depend on the sun. Instead, they obtain their food from decaying material in the litter and humus and are usually found in the deep shade of mature coniferous forests.)

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65 Comments »

  1. The pinedrops just made me laugh! The closeup truly looks like a Christmas decoration from Pier One! A beautiful plant. Do you know if the subalpine spirea is related to the very common white spirea often called “bridal wreath”? I still can smell its fragrance from the bushes that surrounded our house. I miss so many of the midwestern flowers – our tropicals are nice, but…. 😉

    Like

    Comment by shoreacres — September 14, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    • I think that folks get so used to seeing the dried-up version of Pinedrops that they overlook them when they are in bloom. I find them quite interesting!

      I’ve seen on USDA Plants that there is a white Spirea, but I don’t know if it’s the same as bridal wreath. We have a plant called Bridal Wreath in one of our flower beds, but it doesn’t look anything like white Spirea. THere is a lot of confusion when it comes to plant names!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 14, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

  2. How were the huckleberries up there? Last year at Revett Lake around mid-August we ran into some folks who had quite a haul. As always, great pics!

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    Comment by columbiahighlands — September 14, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    • Practically no berries along the trail or at the lake that we could see. I’ve heard of some isolated spots that have good berries this year, but I’ve not found any in the places I’ve been. This seems to have been a strange year for berries. The chokecherries here are not good at all this year, but the Serviceberries had a wonderful year, as did the Elderberries and Oregon Grapes. Wild raspberries around here did well, but Thimbleberries dried up before the ripened.

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      Comment by montucky — September 14, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

      • It’s been strange like that here too. Serviceberries and eldeberries were great–we had the best-tasting and biggest serviceberries I’ve had–but currants and some other fruits didn’t ever show up. And the huckleberries looked like they were going to have a banner year, but the crop has been middling.

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        Comment by columbiahighlands — September 15, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

  3. Lovely photos – what amazing light conditions you must have over there. We have a form of wild hypericum here, but it has smaller flowers.

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    Comment by Jo Woolf — September 15, 2011 @ 12:44 am

    • We seem to have every light condition I can imagine, but I take a lot of photos, especially of wildflowers, in places where they are shaded by the trees. That diffused light is excellent for shooting flowers. In spring, lots of my photos are taken from under an umbrella which I always carry in my pack. (It also works to shade subjects from harsh sunlight and to break the wind that keeps moving the wildflowers.)

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      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:23 pm

  4. I am a dunce when it comes to any real knowledge about plants. I did not know about saprophytics, so thank you for introducing me to them. Are the photos sort of a pre-bloom and full bloom? I love the top one of pre-blooming spirea. Purples with the green, no matter the flower, really appeals to me. Thanks so much for this pre-dawn show of color. Lovely.

    I didn’t comment earlier, but it looks like your daughter, with that beautiful red hair, has photography in her blood. 🙂 What a great gift to give someone, that love of seeing the world up close, in all its splendor.

    Like

    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — September 15, 2011 @ 5:13 am

    • I think the Pine Drops are in full bloom, although each individual blossom seems to open at a different time. It’s a treat to see them when in bloom: they are always quite visible, but most of the time they are in their dried state. I don’t have a lot of plant knowledge either, but I do have great book on the plants in this area which gives very good information about them.

      Yes, I think my daughter has a natural talent for photography. In most situations, she is far better than I am, and that pleases me very much.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

  5. Your pictures of Spirea, Pinedrops, and St. Johnswort remind me of the the abundance I recently saw in the Sierra at about 6000 – 8000 ft recently. The area an hour north of Lake Tahoe was lush with wildflowers and unripened berries. The plants are about a month behind because of all the late snow The only ones who seem to be rushing around worrying about the impending winter were the squirrels and chipmunks, who were busily gathering and storing seeds. There were still lots of deer around as well as ducks on the lakes, so from their point of view winter is a ways off. Have you notice the onset of migration in your area? I have read that it has started in the northern Midwestern states.

    Like

    Comment by anniespickns — September 15, 2011 @ 6:43 am

    • This has been a good year for the plants on the Northwest, and with La Nina conditions re-emerging, next year should be a repeat of this one. We had drought conditions for about ten years here, broken by the snow of last winter and the rains of spring and I’m looking forward to more of the wetter weather.

      I’ve seen some signs of migration already. Our hummingbirds are gone already, and I see some huge flocks of birds forming, which is usually their preparation for migration. Few geese are around now which means here that some have left for other places and the ones that winter here have not arrived yet. Robins are still here in large numbers, but Chickadees which usually winter here have not come down from the higher elevations yet. Kind of a mixed bag!

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      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  6. Beautiful shots! I especially love the first two!

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    Comment by Barbara — September 15, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    • I don’t have any evidence to back it up, but I suspect that the lake was named “Blossom” because of those which grow in abundance at the water’s edge.

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      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

  7. Are the first two photos the same type of flower? The first one reminds me of something I found on our vacation in Indiana (no clue what it is, of course), but then it doesn’t look like the second photo at all (and I’m still clueless LOL).
    The pinedrops look really interesting, too.

    Like

    Comment by thedailyclick — September 15, 2011 @ 11:40 am

    • The first two are just different stages of the same flowers. There are mostly buds in the first, and nearly all full blossoms in the second. The pinedrops are interesting to me too. They are not rare here, but they sure are different from most other types of flowers.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  8. Ooooh! Beautiful pictures! I have a dried pinedrops stem in with some feathers in a vase in the front room, but I’d never seen the flowers when they were still fresh. How cool! I don’t know that I’d’ve recognized that as from the same plant even.

    (Hi!! It looks like things are beautiful there, though it sounds like it’s been bad fire weather. Are those getting under control?)

    Like

    Comment by gradschoolsara — September 15, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

    • I’ve found that you have to look very closely at the pinedrops to see if they are really in bloom. I was pleased to see that these were!

      You would not have enjoyed the fire season this year. One of the largest was just out of East Missoula and the smoke was terrible, blowing into the Missoula area (still is). The TV news showed photos of the smoke in Missoula tonight from their weather cam and it was impossible to distinguish the mountains around the town. We were lucky out here with quite a few fires but only small ones. We are getting some smoke from fires in Idaho though. We had jsut a little rain today and there is more possible this weekend which will greatly help the fire situation!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

  9. I love all the bright colors!

    Like

    Comment by songofthewolf — September 15, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

    • Yes, the flowers that bloom this time of year seem to have more solid, bright colors compared to the pastels the predominate earlier in the year.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:46 pm

  10. Hi Montucky, The Pinedrops are interesting looking flowers. I sure do admire your picture-taking ability! Have an excellent day & rest of the week. I am still off on blog break but will be back and will post a lot of new wildlife pictures when I return to blogging in Oct.

    Like

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — September 15, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    • Thanks wildlifewatcher! I am looking forward to seeing your posts and photos again!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:47 pm

  11. Amazing photos Terry. Most of the flowers here in NH are losing their petals and making a big mess of themselves. Yours all look freshly bloomed with all the excitement of a fireworks display.

    Like

    Comment by jomegat — September 15, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    • The flowers here in the low elevations are about shot now too, but it is still early summer in the regions above 6000 feet or so and the flowers there are still fresh. They do seem to explode, I suppose because they have such a short growing season.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

  12. Love the color and form of the spirea. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in person but I think I used to be pretty unobservant when I was out in nature, unfortunately.

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    Comment by Candace — September 15, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

    • This particular species of Spirea isn’t native to Arizona, just California and further north. I’m sad that I didn’t do a very good job observing wildflowers when I lived in Arizona either, especially the desert species.

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      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

  13. Great close-ups. I enjoyed the variety of colors in these flowers. Pinedrops was unknown to me, but it is quite special looking. Its Latin name:”Pterospora andromedea” made me to think that its origin is from Andromeda. 🙂

    Like

    Comment by sartenada — September 15, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

    • It may well be, Matti. It is quite different from the usual types of plants. I enjoy seeing them though. They get quite tall, you know!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 15, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

  14. I appreciate that this blog is not just (gorgeous) photos, but biology as well.

    Like

    Comment by westwood — September 16, 2011 @ 5:42 am

    • Thank you! I wish I knew much more about the plants, but I try to pass on what I’ve learned.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 16, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

  15. Exquisitely beautiful color..and such extraordinary detail. These autumn blooms are simply stunning!!!!

    Like

    Comment by Marcie — September 16, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    • I’ve noticed that many of the late blooming wildflowers have solid and deep color to them. They leave good memories as we head toward winter.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 16, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  16. Love the spirea most–what a beauty! Glad you are still finding a few flower stragglers to photograph. Snow should be coming soon…

    Like

    Comment by Bo Mackison — September 16, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    • As I recall, the only place I’ve seen that color Spirea is at Blossom Lake. A good reason to visit there!

      Yes, snow will be coming. We often have our first snow in September, followed by a lovely Indian summer.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 16, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  17. The St. John’s wort flower looks like a mini fireworks explosion!

    Like

    Comment by kateri — September 16, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

    • It does! This was the first time I’ve seen this species and surprised that it blooms so close to the ground. The more common species of St John’s is quite tall.It took me awhile to identify this one!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 16, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

  18. Very interesting information about the pinedrops… I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it before but never knew what it was… and I don’t think it is in any of my wildflower books. The next time I see it, I’ll know what it is (even if unable to remember the name at the time!) 😉

    Like

    Comment by Victoria — September 16, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

    • It has an unusual distribution according the USDA Plants, native to most of the western states and some of the northernmost states in the east. Certainly forest type has a lot to do with that and possible elevation as well.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

  19. Lovely. I especially like the pink ones but they are all fabulous this late in the year.

    Like

    Comment by Tammy — September 16, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

    • They are very pretty along the lake, and the stream that comes from the lake is just lined with flowers still.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  20. Wow, gorgeous all! How interesting about the pinedrops, and I haven’t known as such. I really like the first photo!

    Like

    Comment by Anna — September 17, 2011 @ 6:58 am

    • I was pleased that there were still many flower species in bloom at that altitude (about 6,000 feet). There are more higher up than that and I’m hoping that I can still make it to a couple more peaks yet this fall to see them.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

  21. I’ve never heard of Pinedrops before and love the focus on your first flower. It must be getting cool there in the evenings now (it is here).

    Like

    Comment by farmhouse stories — September 17, 2011 @ 8:50 am

    • We have had a few nights in the 30’s, but mostly in the 40’s, temperatures just where I like them! South of here in west Yellowstone the other night it was 27. I’ve been making sure I have several warm layers of clothing in my pack when I get into the higher country now.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

  22. Well, this is a bright bunch! I have noticed that you westerners have lovely flowers now. Ours are looking kind of woebegone!

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    Comment by sandy — September 17, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

    • The flowers blooming at the lower elevations now are just a few species. Up high there are many more because it it more like mid-summer now up there. I still haven’t posted photos of the flowers on Mount Headley, where there were about ten species still in full bloom.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2011 @ 11:10 pm

  23. those first two flowers are really nice pictures and the last one is so interesting!

    Like

    Comment by silken — September 17, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

    • Thanks Stacey! The pinedrops are always associated with a little higher elevation and the cool shade of the forest. The combination makes them very pleasant to see.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

  24. The spirea is beautiful, very under appreciated in the urban landscape, but this one is stunning! Never seen pinedrops before… very unusual.

    Like

    Comment by kcjewel — September 18, 2011 @ 7:11 am

    • I think the pink Spirea fits very well in the lake area. It seems to grow just next to the lake too.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  25. This is a banner year for pinedrops, I think perhaps because of the long spring and abundance of water. Even our neighborhood at 3750 feet has plentiful pinedrops blooming.

    Like

    Comment by Kim — September 18, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

    • Yes, I think the long damp spring was good for them.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  26. Beuatiful shots – the flowers are mostly gone but I’m looking forward to revisiting all of the places I have been in Montana as the seasons change.

    Like

    Comment by Mike — September 18, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

    • You have visited some very pretty places. They will be great also in fall and again in winter.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

  27. Pinedrops look really intriguing- never seen anything like them!

    Like

    Comment by Watching Seasons — September 18, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

    • They are an unusual plant, not hard to see if they are around, but they seem to always appear to be in their dried form, even when they are actually in bloom.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

  28. Unbelievable close-up photos. Can’t imagine finer photography. You have out done yourself again.

    Like

    Comment by Wild_Bill — September 20, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

    • Thanks Bill! There are fewer flowers still blooming now, but they are pretty ones!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 20, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

  29. That first photo took my breath away! What an incredible, crisp shot.

    Like

    Comment by Emily — September 24, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    • Thank you Emily! That blossom was right at the edge of the water.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 27, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

  30. Is this website having problems? Or have I screwed up my subscription or worse, my computer somehow? This is a test post, so I can try to reset my notifications.

    Like

    Comment by Kim — September 27, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

    • This came through just fine, Kim! At least you’re getting out OK!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 27, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

  31. The only way I can see comments is to go to the Montana Outdoors homepage https://montucky.wordpress.com/ then click on the comments link following the photos in the thread in question. Troublesome, but worth the bother. I’m hoping it’s a temporary glitch that will fix itself. Thanks montucky.

    Like

    Comment by Kim — September 27, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

  32. Curious to see closeups of Spirea. We had it in our tiny little garden (yard) when we lived in London. I loved the flowers.

    Like

    Comment by Val — October 3, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

    • It’s a pretty plant. I think this species is found mostly at higher elevations and it seems to do very well along this lake at about 6,000 feet.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — October 4, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

  33. I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the posts coming. I enjoyed it!

    Like

    Comment by Damion Caiazzo — October 12, 2011 @ 11:27 pm


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