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Back 40: Getting to know Big Sky’s wildflowers

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By Lauren Rieschel EBS Contributor

Montana is known for its beautiful scenery, and few things exemplify that more than the wildflowers that dot the hillsides and line the trails during the summer. Below are some facts and details about some of the more common flowers that can be found around Big Sky.


Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argenteus)
Family: Pea family
Season: May – August
Trivia: With its bold, spiked lavender-blue flowers, silvery lupine is an iconic wildflower in the West. There are at least 10 different species of lupine in Montana. The plants, and particularly the seeds, can be toxic if ingested.




Glacier Lily (Erythonium grandiflorium)
Family: Lily Family
Season: Early season
Trivia: The glacier lily is commonly found in moist and/or shady habitats at all elevations. Its flower and seedpod are edible and favored by bears. It is known by several common names, including yellow avalanche lily, glacier lily, and dogtooth fawn lily.





Wild Rose/Woods’ Rose (Rosa woodsii)
Family: Rose family
Season: June – August
Trivia: The dry rose hips left on the plant after flowering provide an important vitamin-rich food source for animals during the cold winter months. Rose hips are also used by humans in a variety of teas to help prevent colds or influenza.


Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja)
Family: Figwort family
Season: May – September
Trivia: There are perhaps 9 species of paintbrush in Montana and the fiery blooms range from pale yellow to scarlet red to deep fuchsia pink. The Indian paintbrush flowers are edible, and the long white corolla tube can be pulled out to eat the sweet nectar at the bottom.



Mountain Harebell/Bluebell (Campanula rotundifolia)
Family: Bellflower family
Season: June – September
Trivia: Traditionally linked to fairies and magic, the mountain harebell’s name originates from English and Scottish folklore that said that witches squeezed the juice from the flowers and used it to turn themselves into hares.


A version of this article was first published in the July 26, 2013, edition of EBS.

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