Montana Outdoors

February 13, 2015

The first of 2015

Filed under: Wildflowers, Winter — Tags: , , — montucky @ 5:34 pm

After about a half mile of hiking toward a trail that I intended to visit today I tired of all of the snow and ice and turned back. I hike for the pure pleasure of it and saw no point in hiking where it wasn’t fun. And there are other places to go, one of which is Buttercup Ridge, where the very first wildflowers bloom every year about this time. It’s a small area, about 50 feet by 100 feet atop a very steep, narrow, rocky, cliffy ridge, and why buttercups bloom there nearly two months before they bloom anywhere else is a complete mystery to me. They do though, after all, bloom in western Montana and somewhere in their DNA they know that and they also know that before spring comes they may see temperatures of -20ยบF and two feet of snow, but they bloom anyway. I love their attitude!

Buttercup Ridge

Buttercup Ridge

Sagebrush Buttercups ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus: (the water drops on some of them came from last night’s frost).

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

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39 Comments »

  1. Trust you to find them (in your old spot?)

    Like

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — February 13, 2015 @ 5:44 pm

    • Yes. They are just starting to bloom there, and I haven’t seen any anywhere else. Wish I knew why!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 13, 2015 @ 8:40 pm

  2. What a joy it must be, to see these little beauties shoot up through the grass. Am particularly drawn to the first flower image, love the shadows and light

    Like

    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — February 13, 2015 @ 6:18 pm

    • I do look forward to seeing these first ones every year. It will be nearly two more months before the rest of the wildflowers really begin their blossom cycle again, so these are very special.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 13, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

  3. I wonder if these are sterile flowers? If not, what could possibly pollinate them this time of year?

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    Comment by jomegat — February 13, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

    • I don’t know exactly who their pollinators are, but they do produce nectar and seeds. Even in mid winter some times I see multitudes of tiny insects. Once I saw a large hatch of tiny flying insects on the surface of four feet of snow. There were insects out today, and one that I saw only briefly was a moth or butterfly.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 13, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

  4. Buttercup Ridge is gorgeous as are the buttercups!

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    Comment by Candace — February 13, 2015 @ 8:39 pm

    • It’s a rather strange place, not especially remote, but I have never seen any trace of human presence on that little ridge, while lots of sign of sheep, elk and deer.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 13, 2015 @ 8:51 pm

  5. Stunning! Capturing the shininess of the petals can be really tricky. I’m very impressed! I’ve tried – and failed – before, possibly because of lighting, possibly because I’m rushed (knowing my partner’s lead is growing steadily the longer I procrastinate trying to get the shot right).
    How large do the buttercups grow? And do they have a long stem?
    In Australia we have some species that look fairly similar that are ground cover plants.
    Your post also reminds me of the Mt Cook Lily in New Zealand – which, despite the name, is actually part of the buttercup family. From memory (it’s been a while, mind you) the stem of the flower can be about 30cm or so.
    What a beautiful place you live. : )

    Like

    Comment by Dayna — February 13, 2015 @ 9:29 pm

    • Buttercups can be difficult to photograph because the waxy petals reflect light. I usually try several different things to get them right, sometimes shading the blossom and using the camera on-board flash compensated to about -1.0EV or more. The nice thing about digital photography is that you can experiment and immediately see the results!
      The blossoms of these are the size of a dime to a quarter, and the stems are short, perhaps <3cm. They grow pretty flat to the ground. They would not be good for ground cover because they won't grow close together and the entire plant seems to disappear when summer comes. I have not had any success in transplanting them.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 13, 2015 @ 9:52 pm

      • Ah, I never seem to think to use my flash. I have shaded flowers before to get better photos though. Most of the flowers like these I see grow in State or National Parks, so transplanting them – even if I had a backyard to try to grow them in – isn’t something I would consider. I’m not sure if there are commercial varieties. Doubtless there would be something if I looked.
        Thanks for the tip! : )

        Like

        Comment by Dayna — February 13, 2015 @ 10:03 pm

        • Flowers, especially wildflowers, often have such subtle and delicate colors, and controlling the light is always key to good photos of them. The most common problem is over exposure which removes the fine, delicate lines that many petals have. White and yellow seem to be the most difficult. I always start with an exposure compensation of -0.3EV or -0.7EV.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by montucky — February 13, 2015 @ 10:17 pm

          • Red can also be very tricky – they seem to become blobs. Getting the flowers defined (by editing on a computer) can leave the background looking very odd indeed.

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            Comment by Dayna — February 13, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

            • Yes, I frequently see that. Again, I think wrong exposure is the culprit. Fortunately, my camera lets me use spot exposure which is the first step in the right direction. I always seem to do the best on a rainy day when I photograph from under an umbrella. The light is so soft then.

              Liked by 1 person

              Comment by montucky — February 13, 2015 @ 10:37 pm

  6. Gorgeous shots! It’s always so beautiful to see the flowers coming out, after a long and cold winter. I’m so looking forward to this ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

    Comment by Lucy — February 14, 2015 @ 12:42 am

    • I love the wild flowers that make our Earth a little bit prettier and especially enjoy the very first ones to bloom in a new year.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2015 @ 9:34 am

  7. How beautiful, and better than a little stash of gold to discover every year!

    Like

    Comment by Jo Woolf — February 14, 2015 @ 1:43 am

    • Yes, they are free for the viewing and tell a story about our world that gold cannot tell.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2015 @ 9:37 am

  8. These are obviously defiant buttercups, not ones to follow the crowd. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Gorgeous photographs as usual. I can imagine you must be sick of the snow after all this time. Living surrounded by so much white and cold weather for months would lose its novelty for me too I am sure. I expect you are well and truly ready for spring! I, too, hike for pleasure and not to “suffer”.

    Like

    Comment by Jane — February 14, 2015 @ 2:01 am

    • Actually, I don’t get tired of the snow and ice except that they inhibit my ability to get to the trails that I can follow into the high country where I most love to be. Spring, which starts to open the trails is especially sweet.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  9. That really is amazing, when you think about all that has to happen for these plants to even survive, much less bloom. Their leaves and petals look quite thick and “meaty” and that might help them withstand the cold as well as the natural sugars that they might use as antifreeze.
    What surprises me most is the lack of stone in these photos. Stones would soak up the sun’s heat during the day at release it at night, but it doesn’t look like that’s what is happening. It’s an interesting mystery!

    Like

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — February 14, 2015 @ 8:24 am

    • Some of these are growing near the base of large rocks that do reflect the warmth of the sun down on them, but others are blooming completely out in the open. Other very similar terrain close to this area do not share the flowers this early. The same species of flowers bloom in profusion in open, grassy areas along the highways, but about two months later than on this little ridge where they are actually in shade for part of the day. It may be significant though that where they bloom has never been disturbed by any kind of traffic or development. Perhaps there is something deeper below the surface that is in play there.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2015 @ 9:47 am

  10. Where is the ridge in the first photo and is that a lake?

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    Comment by Ron Mangels — February 15, 2015 @ 9:00 am

    • The ridge is between Plains and Paradise, and the water is the Clark Fork River. Not a remote place, but no one ever seems to go there.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  11. What a beautiful destination for a hike.

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    Comment by seekraz — February 16, 2015 @ 10:04 am

    • Very short hike, but close to home and always pretty!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 16, 2015 @ 9:41 pm

  12. I love your photos of these buttercups. Even though you’ve published others in the past each is so unique, so different, and so stunning that I sit here in amazement taking each one in and admiring its unique qualities.

    Like

    Comment by WildBill — February 16, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

    • Wildflowers are fascinating and you have hit on one of the reason. Each flower seems to have its own unique personality, even within one species. These were all of the ones in bloom that day, and it seemed that each should have its own place in my post.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 16, 2015 @ 9:47 pm

  13. The last photo really shows the quality of the flower that I first noticed — those waxy petals. When I first started looking for wildflowers, I often missed the tiny ones, but the buttercups shone in the sun so brightly that I couldn’t miss them. Some flowers seem to absorb sunlight, but these reflect it. And my goodness, there are people all around the country who would love to see some of that reflected sunlight about now, especially if it was shining on flowers, too!

    Like

    Comment by shoreacres — February 17, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

    • They are probably the best known of all wildflowers partly because they are usually the first to bloom in spring, but also because of their waxy surface that seems to glow. They are also poisonous, but I’ve never heard or read of anyone who was poisoned by them.

      Yes, I bet some of the folks in New England would love to start seeing these bloom!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 17, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

  14. Aw, perky little things. The old song from the 60’s – “build me up, buttercup, don’t break my heart” came to my mind when I saw their cheerful yellow faces. I bet these little gems do ‘build you up’ when you spot them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — February 18, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

  15. Amazing to see such a beautiful flower so early! Our buttercups won’t show in Ohio until late March.

    Like

    Comment by Watching Seasons — February 19, 2015 @ 7:40 am

    • They don’t show up here until then either, except for this one little place (at least not that I know of).

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 19, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  16. Hi Montucky, Beauties! I really like how that blossom glistens. Pretty flower and excellent photography. Have a pleasant Friday tomorrow!

    Like

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — February 19, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

  17. Buttercups are really beautiful. My favorite photo is the first one. It offers so much to be studied. I can easily imagine me roaming on the area and admire the beautiful landscape.

    Like

    Comment by Sartenada — February 26, 2015 @ 2:59 am

    • I think they are beautiful too, and they have the audacity to be the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 26, 2015 @ 9:14 am

  18. […] Far up the mountain, at a place he calls Buttercup Ridge, Montana photographer Terry Glase searches each spring for the eponymous flower: Sagebrush Buttercup or, as the botanists would say, Ranunculus glaberrimus. Describing a visit to the ridge in 2015, Terry writes: […]

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    Pingback by The Glass Fleuragerie | The Task at Hand — July 24, 2016 @ 7:09 pm


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