Blue Beauties

It's amazing to watch the flowers transform into their late season colors and shapes. Take the seed head I found the other day. Maybe I'll post it sometime - when I figure out what it is. Unique! That starts to describe it.

I have figured out the geraniums are the first to show vivid fall colors as their leaves turn brilliant red. From pretty flowers to pretty leaves. Amazing.

Other plants continue to puzzle or delight or both as I observe their transformations more closely than past years. So, again we take a look at ten wildflower species which live in my backyard (using the term loosely, of course).

  • 1. Blue Violet
  • 2. Paintbrush
  • 3. Cushion Flox
  • 4. Wood's Forget-me-not
  • 5. Sticky Geranium
  • 6. Gaillardia
  • 7. Wood's Rose
  • 8. Cow Parsnip
  • 9. Showy Fleabane
  • 10. Prairie Smoke
  • 11. Few-Flowered Shooting Star
  • 12. Sulfur Buckwheat
  • 13. Lanceleaf Stonecrop
  • 14. Spurred Lupine
  • 15. Mountain Sorrel
  • 16. Hound's Tongue
  • 17. Pennycress
  • 18. Chives
  • 19. Sugarbowl
  • 20. Tall Cinquefoil
  • 21. Oregon Grape
  • 22. Western Gromwell
  • 23. Chokecherry
  • 24. Mountain Bluebells
  • 25. Rocky Mountain Iris
  • 26. False Solomon's Seal
  • 27. Rosy Pussytoes
  • 28. Elk Thistle
  • 29. Yellow Salsify
  • 31. Shrubby Cinquefoil
  • 32. Gray Horsebrush
  • 33. Water Smartweed
  • 34. Common Harebell
  • 35. Nuttall's Rockcress
  • 36. Orange Hawkweed
  • 37. Yellow Pond-lily
  • 38. Musk Thistle
  • 39. White Campion
  • 40. Bitterroot
  • 41. Kinnikinnick
  • 42. Serviceberry
  • 43. Alberta Penstemon
  • 44. Rock Clematis
  • 45. Ballhead Waterleaf
  • 46. Parry's Townsendia
  • 47. Low Larkspur
  • 48. Blue-eyed Grass
  • 49. Many-flowered Stickseed
  • 50. Blue Penstemon


Things I Already Knew: A pretty low-growing plant found close to the forest floor, this shiny leafed plant bears clusters of bright red berries by late summer.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the shrub family this low-growing (dense mats no more than 6 inches tall) plant bears pink or sometimes white flowers in the spring. The clustered flowers look like upside-down urns. Their fruit, the bright red berries, persist throughout the winter, are edible, and are often eaten by bears.

I've never run into a plant known by more names. This short, unassuming plant is known by no less than eighteen names including Bear Berry, Bear's Grape, Crowberry, Hog Cranberry, Mealberry, Arberry, Mountain Box, Mountain Cranberry, Red bearberry, Sagackhomi, Sandberry, Upland Cranberry, Uva Ursa, Universe Vine, Wild Cranberry, and Bear's Grape

Medicinally this plant has been used for several purposes. It contains glycoside arbutin, which has antimicrobal properties and acts as a mild diuretic. It has been used for urinary tract complaints. It has also been used for bronchitis, nephritis, and kidney stones. An infusion can be made by soaking the leaves in ethanol and diluting with water. The website, http://www.holisticonline.com/, even has dosage information.

Some American Indians drank a tea made from the plant for backsprains while others used it to treat venereal diseases.


Things I Already Knew: This plant produced pretty but seedy berries in profusion this year! It seems to handle sunny spots well. Serviceberry grows quite tall - up to 4 feet around here. The flowers are white and blend in with the chokecherries along Elk Lake Road.

Things I Recently Learned: Another member of the shrub family, serviceberry can grow up to 20 feet tall. The white or sometimes pinkish flowers grow in clusters (better for me to confuse them with chokecherry).

Serviceberry is also known as Saskatoonberry, Saskatoon, Western Service Berry, Shadbush, or Juneberry. It is a North American native. It is a long-living plant often bearing fruit up to 30 years. It is quite winter hardy, but it requires plentious sunshine to ripen the fruit. A late frost can destroy the crop.

Serviceberry fruit is a favorite food of many birds and animals and can be used to make jelly and wine. It looks and tastes similar to a blueberry - sweet in flavor. Serviceberry has been used by American Indians and Canada's Aboriginal peoples both as fruit and added to pemmican.

The name, Saskatoon is derived from a Cree word. The city, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is named after this useful plant.

Alberta Penstemon

Things I Already Knew: This plant grows profusely in some areas around the Resort. It appears to prefer meadows. It blooms later than many species, its showy flowers adding a splash of color to the mid-summer foliage.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Figwort family, Alberta Penstemon prefers dry open or rocky areas from the valley to foothills and subalpine forests in western Montana. A similar plant, Wilcox's Penstemon grows in similar soils in northwestern Montana.

Also known as Alberta Beardtongue, Alberta Pestemon is commonly found in British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, and Montana. Boasting the largest genus endemic to North America, these perennial plants have approximately 275 species. Native to North America ornamental gardeners worldwide have long sought them for their beauty, adaptability, and wide-variety genus.

Two more pieces of penstemon trivia: Native Americans used Penstemon roots to relieve toothaches. Merchants began selling Penstemon seeds as early as 1813. Although a North American native, Europe has always been more interested in cultivating the species for ornamental gardens.

Rock Clematis

Things I Already Knew: This delicate looking flower prefers heavy shade. It blooms early in the spring when soils are damp and temperatures are cool. Only one colorful blue to purple flower tops each leggy stem.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Buttercup Family, Rock Clematis grows in the north western, the north central, the rocky mountain states and even in Texas!

Although my Montana flower book says this is a climbing vine, all the specimens I've seen have been low growing. However, based on internet information, some species are low growing. This plant is also called Columbia Virgin's Bower and Blue Clematis. It is of the same family as my visitor from Whoville, the Sugarbowls.

This perenial plant is recommended for use in ornamental rock gardens.

Ballhead Waterleaf

Things I Already Knew: This low growing yet showy flower is easy to overlook. It seems to prefer moist soils and heavy shade. The leaves often almost dwarf the bottle-brush type flowers.

Things I Recently Learned: Also known as Dwarf Waterleaf, this plant is a member of the Waterleaf Family which has many varieties throughout the western United States. All family members have flower parts in fives - five fused, lobed petals that form a bell or funnel, five united sepals, and five stamens.

Ballhead Waterleaf can be found in the brushy areas and open woods of southern British Columbia, south through eastern Washington and Oregon to central California; east to western Colorado, northern Utah, Idaho, Alberta (and, obviously, Montana).

Young waterleaf shoots and leaves, collected before the flowers appear, were used by Native Americans and settlers as a cooked vegetable. They are best boiled in water, changed at least one time, and served with vinegar. Some tribes boiled the waterleaf roots with the bulbs of the Yellow Glacier Lily.

Parry's Townsendia

Things I Already Knew: I have often confused this plant with Showy Fleabane (covered in an earlier posting) because of the similarity in the flowers. However, if you were to go back to that earlier blog, you will see that although the flowers are similar, the leaves are different (okay, the fleabane photo doesn't show many leaves - see, that's my point!).

Things I Recently Learned: Parry's Townsendia is considered an uncommon wildflower. In fact, my Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, western edition, doesn't even list it. A couple of websites also list it as rare or uncommon.

Nonetheless, it is cultivated by ornamental gardeners because of its showy colors. This plant is sometimes confused with the Alpine Daisy.

Parry's Townsendia blooms in May, June, July, and August and can be found in Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and California. It is also found in Alberta and British Columbia.

This plant thrives in rocky or gravelly soils on mid-level to alpine slopes.

Low Larkspur

Things I Already Knew: A moderately tall plant (a little over a foot tall), the thin larkspur stems are topped with uniquely shaped, orchid-type flowers. These pretty flowers seem to appreciate grassy meadows.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Buttercup Family, Low Larkspur can be found in west, central, and east Montana. Its generic name, Delphinium, is derived from Latin for 'dolphin', a shape the flower vaguely resembles.

Low Larkspur is also known as Little Larkspur or Montana Larkspur. It is a native perennial. It can take as many as five years for the plant to flower although it may do so in its third year under favorable conditions.

Low Larkspur is grazed by elk, deer, and pronghorn as well as upland game birds, non-game birds, small mammals and domestic animals. Early in the year it is high in protein. In spite of this, it is toxic to cattle and, if pastures are grazed before the grass is mature enough to be more plentiful than the larkspur, can causes cattle loss. It can also be toxic to horses and sheep. The plant is now considered a noxious weed - although a very pretty one!

Blue-eyed Grass

Things I Already Knew: A rare plant - at least as compared to everything else. I've seen less of this plant (this is my one and only photo) in my walks than even the Nuttall's Rockcress. However, that may also be in part because it appears to like cool, grassy locations - and it doesn't grow very tall. However, this pretty flower is definitely worth the hunt!

Things I Recently Learned: Blue-eyed Grass can be found on grassy meadows or in open sites that are moist to moderately dry. A member of the Iris family, Blue-eyed Grass flowers from April to September. My western region wildflower book says it is "one of the most perplexing groups of plants, with many, often intergrading, variants named as species."

American Indians used a root tea to treat diarhhea in children and a plant tea to treat worms and stomach aches. Several species were also used for a laxative.

This plant is a perinneal which will die out when cultivated if the soil gets too dry.

Many-flowered Stickseed

Things I Already Knew: Although this plant does qualify as a wildflower, and although its flowers resemble forget-me-not (it is called Wild Forget-Me-Not) I DON'T like this plant once it goes to seed. We call it 'stick-tight' because the seed burrs are almost impossible to get out of the dog's hair (or off clothes with even a moderate nap).

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Borage Family (related to Wood's Forget-Me-Not), Many-flowered Stickseed flowers from June to August. It is native to much of western North America.

A similar and more common wildlflower, western stickseed, is distinguished primarily by the prickles on its seed nutlet (therefore, this could be western stickseed).

This plant is a robust biennial or short-lived perennial

Blue Penstemon

Things I Already Knew: Another blue flower which seems to thrive in the meadows around Elk Lake. I must admit, I didn't know there were so many varieties. Now I'm glad I took the extra pictures!

Things I Recently Learned: Growing on a smooth 12 to 26 inch stem, Blue Penstemon has different leaves on the lower and upper stem. The lower leaves are basal while the upper are stalkless and clasp the stem (as seen in my photo).

A member of the Figwort Family (and a relative to the Penstemon above), Blue Penstemon grows in the open plains and foothills of southwest and south-central Montana.

Native to Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, this plant is a perennial. Like other penstemons, it is cultivated for its ornamental qualities.

Well, blue seems to be the color of the day (or the blog, in this case). It certainly isn't because I'm blue. Maybe its the bright sunshine and blue skies. Or, more likely, its because I'm finally getting these photos organized a bit, and, as I put them into files, the colors tend to go together. One way or the other, it was another nice trip down summer memory lane!

Lady of the Lake

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