Spring Wildflowers of Wyoming: Nature’s Paintbrush

Wyoming Hillsides Are Flush with
Spring Wildflowers


Every year at this time, nature paints a spectacular landscape amid our valleys and hillsides in the form of spring wildflowers.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common, as well as the best spots for viewing these beauties in all their glory.

Indian Paintbrush. (Pixabay Image)

Indian Paintbrush

Indian paintbrush has been our state flower for more than 100 years.  The particular species of this showy red flower that was adopted as our state symbol is found on both rocky slopes and arid plains.

Also known as “painted cup” for its cup-like bracts, Indian paintbrush is native to all the mountain and western states.

It is particularly adapted to pollination by hummingbirds.

Prairie Bluebell (Public Domain Image)

Prairie Bluebell

This beautifully draping little flower can be found in a wide range of habitats and elevations in the south and central Rocky Mountain states. Flower color varies from dark blue to pale blue to pinkish-purple.

The flowers are typically small, bell-shaped, and held in compact clusters along the upper half of the stem. Some prairie bluebell plants have been known to produce sizeable colonies of several feet across.

Hood’s Phlox (Creative Commons Photo by Walter Siegmund)

Hood’s Phlox

Hood’s phlox grows only an inch or two  high and its flower is only three-eighths of an inch across. The white star-shaped flower has a deep yellow center.

This plant is also known as “spiny phlox,” due to its short, needle-like leaves, which end in a spike. Its five spreading petals may start out as pale pink and become lighter with age. It prefers an elevation between 3,000 and 9,000 feet.

Purple Fringe (Creative Commons Photo by Jacob W. Frank)

Purple Fringe

Purple fringe gets its name from the rich purple flowers, which measure about a quarter-inch across. Each petal contains a group of long purple stamens topped by yellow/orange anthers.

Combined with its silvery fern-like leaves, purple fringe is one of the handsomest wildflowers in the western states. As a result, it’s often cultivated in home gardens in Wyoming and anywhere else with sufficiently cool temperatures to promote germination.

Purple fringe grows to a height of about 16 inches.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Creative Commons Photo by Univ of Washington Burke Museum)

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf balsamroot is a member of the sunflower family, as is evidenced by its beautiful, bright yellow flowers.

It’s quite commonly found in cold, dry areas of the West, most abundantly in mountain fields.

This plant can grow to more than 30 inches tall, and the arrow-shaped leaves can be more than a foot and a half long. Arrowleaf balsamroot blooms from May to July.

Best Wildflower Viewing

Now that you know what to look for, where should you go for the best views of spring wildflowers? We’ve listed some ideas below, courtesy of the folks at Springcreek Ranch

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Munger Mountain

Munger Mountain boasts a large network of trails that meander through aspen groves and abundant wildflowers. You may park at the Munger Mountain trailhead on Fall Creek Road, 18 miles southwest of Jackson. If you’re up for a little more adventure and you own a mountain bike, you can take the full Munger Mountain eight-mile loop. For a scenic hike, take the Wally’s World trail up to the ridgeline, where a beautiful view of the valley and the Tetons awaits.

You can view the spring wildflowers from several different trails near Grand Teton National Park. (Creative Commons Photo)

The Wildflower Trail

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has made looking for spring wildflowers even easier. Any one of their hiking trails is sure to be covered in flora, but their aptly named “Wildflower Trail” is both family friendly and spectacular. The two-mile trail climbs steadily the whole way, but offers plenty of shade, as well as places to stop and smell the flowers.

 

Leave No Trace

Please remember:

It’s illegal to pick Indian paintbrush or to remove anything from  the national parks.

Please follow the “Leave No Trace” principles for outdoor ethics and take only photographs.

 

Jenny Lake or Cascade Canyon

Two of the more iconic hikes in Grand Teton National Park are Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon. For an easier hike, stroll around Jenny Lake as far as you’re willing—the full loop is 7.3 miles. For more of a challenge, either take the ferry across the lake or hike around to the Cascade Canyon trail.

You’ll pass a 200-foot waterfall and Inspiration Point, which offers amazing views of the park. You can turn around there or, for an ultimate hike,  continue into Cascade Canyon. It’s a total of nine miles out and back, with panoramic views of surrounding peaks.

Ski Lake

The Ski Lake trailhead is about halfway up Teton Pass. You can park at the Phillips Pass trail, a popular mountain biking destination. Whether you travel by foot or mountain bike, the trail takes you three miles up through diverse landscapes. Enjoy the myriad wildflowers along the way. The adventurous can take a dip in the lake’s chilly waters.


Sources:

Featured Image: Public Domain Photo

US Forest Service

American Southwest

Billings Gazette

Springcreek Ranch

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