Montana Outdoors

May 3, 2014

A strange spring for western Montana wildflowers

After a winter with large amounts of snowfall (the high country around here still has 140% of normal snowpack) and lots of cloudy/rainy days this spring, the forests are very dry. The rain we’ve had has been mostly light showers with not much water volume, and the flowers which depend on April rain are doing poorly, at least in this specific area. These were taken on a couple of short hikes recently and the selection was not very good.

Round-leaved Violet

Round-leaved Violet ~ Viola orbiculata

In an area that usually abounds with violets, this and the following one were found only on a small hillside where water from snow melting at a higher elevation was trickling out of the ground.

Canadian White violet

Canadian White violet ~ Viola canadensis

Woodland Strawberry

Woodland Strawberry ~ Fragaria vesca

Mule Deer

Mule Deer ~ Odocoileus hemionus: (A fellow wild plant aficionado)

Heart-leaf Arnica

Heart-leaf Arnica

Heart-leaf Arnica ~ Arnica cordifolia

Pacific Trillium

Pacific Trillium

Pacific Trillium

Pacific Trillium ~ Trillium ovatum

These are Pacific or Western White trilliums that are in the final stages of their boom, when they turn pink. It took me awhile initially to realize that the pink ones are not from a different species.

Western Blue Clematis

Western Blue Clematis ~ Clematis occidentalis

Early Blue Violet

Early Blue Violet ~ Viola adunca

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot ~ Balsamorhiza sagittata

Grand Fir

Grand Fir ~ Abies grandis

Pioneer Violet

Pioneer Violet ~ Viola glabella


  1. I’d say the selection was very good for so early. Interesting flower with the rough brown coat.;-)


    Comment by wordsfromanneli — May 3, 2014 @ 8:07 am

    • Pretty shaggy after wearing that coat all winter!


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 8:11 am

      • This is usually the worst time of year for their coats. You should see how bad the “city” deer’s coats are. Could make a person cry.


        Comment by wordsfromanneli — May 3, 2014 @ 9:12 am

        • I’ve been pleased with the wat the wildlife here seems to have come through the winter although I did see what I would guess was a winter kill carcass yesterday.


          Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  2. We had snow for the last few days, no almost no flowers yet, have to enjoy yours!


    Comment by bentehaarstad — May 3, 2014 @ 8:08 am

    • We still haven’t had a typical late-spring snowfall here, but it isn’t too late!


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 8:12 am

  3. Strange weather. Drought in CA, too much rain in the southeast, and not enough rain for you.


    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — May 3, 2014 @ 8:11 am

    • It is strange. The distribution of water isn’t optimal, is it! We have gotten only light rain in the valley here, but at the same time the mountains around are still receiving snow and the main snow melt hasn’t really started yet although Munson Creek had twice the volume of water that it had two weeks ago.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 8:16 am

  4. Tho few in number, the flowers are lovely. And it was a treat to see the mule deer! I really like the Grand Fir. Thanks for hunting the blooms and posting.


    Comment by Beth — May 3, 2014 @ 8:21 am

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, Beth! I love seeing mule deer too. About twenty years ago their numbers were very low, but they have rebounded now and appear to be quite plentiful. That Fir had so much pollen that when I shook a branch it looked like a snowstorm!


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 8:25 am

  5. The trilliums look good. How many? A carpet or random?


    Comment by Lynn Millar — May 3, 2014 @ 8:33 am

    • There were a few dozen in this area. I wasn’t able this year to reach the area a few miles up the trail where they do form a carpet.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 11:13 am

  6. Nice pic of the Western Blue Clematis. It’s a flower we don’t have in Ohio.


    Comment by centralohionature — May 3, 2014 @ 11:06 am

    • They are pretty. A group of them on their vine among the trees looks like a group of blue birds; they seem to be flying.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 11:22 am

  7. Beautiful images, but they do need a good spell of rain, and that poor deer looks like he head a rough winter, too … rough on everyone and everything. I’ve never seen white or yellow violets … so pretty.


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — May 3, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

    • I’ve been trying to figure out why the white and yellow violets are still called “violets”. I hadn’t seen them before coming here either. Actually the deer is in pretty good condition coming out of winter, although its winter coat really looks shabby. It’s shedding badly now.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

  8. Hi Montucky, Your photographs of the wild blooms are especially nice! I also have enjoyed seeing the Mule Deer picture. Have a most pleasant Sunday tomorrow!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — May 3, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

  9. I love the mule deer. It certainly has been a weird weather year for so much of the US. I hope you get some rain soon.


    Comment by Candace — May 3, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

    • I loved the desert mule deer in Arizona too. Used to hunt them in the Superstitions. We were supposed to get rain today, but only a few drops fell and I even saw a few snowflakes in the air. Well, there’s tomorrow!


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

  10. So far our spring has been cool and damp, with only one or two sunny days each week. I was going to congratulate you on finding a new trillium. Interesting how it fades darker. It seem like our purple trilliums get lighter as they age, but I’ll have to watch a little closer this year to be sure.
    The fir flowers are great. That’s not something you see every day. I’d like to have that blue clematis growing in my yard, too.
    The mule deer doesn’t look like he’s starving-just shedding.


    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — May 3, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

    • That’s about what our weather has been like, but the rain showers have been very light.
      The fir flowers seldom get noticed. I have to remember to look for them, even though we have a huge fir in our yard. It is a different species than this one and its flowers are different too. I haven’t tried, but I suspect the clematis might be transplantable. Yes, the deer is in good shape, just looks rough. Just a few weeks ago their coats were still full and rich from winter. Now they are in transition.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

  11. Some of our flowers change color as they age. Of course, when I look in the mirror, I see a little color change there, too! That Western Blue Clematis looks a little forlorn – is the bloom fading? What doesn’t look at all forlorn is the Grand fir. That’s one beautiful photo.


    Comment by shoreacres — May 3, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    • That’s a typical look of the clematis.The blue is rather subtle; in different light it will appear lighter blue. The petals never open fully. The firs are pollenating right now and with a breeze, the air around them is full of pollen.


      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2014 @ 9:43 pm

  12. Great series of macro shots, Terry. So you’ve had almost no rain so far.

    We’ve had a cold snap here in Melbourne and it’s been raining most of the week. I’m still wondering what happened to Autumn as we’ve dived straight into winter weather this week. Autumn colour in the trees on the residential streets, but still almost no colour in the Botanic Gardens.

    I’ve been home most of the week (except for food shopping).

    I noticed Bente has got more snow in Norway also.


    Comment by Vicki — May 3, 2014 @ 11:56 pm

    • You have very temperate winters there, don’t you Vicki? Today’s temperatures there and here are just about the same, I see, highs in the 50’s and lows in the 40’s. Our winter averages here are in the 20’s. We are getting a little rain today and the temp is 44. It’s sure a shame that the fall colors aren’t there! I always look forward to that. Yes, I saw Bente’s post. Still cold there!


      Comment by montucky — May 4, 2014 @ 8:26 am

  13. What a beautiful serie of spring flowers … And the Mule Deer, I have ever seen this animal before … // Maria 🙂


    Comment by mariayarri — May 4, 2014 @ 4:27 am

    • The mulie is my favorite deer. It gets its name from the huge ears. It can really run, but most usually bounds or jumps like a kangaroo: fun to watch!


      Comment by montucky — May 4, 2014 @ 8:28 am

  14. Looking at a field painted in color is very satisfying but I find that really having to hunt for these little beauties makes the appreciation of their existence even more heightened. I seem to want to spend more time with each one. Do you find that true when your out and about?


    Comment by anniespickns — May 4, 2014 @ 6:04 am

    • I find that very true, Annie. I cherish each little bloom. That is what prompted me several years ago to buy a macro lens to get a very close look at the blossoms. They are fascinating and I’m sure each has its own little place in the general ecology of the planet, some of which we recognize, most of which we don’t.


      Comment by montucky — May 4, 2014 @ 8:31 am

  15. The selection looks pretty good to my eye, loved each and every one of them, but especially the young mule deer!


    Comment by WildBill — May 4, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

    • There are more species of wildflowers starting to bloom every day now and I’m enjoying them. Kind of like hunting Easter eggs. Mule deer are my favorites. They are most beautiful in late fall when they have their rich, thick coats, but they are fun to watch any time. The big bucks sure do wear some hardware too!


      Comment by montucky — May 4, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

  16. All so beautiful! Especially the violets. It’s interesting how some flowers fade as they age, while others become deeper in colour. Love the deer, too – that was very close!


    Comment by Jo Woolf — May 5, 2014 @ 1:47 am

    • The flowers and the wildlife are both fascinating. There were ten deer in the same group and all ran but this curious one.


      Comment by montucky — May 5, 2014 @ 8:08 am

  17. These are all amazing Terry, you do a fantastic job !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — May 7, 2014 @ 11:59 am

    • Thanks Bernie. They are very good subjects to photograph.


      Comment by montucky — May 8, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

  18. Some of these wildflowers are close to ones I see growing here in central Ohio- the violets, anyway! And we have White Trilium too.


    Comment by Watching Seasons — May 15, 2014 @ 8:45 am

    • It’s good to see that we share at least a few of the species!


      Comment by montucky — May 15, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

  19. Wonderful set of photos. Now some flowers were known to me. Our Spring has been curious. In April hot, in the beginning of May cold and starting next weekend again hot. I spent my 70 years anniversary in Paris and there was as cold and rainy than in Finland – odd weather.


    Comment by Sartenada — May 16, 2014 @ 12:57 am

    • The weather has been unusual all over the world this year I guess. It has stayed rather cool here and I really prefer it that way. There were several freezing nights last week.


      Comment by montucky — May 16, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

  20. Beautiful pictures! I recently visited the Ladybird Johnson wildflower center in Austin and it was very interesting! Got to see a lot of Texas Blue Bonnets.


    Comment by Lucy — May 28, 2014 @ 7:35 am

    • Thank you Lucy! I have never visited the Ladybird Johnson wildflower center, but I hope to some time. They have several hundred of my photos on their website.


      Comment by montucky — May 28, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

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