Michael John Balog | Wyoming Wildflower Education

Wyoming Wildflower Education

June 04, 2016

     As the days heat up in the Wind River Canyon, wildflowers begin to bloom, and there is always something blooming till it gets quite cold around here.  One beautiful white grouping of wildflowers has always caught my lens.  I didn't know what they were, just that they were eye candy and challenging to "get right."  Of course, now I must research these wildflowers and just maybe pass along some knowledge gained from my journeys here in this Wyoming canyon. Wyoming Wildflowers, Foothill Death Camas, Wind River CanyonWyoming Wildflowers, Foothill Death Camas, Wind River CanyonFoothill Death Camas wildflower photographed in Wyoming.

     It's a big surprise that those lovely, white wildflowers are actually called Foothill Death Camas.  It took me several days to finalize the identification, and make sure of the I.D.  But, Foothill Death Camas?  This can't be a good thing, and it isn't.  All parts of this lovely, white wildflower are poison, even the dark colored bulbs are poison.  Wildlife avoids these flowers, as do livestock, because they taste bad!  They may be pretty, but they're a deadly addition to the wildflower catalog of the Wind River Canyon.  

     As you can see, they are a group of white flowers with yellow stamens that are quite prominent; the stems always being light-green.  They usually stand above most other wildflowers in the area, and there is nothing else that resembles them in the way they grow; a tall/dome-shaped growth pattern.  The real lesson here being, "Don't just pick up a weed to chew on!"

     Our next Wyoming wildflower is one of my personal favorites, and a flower that is truly a western dazzler.  They are widespread in the west, but were unknown till Lewis and Clark cataloged them in 1806 in Montana.  They are tall, blue and gorgeous (like aliens from that movie) and should not be missed.  These are the Silvery Lupine wildflowers.  Silvery Lupine blooms are a foot tall and catch the early sunlight in a magical way.  There's not much more to say about these pretty wildflowers, but, don't confuse them with the tall, purple things; these are blue with a touch of red----here, in the Wind River Canyon. Wyoming Wildflower, Silvery Lupine, Wind River CanyonWyoming Wildflower, Silvery Lupine, Wind River CanyonWyoming Wildflower Silvery Lupine photographed in the Wind River Canyon.

     The Chokecherry is a food for many wild birds and furry animals in the Wind River Canyon, but they were also a food staple for many Native-American Indians.  When these pretty, white flowers turn to red berries, they look great, but taste awful.  When the berries turn very dark, then, they are ready to pick....if you can beat the birds!  The Chokecherry is a large bush with the flowers forming a "short hotdog shape."  They grow best in shadier areas with access to water, like we all do, I guess....

     Here is a surprising fact that came up in my research on the Chokecherry----when the green leaves dry they release cyanide! you read that right----cyanide!!!  Ten to twenty pounds of the dried leaves can kill a horse; I can only imagine how this information came about.  So, the next time you're out picking Chokecherries, tie up your pony someplace farther away.  The photograph below was taken in my own Wind River Canyon yard, down by the creek. Chokecherry, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.Chokecherry, Wind River CanyonChokecherry Wyoming Wildflowers photographed in the Wind River Canyon.      Every time I finally make an identification of a wildflower that is giving me oodles of trouble, I photograph three more that are not in my three ebooks!  The Foothill Death Camas took me a week till I was absolutely sure; I mean, it is poisonous, I had to be sure.  Other wildflowers are known to just about everyone, some growing in the Wind River Canyon have never been imaged before:  A few shouldn't even be here at all.  I have three right now that are driving be nuts, because there is no photo or description anywhere, but eventually technology will triumph----or I'll upload another book.

     At the moment, we have hummingbirds and orioles on our nectar feeders; they are nesting here in the Wind River Canyon.  It's fun to sit with coffee in the morning as the Sun breaks the eastern rim of the canyon, a Black-chinned Hummingbird coming in for breakfast.  Our Bullock's Orioles just love my homemade sugar-mix (one-part real sugar/four parts water), it seems to make the orange of the male and, the yellow of the female, even brighter; it sure makes them crazy.

     Thank you for reading this week's Wind River Canyon Blog, I hope we all learned something this week.  Till next Saturday's blog...."Keep your camera ready!"

*All images and real-life stories by Michael John Balog/Hogbats Photography, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.  All rights reserved.

*Visit www.HogbatsPhotography.com for award-winning hummingbird images and much, much more of Wyoming's wildlife and wildflowers. 


MjB Black-chinned Hummingbird, Portrait, Wind River Canyon, WyomingBlack-chinned Hummingbird, Portrait, Wind River Canyon, WyomingBlack-chinned Hummingbird Portrait imaged in Wyoming.