Montana Outdoors

February 11, 2016

First wildflower of 2016

Every year about this time the first wildflowers in this part of western Montana begin to bloom, months ahead of the rest. They are Sagebrush Buttercups (Ranunculus glaberrimus) and on a thin ridge that juts out from some cliffs a dozen miles upriver the first of blossom opened today. There was just one today, but in a few sunny days there will be many more. For whatever reason their success strategy tells them to open so early, it works.

Sagebrush Buttercup

Sagebrush Buttercup

Sagebrush Buttercup

The tiny cup lichen are also still doing well and displaying their bright red fruit.

Cup lichen

Cup lichen

Cup lichen

Cup lichen

Cup lichen

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45 Comments »

  1. What beautiful mini-worlds!

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    Comment by wordsfromanneli — February 11, 2016 @ 9:38 pm

  2. How beautiful the red contrast makes on those cup lichen.
    They remind me a bit of some of the cacti in the arid garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne. Same shade of pale blue/green against the bright red of unopened buds.

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    Comment by Vicki — February 11, 2016 @ 10:25 pm

    • Now that you mentioned cactus, I’m also reminded of cactus in bloom and how many of them rimmed a pad with blossoms.

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      Comment by montucky — February 11, 2016 @ 10:35 pm

  3. As precious as jewels! Beautiful photos.

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    Comment by Jo Woolf — February 12, 2016 @ 3:09 am

  4. The thick, fleshy leaves and petals on that buttercup are built to take a lot of cold, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beefy stamens. All of that makes sense but I wonder what pollinates them so early in the season.

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    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — February 12, 2016 @ 3:54 am

    • I have wondered about their pollinators too but I’ve seen a number of small insects out already. There is a species (I don’t even know what it is) that I have seen in large numbers on the surface of deep snow. They look like specks of ground pepper.

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      Comment by montucky — February 12, 2016 @ 7:28 pm

      • I’ve seen insects that I can’t identify this winter too. Yours sound like they might be snow fleas, which are quite small.

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        Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — February 12, 2016 @ 9:14 pm

        • That was my guess. I’ve never noticed them on buttercups though. I’ve taken enough photos of them, I would have thought I would have caught a pollinator.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by montucky — February 12, 2016 @ 9:17 pm

    • I was looking up our newly-blooming buttercup here in Texas, and the Lady Bird Johnson wildflower site says that there are 20-30 species, and that all are pollinated by flies and bees. Interesting.

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      Comment by shoreacres — February 14, 2016 @ 2:57 pm

      • That is interesting. Some flies are out quite early.

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        Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — February 14, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

        • Maybe there are enough flies out already to do the pollinating: I’ve seen a couple house flies already.

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          Comment by montucky — February 14, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

          • That does seem early, but I have only the local New England climate to go by.

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            Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — February 14, 2016 @ 7:58 pm

            • In some ways we are a month ahead of our normal spring season which usually starts in March. It is always a jumble of warm days, cold nights, snow, sun, wind and sometimes several sub-zero days. It’s fun to go through spring here for those who don’t mind an adventure!

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              Comment by montucky — February 14, 2016 @ 8:14 pm

  5. Beautiful shots of the lichen!

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    Comment by centralohionature — February 12, 2016 @ 6:23 am

    • The red fruit on those liken can barely be seen from a standing position, and then only when you are specifically looking for them. Of course, I crawl around a lot…

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      Comment by montucky — February 12, 2016 @ 7:29 pm

  6. Little bits of color even in the dead of winter. You’ve just given us a little mini-feast for the eyes. 🙂

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    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — February 12, 2016 @ 7:06 am

  7. thank you! I expect we’ll never see what you share with your pictures…cold weather doesn’t appeal to us so we stay in warmer areas. I do love the mountains and long to spend summers in the Rockies

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    Comment by Linda Goudelock — February 12, 2016 @ 7:54 am

    • Summer is of course beautiful here, but so are the other seasons; they just require extra clothing and a tolerance for cold.

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      Comment by montucky — February 12, 2016 @ 7:31 pm

  8. Hey, I thought you were buried in snow?? Spring can’t come early enough for me.

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    Comment by Sue — February 12, 2016 @ 6:20 pm

    • I visited that place a week ago and everything was buried in snow. It have been unseasonally warm though and the valley snow in this area is all gone. The mountains still have plenty, and with the warm days and cold nights the snow pack has a large ice content.

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      Comment by montucky — February 12, 2016 @ 7:33 pm

  9. I love how you discover and capture such beauty whether large or small. These are gorgeous, the colors just WOW me!

    Like

    Comment by bayphotosbydonna — February 12, 2016 @ 7:14 pm

    • That day was cloudy but not too dark, just right to photograph colorful things. Buttercups are very difficult to photograph because the petals are so shiny, but the light was perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 12, 2016 @ 7:35 pm

  10. You’ve given us a great treat with the lichen shots! They also remind me of flowering or fruiting cacti, as Vikki said. Thanks. 🙂

    Like

    Comment by Jane — February 12, 2016 @ 7:54 pm

    • The small lichen are pretty and interesting and seem to live in a tiny and very complex world with other lichen and a variety of mosses. They also have a tolerance for a vast spectrum of temperatures. That little ridge will see winter temperatures down to -30F and in direct summer sun up to +150F.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 12, 2016 @ 8:06 pm

  11. thank you for the first flower of the season
    i can only dream of them up here
    they are lovely photos of them
    and the lichen, well i got lost in those images wondering at some of the things you captured
    i have just begun learning a bit about lichen

    Like

    Comment by Tammie — February 13, 2016 @ 10:56 am

    • I know of only one small place where they begin to bloom this early. Most wait until later in March and April.
      The lichens are really enjoying the mild weather this year, possibly because they are not covered with snow.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 13, 2016 @ 5:07 pm

  12. Hi Montucky, I don’t know which I like better – the Lichens are tiny jewels but yes, my vote goes to the Sagebrush Buttercups. Have a fantastic Sunday tomorrow!

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    Comment by wildlifewatcher — February 13, 2016 @ 3:11 pm

    • It was so good to see those yellow petals again! It’s our version of groundhog day.

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      Comment by montucky — February 13, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

  13. Just this week, I saw some of our Carolina buttercups for the first time. I noticed that shine on the petals of yours. Ours are the same: almost waxy. The scientific name is a bit of a mystery to me. I searched for Ranunculus carolinianus and found some other names listed. But, they were given as synonyms, so it’s clearly the same plant. I always had thought of buttercups as large — until I actually saw them. I think ours might be a half-inch across. They are bright, though.

    Like

    Comment by shoreacres — February 14, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

    • I have a hard time identifying the exact species of buttercups too, there are so many that are similar. Most bloom later and some wait until late summer, mostly those that grow along the small streams. The ones that bloom this early must be very hardy because between no and summer there will be more snow and many freezing nights.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2016 @ 7:50 pm

  14. I remember your buttercups from previous years. Happy first wildflower.

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    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — February 14, 2016 @ 8:56 pm

    • Thanks Steve. It’s a high point near the beginning of every year to see the distinct color of a wildflower blooming against a background of white and gray and greens that look blue.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 14, 2016 @ 9:01 pm

      • It’s one thing to have wildflowers in Austin in February, but I’m always amazed that anything can bloom in February in your frigid climate. All the more reason for you to be happy about those buttercups.

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        Comment by Steve Schwartzman — February 14, 2016 @ 9:04 pm

        • I’m also happy to see your photos of the wildflowers around Austin this time of year!

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          Comment by montucky — February 14, 2016 @ 9:07 pm

  15. The lichen does look like mini-cacti and the buttercups are beautiful!

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    Comment by Candace — February 15, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

    • I have to look hard for color in the winter landscape and it’s refreshing to finally see color from a wildflower again!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2016 @ 12:41 pm

  16. Beautiful photos. First wildflowers mean that life continues after winter!

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    Comment by Sartenada — February 17, 2016 @ 12:55 am

    • This little flower that blooms in the midst of winter does remind us of that, and it’s so welcome!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 17, 2016 @ 10:38 pm

  17. I love all your photographs but you really have a way of capturing lichen like no other photographer I’ve ever known. So, so beautiful. As I’ve said before you are an artist for sure.

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    Comment by WildBill — February 18, 2016 @ 3:34 pm

    • Thanks Bill. Lichen are fascinating but so tiny that they don’t get attention like the larger life forms. Many are a necessary part of the food supply for ungulates in winter too. I’m a little embarrassed that I know so little about them.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 18, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

  18. Still winter…and such beautiful colors.
    Thanks Montucky!

    Like

    Comment by Mary Strong-Spaid — February 20, 2016 @ 9:09 pm

    • All appears well in their tiny world! It’s a strange winter: yesterday I saw a pure white Snowshoe rabbit running through a forest that didn’t even have a patch of snow.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — February 20, 2016 @ 9:17 pm


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