Prairie Wildflowers of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks

Prairie Wildflowers of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks

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.photo collage of wildflowers and pollinators with text overlay

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.

image of a yellow daisy wildflowerPrairie Wildflowers 

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.

teen girl nature journaling in a prairie with text overly wildflowers of Yellowstone and Grand TetonsGet Involved

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:

simple graphic image of green grass on white background with text Nature Book ClubWelcome 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

Party Rules

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!
You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it.

Let’s party!


Oregon Nature Quiz #4: Wildflowers Edition

What could be more beguiling — or more intrinsically American — than trails lined with wildflowers … trillium, foxgloves stretching to touch the sun, and tiger lily carpeting the woodland floor in early spring? The season for wildflowers is gloriously long in Oregon, typically starting in late March at lower elevations, lasting through to late July and into August in the higher reaches of the Cascade Mountains.

Oregon Nature Quiz #4: Wildflowers Edition

Our Venturing Crew recently completed our first 3-day backpacking outing on the North Umpqua Trail. Along the hike, we observed a variety of native wildflowers – some we were familiar with and others had us stumped until we returned home and were able to pull out our wildflower identification books.

Pictured below are five Oregon wildflowers that we observed. Can you identify each?

wild purple orchid

wetland flower with large single yellow petal and large green leaves

Hiking in spring and early summer is a treasure hunt of color as wildflowers bloom in the meadows and mountains of Oregon. Look for blossoms on these trails and others around the state.

flower with three green leaves and three white petals

blue flowers with five petals and stamens in distinct ring at centerpink flowers with five clustered petals one with dark pink streaks

Answers:

1. Deer Orchid (Calypso bulbosa) Also known as Calypso Fairyslipper or Hider-of-the-North

One of the most elusive flowers we observed was the Deer Orchid. This beautiful little native orchid is my favorite. Though the orchid is widespread in the western temperate forests of Oregon, it is rather illusive and often hard to find.

It is highly susceptible to even slight disturbances in its environment. Trampling and picking are the primary reasons for its rapid decline in some locations. Picking the flower inevitably kills the plant, because the delicate roots break at even the lightest pull on the stem.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has listed it as a species vulnerable to extinction on a global scale. Transplanting or cultivating the plant is rarely successful because of its need for specific soil fungi that are not usually present on transplant sites or in controlled environments.

2. Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) – Sometimes referred to as Swamp Lantern

This distinctive plant is found in swamps and wetlands, along streams and in other wet areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it is one of the few native species in the arum family. It emits a “skunky” odor that when it blooms.

Surprisingly, the stench is quite beneficial to the plant’s survival. It discourages animals from nipping at its leaves and disturbing the soft, muddy wetland habitat it prefers. The smell (most often described as rotting flesh) also attracts bees and flies that act as its pollinators by moving pollen from males to the waiting stigmata of females.

3. Trillium (Trillium albidum) – Also called Giant Wake Robin or White Toad Shade

The three leaves and three-petal flowers of Trillium are so distinctive, even children can tell them from other plants. This is a blessing as well as a curse because it seems few can refrain from picking the flowers which retards their bloom because it prevents the corm (storage area within the stem) from receiving the nutrients they require for next year’s bloom.

Trillium flowers are stalkless, being borne directly on the ruff of leaves that extend under them. There is no pedicel between the base of the leaves and the base of the flower and it is hence a sessile species.

Test your skill with previous editions of the Oregon Nature Quiz here: Winter Wonderland Edition, Boy Scout Rank Wildlife Edition, and the First Summer Edition.

4. Forget Me Not (Myosotis sp.)

There are both native and non-native species in the Pacific Northwest. Those that are non-native most likely escaped from gardens and found suitable habitat. Unfortunately, I do not know the specific species of the one pictured here.

The genus name, Myosotis, means mouse ear, which eludes to the size and shape of the petal.  Perennial M. scorpiodes generally remains under a foot high but reaches 2 feet or more across, spreading by creeping roots. The blue springtime flowers typically have a yellow eye, though white-and pink-eyed forms exist.

5. Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)

In springtime large clumps of pink and purple flowers begin showing off in yards and woodlands throughout the Pacific Northwest.With a native habitat ranging from 19,000′ alpine meadows in Nepal to tropical regions in Northern Australia and the wind-swept coast of Scotland, the rhododendron exhibits a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.

Rhododendron thrives in disturbed habitats such as roadside embankments and recently deforested wild lands. They can also live up in the mountains. Oregon’s mix of moisture, mild weather, and acidic soil, make it a Rhododendron paradise.

Wildflowers in the PNW

This is an excellent field guide featuring more than 1240 stunning color photographs. It describes and illustrates thousands of commonly encountered species, both native and nonnative, including perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Written by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, is a must for your nature center.

Encompassing the Pacific Northwest from southern British Columbia to northern California, from the coast to the mountains and high desert, this handy book is perfect for hikers, naturalists, native plant enthusiasts, and anyone wishing to learn about the amazingly diverse wildflowers of the region. Organized by flower color and shape, and including a range map for each flower described, it is as user-friendly as it is informative.

Journaling Reflections

Years ago when we first started homeschooling, nature study was a major part of our science curriculum. Our weekly nature walks prompted a wealth of questions from the kids with which I incorporated short, mindful lessons that I sprinkled throughout the following week.

Often, we would use Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenges as a focal point to get us started. Here’s a post I wrote following our wildflower hike in the summer of 2010. What a joy to reflect back on their early nature studies and journaling experiences.

simple graphic image of tree with text The Nature Book Club

Welcome to the 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 and for a giveaway!

See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in May:

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.

Miss Rumphius Mixed Media Art from Emily at Table Life Blog

Wildflower Walk and Pressing Flowers from Barbara at Handbook of Nature Study

Wildflowers Nature Study from Jenny at Faith and Good Works

Oregon Nature Study Quiz: Wildflower Edition from Eva at Eva Varga

Wildflower Fairy Poetry & Art Activity from Melanie at Wind in a Letterbox

Flower Fairy Peg Dolls from Cassidy at Freshly Planted

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms Online Book Club from Dachelle at Hide the Chocolate

Wildflowers Unit Study & Lapbook from Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus

Fingerprint Painting on Canvas Activity from Katrina at Rule This Roost

DIY Flower Press from Thaleia at Something 2 Offer

Dandelion Life Cycle Learning Activities from Karyn at Teach Beside Me

image of a stack of books in the grass with text overlay listing monthly themeParty Rules

  • 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!
  • You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
  • By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it!
  • Let’s party.


Wildflowers :: Summer Nature Study

Over the past couple of years, we have been loosely following the Outdoor Hour Challenges from The Handbook of Nature Study for our weekly nature studies. Though science – particularly ecology and life sciences – is my strong suit, I haven’t been very consistent.  When life gets hectic – nature study is typically the first thing omitted from our schedule.

As I tend to be more consistent when I am accountable to others and as there was a need in our homeschool community – I started hosting a weekly nature study outing using Barb’s Summer Nature Study: Using Senses eBook & the Outdoor Hour Challenges as guidance.  I had been doing this with our Roots & Shoots club on a monthly basis yet I hadn’t been consistent with nature studies independently each week.  Inviting others to join us on our outing assures that I don’t let life get in the way.

This week (our second week) the focus was on Wildflowers.  We spent the first 10-15 minutes undertaking a “Wonderful Wildflowers Scavenger Hunt” from NaturExplorers publication, Wonderful Wildflowers. This proved to be a great way to focus the group on the days topic and to engage learners of all ages and abilities.  We were able to find everything on the list except one (a flower growing among rocks).

After the scavenger hunt, we gathered around the picnic table and spent time sketching a flower of choice.  A few of the boys (my own included) opted to sketch a leaf or tree rather than a flower.  The above sketch is from Mei Li’s journal … her yet unfinished Columbine.   

Sketching their observations provides children with the opportunity to slow down and really “see” the specimen. It not only hones their observation skills but also unlocks creativity and provides a window into the past. I can’t wait to look back at these early journals when they enter college.

Best of all, the data collection process is backbone of quality science. It also reinforces important record-keeping skills such as reading, writing, and drawing.