Montana Outdoors

February 14, 2012

Waiting for a sunny day

Today was cloudy and cool, not snowing, not raining, not really cold, and not sunny, but I decided to visit Buttercup Ridge, a tiny ridge top where this area’s very first buttercups bloom each spring. And this one is ready, just waiting for the next sunny day:

Sagebrush Buttercup, Ranunculus glaberrimus

I had visited there on February 4th, and then it had looked like this:

Sagebrush Buttercup, Ranunculus glaberrimus

In addition to the Buttercups, in a small clear place amidst the snow that still blankets most of the ridge, I found that Nature has created a tiny arrangement of lichens and winter moss just for the pleasure of anyone who would take the time and make the effort to visit Her special little ridge.

Pixie cup Lichen, (Cladonia pyxidata) and ferns


  1. Wonderful to see the signs of spring. Are the buttercups earlier this year, because you’ve had less snow?


    Comment by Jo Woolf — February 14, 2012 @ 1:28 am

    • The little area where I found this one is very different from anywhere else around here. This is the third year in a row when I have found Buttercups blossoming in early February (actually, last year they were about a week earlier). More typically, they begin to bloom in early March.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

  2. Almost looks like first signs of early spring. Very nice!!!


    Comment by Marcie — February 14, 2012 @ 6:31 am

    • they are certainly the first to bloom, at least here.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

  3. Isn’t it wonderful to find these perfect little gardens. I’m always amazed at the complexity you can find in such a small space. Just beautiful.


    Comment by anniespickns — February 14, 2012 @ 8:15 am

    • Yes, the little arrangements of plants are wonderful to find and the selections are delightful!


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

  4. Oh my, I love these photos – wonderful to see how you’re interpreting these plants. Thank you.


    Comment by C.C. — February 14, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  5. Beautiful pictures. Especially the first one. The little flower hiding down in its shell, just waiting to spring out.


    Comment by laveta segura — February 14, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    • I see that our forecast is for some sun tomorrow. It it is true, I’ll hike up there and see if this blossom opened.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

  6. Isn’t it great that one can find such tiny treasures among the majesty of the mountains!!! Great series!!!


    Comment by dhphotosite — February 14, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    • It seems that there are always treasures out there to reward those who go out to see them.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

  7. It’s that time of year again- looking for the first blooming plants. Nice find!


    Comment by Watching Seasons — February 14, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

  8. It’s that time of year again- looking for the first blooming flowers. Nice find!


    Comment by Watching Seasons — February 14, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

    • I look forward now to visiting this little place around the end of January to catch the first blooms when they open. It’s a break during winter. I have no doubt that these blossoms will have several comverings of snow before summer.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

  9. I love the change of seasons – just one of the reasons, four distinct seasons of the year, why I love living in my home state after too many years away. That buttercup will soon burst forth in all its glory and the landscape will awaken from its dormant season and voila! What a change it will be! 🙂


    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — February 14, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    • I also love the four distinct seasons. I lived away from here for many years in the Arizona desert. I loved the desert and still doo, but even then I missed Montana and the other seasons.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  10. I just can’t understand how you can get flowers so early, especially up in the mountains! And, I see you have pixie cups, too.


    Comment by sandy — February 14, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

    • I don’t understand this either. Buttercups bloom here a month ahead of any place around. It’s a small ridge top above the river but below the higher country and I can find nothing special about it that would make it warmer. There are still snow patches all over the ridge.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  11. Great shots! Are the buttercups early this year?


    Comment by kcjewel — February 14, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

    • They are actually a week later than in the past two years in this spot. I had thought they might have been earlier this year.


      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  12. Like tiny arrangements. Hope the sun shines soon to pop open the buttercups!


    Comment by Bo Mackison — February 14, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

    • They will open soon, being very hardy little plants. I wonder how many snows they will weather in the nex month and a half.


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 12:25 am

  13. I love the last photo – what a wonderful arrangement!


    Comment by Margie — February 14, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

  14. I love these first signs of spring, lovely photos. I am really looking forward to spring and seeing my garden again. Thanks for sharing, have a great day.


    Comment by Eileen — February 15, 2012 @ 3:43 am

    • By this time of year I’m looking forward to spring too… a lot!


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

  15. Beautiful photos, especially the first and third! Although we still have snow cover it is hard, frozen, and shallow. An unusually warm and dry winter so far. Plenty of ice for hard water fishing though, and not nearly as much augering.


    Comment by WildBill — February 15, 2012 @ 5:50 am

    • Our snow is frozen too. Our high country is still receiving new snow, nearly every night, but I don’t know the extent of it.


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  16. The picture of the nascent buttercup in the snow is lovely. It epitomises the balance of nature and the struggle to survive. Great work.


    Comment by Finn Holding — February 15, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

    • I’m very much in awe at the will to live and thrive that is expressed by the plants (trees and wildflowers especially) and the animals that live in the wilds. It’s both incredible and inspiring!


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

  17. When they finally burst into flower, those buttercups really make for a showy ridge or meadow.



    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — February 15, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

    • They sure do, and they look so well with all of the new green things of spring.


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

  18. Hi Montucky, I hope you get to see that bud break forth into a pretty flower soon! Glad you are having better weather – we here in TN are too! Have a fantastic Thursday tomorrow!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — February 15, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    • I thought it would be today because sunny weather was in the forecast, but the weather front stayed just to the west of us in Idaho. You have a great day too!


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

  19. Amazing those plants are so ready, so early in the year. I know mosses and other bryophytes are soaking up the abnormally amount of sunshine this winter. Maple tree sap has been running for the last two weeks. Normally that is a mid-March event.


    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — February 15, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    • In the tiny place where these grow, this is normal although I don’t understand why. They are weeks ahead of anywhere else around here.


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

  20. I wonder if it’s light rather than temperature that’s the cue for them. I have some outdoor Christmas cactus and kalanchoe that bloom at the same time each year, no matter the temperature. Last year, they began putting on buds when it was in the 30s. This year, it’s been in the 50s and 60s, but the blooms began the same week.

    I love the lichen’s name – Pixie Cup. And Sagebrush Buttercup is so complex – the first part of the name evokes the desert, the second part a meadow!


    Comment by shoreacres — February 15, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

    • It may be something with the light that triggers them, some unique condition on that small ridge that’s different from the surrounding area. I don’t know. They may also be a sub-species that starts earlier. These are two plant names that I like too. Both seem to fit. The Sagebrush Buttercup does grow in sagebrush conditions. We have very few actual sagebrush in this local area, but there are lots of Antelope Brush which is closely related to it. They grow under the protection of the antelope brush and beneath the canopy of lodgepole pines at the very edge of meadows.


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

  21. I love the last photo. What a lovely display by nature! Amazing the buttercup is ready to bloom.


    Comment by Anna — February 16, 2012 @ 7:54 am

    • Yes, isn’t that a lovely display! I’m in awe of such displays that can be found in each season of the year.


      Comment by montucky — February 16, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  22. Natures..bouquets…lovely!


    Comment by Roberta — February 16, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    • They certainly make a short trek off the beaten path very pleasant and memorable.


      Comment by montucky — February 16, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

  23. Good for Montana: so Texas isn’t the only place with wildflowers doing their thing.


    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — February 17, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

    • Well, this is a limited edition for here. There will not be much happening for at least another month in the rest of the area.


      Comment by montucky — February 17, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

  24. oh my, already a flower. i wonder if we have flowers too, but i have not found them yet. Often it seems like May before we get them. I usually travel south in search of my first flowers of the year.


    Comment by Tammie — February 17, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

    • This one is isolated and actually a couple of weeks later than last year. They won’t start blooming here over their whole range for another month or so, although this year I think I’ll look around much earlier. Who knows?


      Comment by montucky — February 17, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

  25. How nice. I am glad that You are not hiking with “closed eyes”, but You can find even very small signs of future spring.


    Comment by Sartenada — February 18, 2012 @ 2:37 am

    • There is always something interesting or unexpected and maybe even new in the outdoors that makes me feel good about being there.


      Comment by montucky — February 18, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  26. That is a beautiful little arrangement. I wonder if you’re the only one who saw it?


    Comment by Candace — February 18, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

    • I could almost guarantee it, Candace. There are no other tracks in the snow, even old ones.


      Comment by montucky — February 18, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  27. That buttercup with the macro lens looks like a pond lily!
    The first shots are springlike, but the third has a Christmassy feeling.
    Much as I long for spring, I like that one best.


    Comment by Anonymous — February 19, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    • I also like the third one best. Yesterday I hiked back to that place and found the buttercup still not fully open. I was also able to relocate the scene in the third photo to get a closer shot of the tiny bell-like figure in the left center. It looks for all the world like a small flower, but it’s actually a lichen too.


      Comment by montucky — February 19, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

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