Fifteen miles or so up the road to the east of here there is a thin slice of Lolo National Forest land that borders the highway. It’s a steep, rocky, cliffy, brush-choked little column that leads up into the high country along the boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
One January several years ago, for some reason that I can no longer remember, I made a foray up into the area and after about half a mile made a turn to the west up through a channel in the cliffs and arrived at a steep, narrow little ridge that overlooked the valley from about 300 feet above. From the signs left by the animals I could tell that it was a frequent haunt of Big Horn sheep. There was also a surprise; a single buttercup plant already showing a flower bud right in the middle of winter. I chose to call the place “Buttercup Ridge”.
Each January since then I have visited that little ridge and found buttercups with flower buds. (Depending on the weather, they will burst into bloom by around the middle of February.) Just before noon today I visited Buttercup Ridge again and with only a little searching found two plants with nicely formed buds.
The following photos will show each bud, followed by a larger scale photo of where it fits into the foliage on the ridge, hidden in the brown grass of last summer or in the shelter of an Antelope Bitterbush, then a much larger scale photo which includes the more distant background. I have no explanation of why they bloom in this tiny area a full two months before they bloom anywhere else around here.
Since these photos were taken the buttercups have been covered by about two inches of soft wet snow and there is more expected tonight and tomorrow. They will be OK: they are used to it!
I think it’s probably the heat that the stones absorb keeping the plants warm enough to bud in winter. This is common around house foundations where even plants that aren’t winter hardy will live through the winter if they are planted on the sunny southern side.
I was surprised there was no snow in these photos, but then you said it’s snowed since then. really neat how they bloom early in that one spot. looks like a nice place for a hike-minus the snow of course! :)
I think I remember reading about your visit there last year and being amazed at the buttercups ready to come out. It’s so good to know that they’re getting ready to greet the spring once again. It will be very welcome, when it comes!
It’s rather comforting to me to visit there about the same time each year and find these little plants getting ready for their summer season. Some stability in a world that has less and less of that every year.
Hmm…that’s really interesting. I’m inclined to agree with some of the other readers that there must be some kind of warmth generated in the soil in that area. Whatever it is, it’s neat to see that new growth in January!
I would like to know if there is geothermal activity there, but I would have no way to measure it. My thoughts have been more about the location, sheltered fairly well from the wind but in a place that gets every bit of the winter sun when it’s out. I know of no other place where flowers bud that early though.
Love your bit of spring before the snow. I hiked Madera Canyon this morning. No tender shoots of wildflowers to be seen, instead a fresh 4 inch snow cover. My, though, the sycamores are quite the gorgeous tree, covered in snow.
I would love to have seen the sycamores in snow! I have some good memories of camping in the snow on the north side of Mount Lemon on the road that comes out of Oracle and turns up past Peppersauce. All of the high desert is beautiful in the snow.
Sometimes man can find “surprises” in the nature. Always man cannot solve its “oddities” using his own logic. It has happened here in our garden in January (not this year) after long warm period that some plants begun to grow buds. So the nature did not know if it was summer or winter. I am happy that You stroll around with “open eyes”, take wonderful photos and present them to us.