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Pinedale Online > News > June 2004 > Wildflowers of the Sagebrush Steppe

Larkspur. Photo by Pinedale Online.
This larkspur was growing near the Highland Irrigation Ditch. Larkspur are beautiful, but poisonous to livestock.
Wildflowers of the Sagebrush Steppe
by Sue Sommers
June 3, 2004

Generous late spring rains have made the Pinedale area’s sagebrush hills explode with the hardy blooms that are typical of our arid high plains. This year, with a little more moisture than we’ve seen for a while, the desert seems especially lush.

Yet, without knowing where to look, a person could miss these beautiful flowers, many of which are small and ground-hugging. The following photos were taken near Pinedale, either along the public bike path, or on several areas of the Mesa. Flowers were located along roads, on ridgetops, and slightly off the beaten path in mineral soils among sage and rabbitbrush.

Some of the flora pictured below are already on the wane; others will continue to bloom for weeks. Other wildflowers will be appearing in the next month or so. We’ll try to include new photos as they become available!

Flower identifications have been made using the book “Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary” by Ronald J. Taylor, 1992, Mountain Press Publishing Company.

Related Links
  • More Desert Wildlflower photos - Editor's Note: This photo gallery story link was added after this story was published

  • Desert Paintbrush. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Desert Paintbrush
    Perhaps the best known wildflower in Wyoming is the state flower, Indian Paintbrush. This is the desert variety, providing a splash of color among the rocks and sagebrush.

    Sand Penstemon. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Sand Penstemon
    The large family of penstemons includes many beautiful mountain varieties, but the roadsides & sand dunes of the high desert claim this one.

    Bladderpod. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Bladderpods favor gravelly slopes and plains. Fruit matures into a round or two-lobed pod.

    Bluebell. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Bluebells are common where spring moisture is abundant. They are seen frequently under sagebrush canopies and other sheltered areas.

    Long Leaf Phlox. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Long Leaf Phlox
    Often intertwined with sagebrush and other plants, long-leaf phlox is among the toughest and prettiest flowers on the sagebrush steppe.

    Old Man's Beard. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Old Man's Beard
    Old man's beard is a member of the rose family. The flowers give way to fruits that resemble a tuft of long, feathery hairs. The roots of this plant have an interesting sassafras-like taste and can be boiled for tea.

    Oval Leaf Desert Buckwheat. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Oval Leaf Desert Buckwheat
    The desert buckwheat family dominates the sagebrush landscape, ranking right behind sagebrush and grass. There are many species, all adapted to drought, each favoring a particular soil type. Desert buckwheat is an important source of nectar for bees, and also provides seeds for birds and rodents.

    Thyme Desert Buckwheat. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Thyme Desert Buckwheat
    This member of the desert buckwheat family forms as a cushion plant and likes basaltic soils, or lithosols.

    Mat Milkvetch. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Mat Milkvetch
    Milkvetches are extremely drought tolerant. This cushion plant mingles with phlox, asters and other cushion plants.

    Goldenweed. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Goldenweed thrives in the driest rocky and gravelly soils of the sagebrush steppe.

    Puccoon. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    The name "puccoon" may be more interesting than the plant's appearance, but this was an important plant to the Plains Indians, who used the roots for respiratory ailments and as food. It tolerates a wide variety of well-drained soil types.

    Desert Evening Primrose. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Desert Evening Primrose
    Find these showy, up to 4-inch-wide flowers along sandy banks and roadsides. Blooms begin white then turn pink with age. Always a wonderful surprise on evening or early morning walks.
    Pinedale Online > News > June 2004 > Wildflowers of the Sagebrush Steppe

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