Summer's Bounty

I love fall. The color. The crisp mornings. The bug-free days. The deeply blue skies. What's not to love?

However, after such a long spring, followed by such a 'short' summer, fall's arrival has taken on a different twist this year. In fact, it seems almost to have a note of 'goodbye' tucked inside.

Of course, I suspect the 'goodbye' aspect has something to do with watching a great refuge manager head down the road to a new post. It might even have something to do with finally ordering bear spray so I can get back into the woods (goodbye to feeling safe when I hike?). It could even have something to do with my weekly trip back to summer as I revisit the flower photos from early excursions.

One way or the other, seasons change. People come and go. Flowers fade and die. However, I am thankful to the many inventors who contributed to our modern day camera - especially Johann Zahn who came up with the first truly portable camera. At least this way I can continue to enjoy summer's delights as summer begins to metamorphize into fall in Montana's high mountains.

  • 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

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Things I Already Knew: A lovely moderate-sized shrub which would look good in the flowerbed, this plant seeems to be quite tolerant to weather as it grows in the open on the Refuge. The Buttercup yellow flowers can be quite profuse.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the shrub family (this comes as no surprise), this highly branched plant prefers wet, cool habitats in meadows, on foothills, and in open woodlands.

A native plant in the northern hemisphere, Shrubby Cinquefoil is a great plant for cooler climates but it does not fair well in warm temperatures. It can be clutivated by division in the spring, softwood cuttings in the summer, or seeds in the fall.

A tea can be made from the leaves of this plant which are a bit astringent. However, the most common use of the plant, as I suspected, is ornamental.

Gray Horsebrush

Things I Already Knew: I have often mistook this plant for sage because it grows amongst the sage. However, by late July it has turned into showy yellow spots on the hillsides near the lodge. Apparently, based on my observations this summer, it is a favorite with the local bees.

Things I Recently Learned: Another member of the shrub family, Gray Horsebrush grows 1 - 3 feet tall. It prefers dry soils on Montana's plains and mountain foothills. It is also known as, Spineless Horsebrush and is considered a weed in some areas.

A western states native, the first plant of this species to be collected for science came from near the Columbia River in the early 1830's. David Douglas was the collector. It was the first genus of its species to be classified.

The leaves of this plant are hepatogenic - in other words they will damage the liver. Because of this, I couldn't find any medicinal uses just listings as a poisionous plant.

Water Smartweed

Things I Already Knew: This plant grows along the shores in spots around Elk Lake. It blooms in late July and early August. Although not a showy plant, the flowers are pretty and have a somewhat unique, conical shape. The plant floats and appears to have long stems.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Buckwheat family, Water Smartweed is a native plant. It can grow on land or in water. On land the stems and flowers are more upright, and the plant seems to produce larger flowers.

Water Smartweed grows quickly and can cover a shallow pond by late summer. Waterfowl, marsh birds, song birds, and upland game birds enjoy the seeds from the plant. Parts of this plant have been used as an antiseptic and as a poisoning cure.

Common Harebell

Things I Already Knew: Although considered 'common' (according to its name), I have found this pretty delicate flower a delight to the eyes. It seems to prefer shady, cool, meadowlands where it grows, sometimes in profussion. The Common Harebell's stems and growing style remind me of flax.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Harebell Family, Common Harebell is also called Scotch Harebell and Bluebell. In favorable surrounding it may grow 20 inches tall, but at harsher, alpine climates, it may only reach a few inches (our growing climate must be 'more favorable').

The Cree Indians chewed this plant's root for heart and lung problems. A root infusion was used by the Chippewa Indians for sore ears. The Thompson Indians used a plant decoction to treat sore eyes. In addition, the plant leaves are edible both raw and cooked.

This perenial plant is fairly wide-spread, even to being common in Britain where it is propogated for flowerbeds. Maybe that's why it's called 'Common Harebell'?

Nuttall's Rockcress

Things I Already Knew: Although apparently this is a common plant, I haven't seen it much. The small white flowers grow on a moderately long stem (about 1 - 2 feet tall). The stem appears leggy with only a few long narrow leaves.

Things I Recently Learned: This is a very HARD plant to study. For that matter, I won't argue too hard if someone tells me this is not a Nuttall's Rockcress since it is also almost impossible to find a decent photo of the flower.

In fact, the Internet (an amazing source of information on some flowers) has next to nothing about this plant except requests for pictures or websites (like the Montana wildflower site) which say something like "Our data base on this plant is empty!"

Even my Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers (Western Region) doesn't list this plant! However, my Montana wildflower book has a little information - from which I learned:

Nuttall's Rockcress is somewhat shorter than most rockcresses. It prefers moist flat areas often sheltered by taller plants in valleys and along alpine ridges. It is a member of the Mustard Family which contains some plants which are so proliferous they are now considered noxious weeds. Obviously this plant hasn't reached that status.

Orange Hawkweed

Things I Already Knew: This plant grows stalks about 2 feet tall topped with numerous (this specimen shows four to five) flower heads. It seems to prefer moist locations since I found it along the lake interspersed with what I've always called "Zebra Grass" (although look for its real name on this list one of these days). It is an uncommon plant for our area.

Things I Recently Learned: Orange Hawkweed is a member of the Sunflower Family (which would be more obvious if the flowers in my photo were a little further along in their development). This plant is native to Europe and appears primarily on disturbed soils in northwest and west-central Montana (that explains its lack of abundance in our area).

It is listed as a noxious weed in Idaho although their website says this flower's spread has been greatly aided by its beauty which attracts flower enthusiasts. It is found throughout Canada, in most northern states and along the east and west coasts.

Although from the Sunflower Family, herbalists class Hawkweeds with the Chicory group because of their unique flower shape and their milky juice. Orange Hawkweed has also been called, 'Grim-the-Collier,' because of the black hairs which clothe the flower stalk. Several medicinal uses are given for plants in the Hawkweed family.

Yellow Pond-lily

Things I Already Knew: Grows in dense mats covering large sections of shallow water. The leaves are quite large and impressive. The flowers are large and a vivid yellow.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Waterlily Family, Yellow Pond-lily is also called spatterdock and cowlily. This acquatic plant grows on a thick round stem which is up to 6 feet long and connects the floating plant parts to the bottom mud.

The leaves are 4 to 16 inches across and the flowers (which can range from yellow to reddish tinged) are about 3 to 5 inches across.

The American Indians harvested the plant's pods and fried the dried seeds until they popped much like popcorn. The Indians also used the dried roots, which are edible raw but have a disagreeable flavor, to prepare meal and flower. Muskrats gather the roots and store them in their lodges for winter sustenance.

Musk Thistle

Things I Already Knew: A large, showy thistle growing 3 feet and taller with colorful 'flowers' reaching 2 - 3 inches across. While most thistle flowers are not very pretty, the Musk Thistle's flowers rival many other colorful 'wildflowers' I've seen.

Things I Recently Learned: Musk Thistle is a member of the Sunflower family. Actually, if you remember from last time, the Elk Thistle, a more common thistle in our area, is also a member of the Sunflower family.

Also known as Nodding Thistle, Musk Thistle is a common noxious weed introduced to North America from southern Europe or western Asia in the early 1900s. It is most commonly seen in disturbed soils - which accounts for my finding it along Elk Lake Road.

This plant is a biennial. It takes two years to mature and bloom. Like most thistles, it is quite edible. However, learning how to peal the stalks without getting poked may be more trouble than it is worth! Medicinally, musk thistle leaves and seeds are useful as a bitter tonic to promote liver function.

White Campion

Things I Already Knew: A fairly prolific flower in our area, White Campion begins blooming in June. It has a very distinct petal shape. While each flower has five petals, each petal is deeply notched. The stalk of the plant is quite hairy and the flowers have a distinctive 'pouch' behind the flower face.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Pink Family, the male and female White Campion flowers occur on separate plants. Some plants have stamens only. Others have ovaries only.

A non-native plant, White Campion was introduced from Europe and is most commonly found in disturbed soils (which surprises me because our soils are definitely NOT disturbed much around here).

Also known as Evening Lychnis, White Campion has no known medicinal uses.


Things I Already Knew: A very pretty little flower which opens to the sun and closes as the temperatures drop. The Bitterroot is the Montana state flower. One look at this showy flower and I conquer! Although its stem rarely reaches a few inches tall, this lovely flower is honor worthy.

Things I Recently Learned: When in bloom, this flower produces 12 - 16 rose, pink, or occasionally white rounded or pointed petals. The genus name Lewisia honors Meriwether Lewis who collected a flower specimen near Lolo, Montana.

Bitterroot grows on open, dry or rocky shallow soils. It is an illusive flower only seen by those in the right location during its short blooming season.

American Indians harvested Bitterroot roots and boiled them for food. When cooked, the root swells to nearly 6 times its size and resembles a jelly-like substance. Despite this unusual presentation, Bitterroot is said to be extremely nutrious. In fact, I read 50-80 grams of this plant is sufficient to sustain an active person for a day.

The plant has several known medicinal uses. The root is thought to affect the heart and promote milk secretion. A root infusion has been used as a blood purifier. The root has also been eaten raw to counteract poison ivy's rash and to treat diabetes. The pounded dry root has been chewed to relieve sore throats, and a root poultice has been applied to sores.

That's might impressive for a plant that barely tops 1 inch tall!

As the new colors - the colors of fall - begin to peak around the corner, I continue to find my treks through this summer's color bounty as delightful as it is insightful.

Lady of the Lake

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