So Much Variety

Although I have delighted in my ability to recognize various plants on my walks the past few weeks, I can finally say I 'used' some of the information I'm gleaning from this new 'hobby'.

In my freezer there now reside some Gooseberries. Well, there are 'some' as long as 'some' can be used to define a few!

There are a few Chokecherries, too. In fact, in another week or so, I hope to add to my Chokecherry cache. The Gooseberries, however, will have to reside alone for two reasons.

One: I didn't get started on them early enough in the season. Although I've seen numerous plants near the lodge, most of the berries have either been eaten by the critters or have already shriveled up where they hang.

Two: This plant has some mighty nasty projections! In other words - thorns. I've still got the remnant of one in my finger - a sore reminder of my berry picking. In fact, although look kinda like blueberries, their plant defenses and their seedy qualities remind me more of blackberries!

That said, let's dive into ten more plants which reside near Elk Lake Resort.

  • 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
  • 51. False Dandelion
  • 52. Common Dandelion
  • 53. Mint
  • 54. Wild Raspberry
  • 55. Common Juniper
  • 56. Silver Sage
  • 57. Long-styled Thistle
  • 58. Green Gentian
  • 59. Silverleaf Phacelia
  • 60. Cushion Buckwheat

False Dandelion

Things I Already Knew: I've always assumed this was some sort of Dandelion species. However, the showy flowers also look a bit like Hawksbeard - a species I recently learned about. These pretty yellow flowers grow in clumps, prefer lots of sunshine, and produce puffy seed heads much like a Dandelion.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the sunflower family, False Dandelion grows on a leafless, unbranched stem which ranges from 4 to 20 inches tall. Like dandelions, the stems, when broken, exude a milky juice.

This plant is edible and can be eaten in salads or cooked for greens. American Indians used dried plant juice and leaves as gum. Thus the plant is also known by the unusual name 'Indian Bubble Gum'.

Also known as Pale Agoseris, Mountain Dandelion, and Rocky Mountain Dandelion, believe it or not this plant is listed as a species of concern because it does not fare well when competing with non-native plants. Another interesting piece of False Dandelion trivia - the Montana field guide actually discusses two Beaverhead County locations (we are located in Beaverhead County). In fact, of the six occurrances mapped on the field guide map, two are in our general area.

Medicinal uses of this plant include using a cold infusion of the plant as a lotion for treating wounds. The wet leaves have also been rubbed on swollen arms, wrists, or ankles.

Common Dandelion

Things I Already Knew: One of those 'everywhere' plants you wish would get OUT of your lawn. The leaves are edible but a bit bitter. The puffy seed heads appear above my lawn in what seems like minutes after mowing in the early summer!

Things I Recently Learned: Whereas the False Dandelion is a 'desired' plant, the Common Dandelion is a weed. Its popular name, Dandelion, comes from dent de lion, French for 'lion's tooth,' referring to the teeth on the leaves. Not only are the leaves edible, wine is made from the heads.

Although most people, myself included, consider the Common Dandelion a pest, it actually has several culinary and medicinal uses. It is a diuretic. In fact, it is sold as a diuretic drug in Canada. Its milky juice has been used as a mosquito repellent. As a folk rememdy, the milky juice has also been used to treat warts.

Additionally, a leaf decoction can be drunk to 'purify the blood', to treat anemia, jaundice, and also nervousness. Drunk before meals, dandelion root coffee is said to stimulate digestive functions and work as a liver tonic.

And, if that's not enough, "Dandelion and Burdock" is a popular soft drink in the United Kingdom! In fact, its culinary uses are quite varied. In addition to their use in wine, the flowers are also used to make a Belgium ale called Pissenlit (literally 'wet the bed' in French). Want a glass???

Another recipe calling for dandelion flowers is Dandelion Flower Jam. When you finish with the flowers, you can grind and roast the dandelion roots to use as a coffee substitute.

Not only are the leaves useful raw in salads or cooked in soups, they are high in Vitamins A and C as well as iron. In fact, they provide more calcium than spinach. Amazing - especially for a weed!


Things I Already Knew: This is an aromatic plant which prefers moist, shady locations. Dried mint leaves are often used to create tea. Mint flavors many gums and candies. Although I haven't found it around the resort very often, it makes its presence known whenever I trod upon it.

Things I Recently Learned: This being the first plant I've covered which was not in bloom, I do not know if the mint which grows around here is peppermint or spearmint. Regardless, the mint family encompasses MANY plants - in fact, a great number are found in my spice rack. Believe it or not, these include marjoram, basil, oregano, lavendar, rosemary, thyme, savory, and culinary sage. Worldwide there are 180 genera in the Mint family. They represent over 3500 species.

Since there are so many plants in the Mint family, it is handy to know some things to look for when identifying them. One, they all have square stalks. Two, they all have opposite leaves. Three, most are aromatic. Note: there are a handful of other plants with square stems and opposite leaves (like a Stinging Nettle). However, none are aromatic.

While one might consider many aromatic herbs, like those listed above, to be related, we might not think of common house plants like Coleus to be from the same family. However, it is.

In addition to obvious culinary uses, Mint has several medicinal uses. Mint oil (menthol) is used in cough drops. The oils are warming and cause the body to open up and sweat. This can help one break a fever (have you ever put menthol in a humidifier)?

Here is a practical use many people probably haven't thought of (I hadn't). Volatile oils (like mint oil) are highly lethal to microorganisms. One site I read recommended it for purifying questionable water.

Wild Red Raspberry

Things I Already Knew: A tasty treat in jam or pie, raspberries are cultivated in many sections of our country. The red fruit grows on a stickery branch. In cultivation, in some areas the plants can produce two crops a year.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Rose Family, Wild Red Raspberries grow in a variety of soils ranging from moist stream banks to rocky montane slopes (where I found these).

Although not listed in my Montana wildflower book, Wild Red Raspberries are commonly found in western and central Montana. These plants are highly edible and have medicinal uses as well.

Raspberries offer several edible options - some of which you might not have heard. Of course the berries make wonderful jams, syrups, and pies. In addition, the roots can be boiled and eaten. The young, tender shoots when they first emerge in the spring can be peeled and eaten like asparagus. The leaves can be used for tea - some even say a combination of blackberry and raspberry leaves make a fine coffee substitute.

Medicinally the leaves and roots are anti-inflamatory, decongestant, stimulant, and have agents which cause skin to contract. Additionally the plant has agents which promote healing for eye disorders and diseases, promote labor contractions, and improve lactation. Some use the plants to make a tea to treat diarrhea while others use it to relieve painful menstral cramps. This is just a partial list of uses!

More than just edible or medicinal uses, raspberries can also be used for making dyes, making paper, and to make a face mask to soothe reddened skin. Who would have thought such a humble plant could offer so much?

Common Juniper

Things I Already Knew: This low growing dense shrub is found mainly in the more shaded forest areas around the lodge. Spreading to many feet across, this juniper makes a showy evergreen which seems quiet suitable for the flowerbed.

Things I Recently Learned: Common Juniper was indeed quiet common when Lewis and Clark made their trek west. In fact, they collected four specimen sheets on this one plant. They first collected in October 1804, in North Dakota. In July 1806, a specimen was collected in Montana.

Also called Dwarf Juniper, Common Juniper is a member of the Cypress or Juniper familiy. It rarely exceeds five feet tall and tends to grow in mats or clumps. The picture I have is of a female plant. Female plants produce the bluish berries most people notice. Male plants produce small cones.

Found around the world in northern latitudes, Common Juniper is found rarely along the eastern seaboard and has been extirpated in Maryland.

Native Americans held Juniper in high esteem. The Blackfoot used a decoction made from Juniper berries to treat lung ailments and venereal diseases. Tribes west of the Continental Divide used an infusion of bark and needles to treat colds and as a tonic before entering a sweat lodge.

Modern day herbalists use the plant as a diuretic and to treat urinary tract problems. The plant is also being studied to treat insulin-dependent diabetes. Juniper berries are used to flavor gin and alcoholic bitters. The berries can also be used to enhance wild game's flavor and to stuff and dress game.

Silver Sage

Things I Already Knew: Although I have observed the varying size among our local sage brush plants, I have never given much thought to whether it was all the same variety, or not. This particular sage brush tends to be less 'brushy' or 'shrubby' than the larger sagebrush. It is more like a heavy grass in texture. It obviously prefers drier soils and is found in 'high desert' locations.

Things I Recently Learned: Silver Sage grows 3 - 5 feet tall. It is silver gray in color with inconspicuous yellow flowers in late summer. It is very drought tolerant.

This native plant is commonly found throughout the west, southwest, rocky mountain states and southern Canada. It requires more moisture than most sagebrush species. It also withstands moister, colder soils than most species.

This strongly aromatic plant was used by Native Americans as a general tonic, to restore hair, and for dermatological purposes.

Long-styled Thistle

Things I Already Knew: This is a stickery plant which grows quiet tall - about 3 - 4 feet. It seems to prefer dry, disturbed soils. Its flower head is white. Its stems lanky with few leaves.

Things I Recently Learned: Like every other thistle I've looked at, Long-styled Thistles are members of the Sunflower Family. They appear to only be native to Montana, with recorded sightings mostly around the west central section of the state.

This plant prefers open habitats in montane to sub-alpine meadows. They can survive elevation ranges between 4800 to 8100 feet, but prefer approximately 6000 to 7500 feet.

Most thistles can be eaten. The shoots can be peeled and eaten raw but are better boiled. The young roots are also edible. Some thistle seeds are important to various bird species.

Green Gentian

Things I Already Knew: A farely rare plant - at least one I don't commonly see, Green Gentian seems to scatter over a large area. However, you don't have to search for the plant because these unique flowers are found on the top portion of a long (2 - 5 feet) stalk.

Things I Recently Learned: This plant may go down as the most unique plant I've identified to date. Granted, Sugarbowls (my visitor from Whoville) will remain a top favorite, but Green Gentian not only looks unique (especially when you really look), but it has an amazing life-cycle.

Also known as Monument Plant, Green Gentian was originally thought to be a biennial. It wasn't until 1973 that Dr. David Inouye discovered this amazing plant's life history. It lives anywhere from 20 to 80 years! Then, after one flowering it dies! Thus it is known as a monocarpic plant.

First collected for science in the early 1830's by David Douglas (for whom the Douglas Fir is named) near present-day Spokane, Washington, Green Gentian is often mistaken for Mullein or Corn Lily (both of which this particular specimen are definitely not).

A close look at its flower shows striking purple dots on the four greenish white petals (the reddish color in my picture is courtesy of the early morning sunlight). There are also pinkish hairs on the two large nectar glands located near the base of each petal. The prominant green ovary sits in the center of four long stamens. Wow - what an amazing creation!

American Indians used the roots of this plant. However, caution is advised since the plant has toxic qualities. Nonetheless, the entire plant does have medicinal uses including the treatment of diarrhea, digestive complaints, colds, and asthma. A root powder mixed with oil has also been used to treat lice.

Silverleaf Phacelia

Things I Already Knew: One of those plants which doesn't look too 'fancy' until you examine it close-up. This plant grows clusters of white flowers on a stem around 1 foot tall. It seems to prefer open areas.

Things I Recently Learned: A member of the Waterleaf Family (related to Ballhead Waterleaf - another clustered flower), Silverleaf Phacelia's hairy stamens extend well beyond the length of its funnel-shaped flowers.

This is a perennial herb native to western North America. Also known as Scorpion Weed (yuk, what a name), this plant has a fuzzy appearance.

I can find no medicinal or culinary uses listed for Silverleaf Phacelia.

Cushion Buckwheat

Things I Already Knew: This is a low growing flower with ball-shaped flower heads on top of an 8-inch (ish) stem. The leaves form mats on the ground and appear to have a bit of a fussy texture. Found in drier soils near the resort.

Things I Recently Learned: Cushion Buckwheat can range from yellow, to white, to purple and can take on a burgundy tint as it ages (can you see the pinkish hue on the flower clusters in the photo?). A member of the Buckwheat Family, Cushion Buckwheat is native to western North America.

There are many varieties of this plant but generally they are a tough perennial herb which does well in gravelly soils.

Also known as Steamboat Buckwheat, Cushion Buckwheat makes a nice yard plant.

These studies, in spite of the time involved, never cease to amaze me. I am amazed at the diversity which I have so long taken for granted. I am amazed at the usefullness of the plants in my backyard. I am amazed at what I have seen when I have bothered to really look. Above all, I am thankful I can remain the

Lady of the Lake

No comments: