20 April 2010

Spring's First Wildflowers

There's nothing blooming at 6,000 feet elevation around the little city of Butte, Montana. But Mrs Rover & I found the first wildflowers of spring while hiking with friends along the Big Hole River.

Hoods Phlox or Cushion Phlox (Phlox hoodi) is a common yet welcome harbinger of spring:

Like many early blooms, they are tiny:

These flowers were not quite open--could be either a Blue Bell (Mertensia) or Penstemon species:

Another small Penstemon species was flowering:

Along with the tiniest of all, probably a Lomatium species:

By comparison, the Easter Daisies (Townsendia hookeri) are positively huge:

With flowers we also met the first insects of spring. When asked by a theologian what the study of biology had taught him about the Creator, atheist and geneticist J.B.S. Haldane allegedly replied, “I’m not sure, but He seems to be inordinately fond of beetles.” Haldane's reply alluded to beetle species being so numerous, including the Ladybugs:

Hmmm.... The Creator must also be inordinately fond of Mosquitoes:

The Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) is not blooming yet, but it's a common shrub along the Big Hole River and an important browse for mule deer and other ruminants. Here is a branch of the shrub in striking contrast to a lichen-covered rock:

Speaking of deer, no hike is complete without MollyTheDog finding a deer spine:

Or an elk leg:

She had no interest in this old deer skull, which has almost returned to soil. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust:

Like the deer and flowers, we all come and go.  Hopefully, the Earth goes on.


Arija said...

I have had the most enchanting wonder through your blog again. Sorry to have been an absentee for so long, had a constant companion called Severe Pain for the last couple of months. Things are looking up now.

The wildflowers at altitude in early spring are such a delight to find and invariably tiny, yet for that, they are the more welcome. Their resilience to bloom while the snows still come and go never ceases to amaze me.
A lovely post.

Richard Gibson said...

Fine springtime pics! Butte is indeed later when it comes to blooms. When I lived at the Indiana geologic field station in the Tobacco Roots (5280 elevation), the first blooms were yellow sagebrush buttercups, always the 4th week of March. But then I had to wait till about now for anything more.

Should Fish More said...

What's the limit on Brookies on those upper tributaries of the Big Hole? I count 20 of them in your pic, and I know your a law-abiding sort, unlike my kin. I could do with a meal of fried trout about now, but the river is up, so I assume these tribs will be too...