My family and I have just returned from a road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. It was a fabulous vacation – nearly two weeks away from the stressors of life (work and school) and distractions (social media). As WiFi is not available in most areas of the park, we were able to decompress and really connect with one another.
One of the things I had hoped to see were the wildflowers. By September however, most blooms have begun to decline. As each day passes, the wildflower meadows begin to disappear. Yet, I was pleased to see several species that were still attracting pollinators as autumns colors begin to change.
The Prairie Ecosystem
The prairie is an ecosystem located in the Great Plains of North America. It includes the lands between the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains and extends east as far as Nebraska and north into Saskatchewan. The region is flat and rolling with mesas and stream valleys.
Elk, bison, and pronghorn antelope forage in the open expanses of the prairie, while wolves hunt nearby. Backwaters and springs create wetlands that provide cranes, waterfowl, and other birds with nesting habitat. Nearby woodlands provide refuge for black bears and cougar.
Within the boundaries of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks, the valleys are abundant with wildflowers. Cascade Lake Trail, in Yellowstone, is a meandering walk through meadows and along streams, offering a wide variety of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer.
The Yellowstone is a wild-flower garden. Wander where you will, you have the ever-new charm, the finishing touch, the ever-refreshing radiance of the wild flowers.” ~ Enos Mills, Your National Parks, 1917
The wildflowers of Grand Teton National Park usually bloom May through September. While valley flowers (Skyrocket gilia, larkspur, and indian paintbrush) blossom in the valley as temperatures rise, they begin to fade by late July. Yet, wildflowers blooms are just opening at the higher elevations so we thereby hiked up Cascade Canyon Trail in hopes of finding wildflowers as well as the elusive Pika.
As we hiked, I carried along the pamphlet Wildflowers of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It is a great reference tool that includes 3 major National Parks (Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier), plus a host of mountain ranges – from the Wasatch and Uintas of Northern Utah to the Canadian border. The twelve page guide features almost 100 species that are found from the valleys up to almost 14,000 feet. Color photographs are supplemented with text describing key features such as size, habitat, and blooming period.
Nature Journaling & Photography
As we explored many of the little niches of the parks, we each took to documenting our discoveries with the mediums we have come to enjoy most. My daughter and I use a traditional sketchbook with watercolors and colored pencils. The boys, on the other hand, prefer a camera with different lenses suited to shooting different subjects.
Prairie habitat is unfortunately declining in many areas. There are many agencies and organizations trying to protect and restore native prairies across the country. Attempts to conserve prairie communities before they are lost are underway and prairies are even being reconstructed on abandoned land.
Become an informed citizen. Learn all that you can about short and tall grass prairies. Plant native wildflowers and grasses to encourage prairie dependent wildlife to use the area. Even small gardens of native plants serve as a reminder of the lovely, lively prairie that once existed throughout America.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
- Wildflowers of Yellowstone National Park
- Flowering Plant Reproduction at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – A 5E lesson plan from the National Park service (PDF) which includes handouts for a field trip and pollen count activity
Welcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.
See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in September
The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.
Here are the co-hosts, their choices of books, and activities for the month:
Prairie Habitat Clipart and Coloring Pages based on America’s Prairies and Grasslands from Barbara at Handbook of Nature Study
Notebooking Pages based on The Prairie That Nature Built from Jenny at Faith and Good Works
Nature Journaling based on Wildflowers of Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks: A Guide to Common & Notable Species from Eva at Eva Varga
Online Nature Book Course based on The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush from Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate
Flower Suncatchers for Toddlers and Preschoolers based on Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America from Erika at The Playful Scholar
Flower Printable Pack based on Prairie Flowers: Learning Activities and Lessons to Inspire Creativity! from Sharla of Minnesota Country Girl
Flower Paintbrushes based on The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush from Cassidy at Freshly Planted
Sunflower Decoupage Vase based on The Sunflower House from Katrina at Rule This Roost
Prairie Wildflower Identification Hike from Thaleia at Something 2 Offer
Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
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