Spring Flowers Mid-May 2020

As the valley greens up and we need a respite from the world of Covid-19, many of us are out and about looking for flowers.  DryKnoll_NendNER_5.14.20_1_Q2_fix_5x3_180As I write, some of our regular haunts in Grand Teton National Park are still closed (but about to open!).  However, there are many other places for botanical forays.

Bridger-Teton National Forest has various accessible habitats such as more south-facing grassy slopes mixed with sagebrush and dry rocky slopes where the snow melts early.   Josie’s Ridge, Cache Creek, and the lower slopes of Munger Mountain are all good jaunts.  Dry hills to the north and east of Flat Creek Road; Crystal Butte near Jackson; Game Creek south of town; and Poison Creek southeast of Hoback are other accessible points.  Please always respect boundaries and watch your step—many of the plants are small and fragile.

Many common flowers are presented here.   Go to past posts of “What’s in Bloom?” for additional and different details.

Earliest flowers found to the south of Jackson a month ago are now fading but are still visible farther north: 

Turkey PeasOrogenia linearifolia – have the tiniest of white flowers and skimpy linear leaves.  The cluster if often smaller than the size of a penny.OrogLin_FlSt_Pen_WilBrk_41012_1bsm

Two early look-alike buttercups perk up the dried grasses:  Sagebrush Buttercups – Ranunculus glaberrimus –  have simple leaves—although when they stretch out they can have two lobes. 

Utah Buttercups leaves are 3-lobed from first emergence.  RAnJov_flCU_MurCtr_41112_1b_fix_5x3_180

Steer’s-headsDicentra uniflora – are easily overlooked until you get the search image of the leaves…then look for the  flowers which have an obvious western motif. DiceUnif_fllf_CrystBut_5.5.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Slightly later or in different locations Spring BeautiesClaytonia lanceolata – are sprinkled about in light shade or sun where snow has just melted. Leaves are opposite, and the flowers are pinkish with delicate, pinker veins that lead pollinators to the center of the flower.ClayLanc_flhab_MuriRch_4.21.18_1_crp5x3_180fix

Ever-popular YellowbellsFritillaria pudica – grace hillsides and sageflats with their charming bells.FriPudi_fl_SchwLd_bench_fl_52011_1a_5x3_180fix

As we move into mid-May, species found on grassy slopes and amidst sage brush include:

Yellow violets – Viola nuttalii varieties – have a range of leaf shapes and sizes which confuse exact identification to variety.    ViolNuttVallcf_flhab_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_2b_Q2_crp_5x3_180Goosefoot VioletViola purpurea – is easy to ID because of its distinctive webbed-foot leaves.ViolPurpVen_HabFl_DMansB_52113_1_5x3_180

Oblongleaf Bluebell – Mertensia obtusifolia – flowers dangle, changing color from pink to blue when ready to attract pollinators. MertOblo_habfl_GameCrk_5.9.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Shooting StarDodocatheon conjugens – folds back its petals and has little knobs for bees to cling to—it is “buzz” pollinated. A bee lands, hangs, vibrates its wing muscles and  then pollen grains sift out of the purple anthers and land on the bee’s belly.  The bee flies to another flower with a stigma sticking out which then tags the pollen. DodoConj_flhab_CrystBut_5.5.20_2_Q2_crp_3x4.5_180

Nuttall LarkspurDelphinium nuttallianum – will soon become more abundant and attract hummingbirds.DelpNutt_fl_SkiLakeTr_73111_3aQ1Sm

Dry slopes are some of my favorite spring botany spots:BTNF_FltCRkHills_vw_spring_5.8.20_4a_fix_%x3_180

Wonderfully fragrant Hood’s PhloxPhlox hoodii – has tight needle-like leaves with cobwebby hairs that help distinguish it from the later blooming Multiflora Phlox.  Flowers can range from light to dark blue on different plants of the same species.PhloHood_habfl_CU_NendNER_5.14.20_1_5x3_180_Q2

Low pussytoesAntennaria dimoprha – are often overlooked even when in flower – its tiny composite flowers are all male or female on separate plants.  Flowers are wind pollinated or females can produce seeds without a male around.AnteDimo_flCU_CrystBut_5.5.20_1a_Q1_5x3_180

Pursh’s milkvetchAstragalus purshii – has typical pea-like flowers emerging beyond a clump of compound ladder-like silvery leaves.  The flowers are creamy white. The genus of the Pea Family can be IDed, in part, by the two “wing” petals being longer than the “keel”, which here is purple tipped.AstrPurs_flhab_rock_CrystBut_5.5.20_1_Q2_crp_5x3_180


Bessey’s LocoweedOxytropus besseyi – has elegant fists of flowers above similar leaves to milkvetch.  The pea-like are very similar (except for its color!); however, the “wing” petals are shorter than the pointy “keel” in this genus of the Pea Family.OxytBess_flhab_NendNER_5.14.20_1a_Q2_53_180


Whitlow GrassesDraba sp.- were abundant on a very dry slope.  ID of this confusing genus of mustards requires the fruits to ripen.  Hairs also help!DrabSp_fhab_rock_NendNER_5.14.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Mountain RockcressBoechera sp. – is another Mustard Family member awaiting full ID.  All mustards have 4 sepals, 4 petals, 6 stamens – 2 shorter than the other 4, and a single pistil.  The pistils of the family grow into fruits of various shapes—the key ID feature needed. (photo by Susan Marsh)BoecSp_FlCU_rockcress_by SM5.14.20_crp_5x5_180

Desert PaintbrushCastilleja chromosa – is the first of several paintbrushes that will bloom over the next several months.  Its orange-red, day-glow flowers decorate dry hillsides amidst colorful rocks.CastChrom_habfl_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_1_Q2_5x3_180

Below are some of the plants, which for some reason, have been given less prominence in past posts—not sure why:

PasqueflowersAnemone patens – are an early spring favorite for obvious reasons!AnemPate_flhab_CrystBut_5.5.20_1a_Q2_5x3_180

Diamondleaf SaxifrageSaxifraga rhomboidea – is often overlooked.  The basal rosette of rhomboid leaves gives rise to a single 2-9” stalk with a cluster of several white flowers. SaxiRhom_budlvs_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_2_Q1_crp_5x3_180SaxiRhom_flCU_ant_JosieRidge_52311_2_crp_3x3_180

Oregon GrapeMahonia repens – is common in many habitats, but we often forget to get down and sniff the wonderfully fragrant flowers!  But watch your nose on the spiny, tough evergreen leaves.MahoRep_fl_DinNM_513112_2_5x3_180

Wyoming KittentailsBesseya wyomingensis – have no showy petals.  The color comes from the purple-blue stamens that unfold to yield white pollen.BessWyom_habfl_NendNER_5.14.20_3a_Q2_crp_3x4.5_180

Best to get out now to see these early spring flowers before you are distracted by so many more flowers to come, such as Balsamroot!BalsSagi_habfl_FltCRkHills_5.8.20_1_fix_5x3_180Happy Spring.

Frances Clark, Teton Plants Program Coordinator

P.S. As always, we appreciate any corrections, suggestions, or other comments!

11 thoughts on “Spring Flowers Mid-May 2020

  1. Wonderful – and just a week later, today on a hike around the south and west side of Blacktail Butte we saw star flowers (a.k.a. woodland stars) in abundance along with Wyeth biscuitroot, larkspur, bluebells, gromwell, quite a few arrowleaf balsamroot in bloom – and one lone leopard lily. I dare not give scientific names.

  2. So happy I could magnify these. Still losing my eyesight.thank you Frances. Inavecertainly missed bird club the last year, but listed to and saw Katy’s owl lecture. Thanks again.

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  4. Thanks Frances! Your photos are so wonderful, have seen many of the flowers along the Woods Canyon trail and Sink or Swim on Snow King. I miss the Nature meetings Tuesday nights at the library, seeing new and old friends there. It’s a gift to have internet to stay in touch! Stay healthy, Lee


  5. So refreshing and beautiful to see these early spring bloomers. I just so enjoyed it. It is possible to correspond directly on the Utah Buttercup? Does it lose its petals fast? I have a plant that I have been trying to identify for several years that is similar but the petals are usually gone or maybe a stray here and there. I have pictures, some were from yesterday in Custer Co., Idaho.

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  7. Thank you for sending this through…a joy to look at. Our planned trip to Grand Teton this year has had to be cancelled, for obvious reasons, but we are booked to come next year in June so this has whetted our appetite.
    Kindest regards, Carol Watson, Winchester,UK.

  8. Thanks Francis! Yesterday I ran into 15 warbler species in a thicket usually occupied by homeless people on my Birdathon by bike along the Charles. Also these in a wet ditch, which may be marsh marigolds? Brooke

    Sent from my iPhone


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