On a beautiful and steep northern hillside, here in the Wind River Canyon, where wildflowers bloom within sight of my kitchen window, a stream runs ice-cold and clear. Hopping over the spring-fed creek the other morning, I made my way slowly up the forty-five degree slope to a group of wildflowers blooming. By the time I finally made my way up the damp-hill, and sat down among the flowers, I was out-of-breath. Sitting there in the morning sunshine, huffing and puffing, the canyon opening up before me, I started to feel wonderful. There were a dozen different species of wildflowers blooming all around me----I wish I could somehow wedge these feelings of elation with Mother Nature into this week's Wind River Canyon Blog.
Our first new wildflower can be seen throughout Wyoming, and will continue flowering throughout the summer. They are a member of the sunflower family, and are quite photogenic; they are known by a number of names because of their widespread nature. These are the Yellow Salsify or more commonly known as the Goat's Beard. If you've been lucky enough to have hiked around the west, you've probably seen these flowers. Their seed pods resemble giant dandelions and are fun to "let fly" into the wind. They are not known as being edible, though the roots can be eaten; they are considered to be an invasive species.
Our next flower is also yellow, and is blooming right now in the Wind River Canyon. Native Americans and early-settlers found all parts of the plant to be edible, especially the large tap-roots. They bloom early in large clusters all over the mountainsides here in the canyon. The Arrowleaf Balamroot are large wildflowers that attract bugs of all kinds. They are easily mistaken for Mule's Ears, which have thinner petals and shiny leaves. The large leaves of the Arrowleaf Balsamroot are fuzzy and light gray-green. This example sports a bug that is zoned-out on pollen.
Let us now enter the world of the unknown wildflowers. I find and photograph a wildflower here in the canyon, and of course I don't know what it is. The three ebooks I've uploaded from Amazon are absolutely no help, yet they are about wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains! A search of epic proportions yields nothing, but I don't give up. For two weeks, I look at pictures of wildflowers and cannot find out what the hell this bloom is. This very morning at six I can not sleep; the pink flowers look like miniature orchids, the plant, however, does not. So I sleepily search again, and again.........today, I finally figured out what this unknown wildflower is called----a Red Dead-nettle.
Dead because the fuzzy-leaves do not sting like other nettles. The young leaves are edible and can be used in stirfry or salads as a spring vegetable. The tiny, pink flowers do look like orchids. But I must say that it doesn't really look all that appetizing, but they are pretty. The Red Dead-nettle is blooming at this very moment down by the Wind River here in the canyon. They seem to prefer a spot in the shadier areas near the river. Nothing else in the Wind River Canyon looks like these wildflowers!
I am very slowly becoming an expert on the wildflowers of the Wind River Canyon, but there are several that cannot be identified at this time. It drives me nuts that it's so difficult to find what the names are. The research I do is usually quite extensive, but I'm no botanist. It's the "art-of-the-wildflower" that interests me.
Next week I will blog about three more Wyoming Wildflowers from the Wind River Canyon, till then, "Keep looking down!"
*All photographs and writing by Michael John Balog/Hogbats Photography, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming----all rights reserved.