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Springtime bloom after the Gunbarrel fire

The burn from last summer

The burn from last summer

It was interesting to see the burn area from last summer.  I wanted to see the new growth and what wildflowers I might find.  Burns are important to the west.  Many species of trees, shrubs and flowers will only sprout after a burn.  Some plant’s seeds can lie dormant for years waiting for the heat of a burn to open them up.

The Gunbarrel fire from last summer was hot and widespread.  It burned for months.  Here are some wildflowers that I saw yesterday growing out of the scree areas on the hillsides.  Native grasses were abundant.  Evidence of elk and deer was everywhere.  A grizz had recently walked through the unburnt area next to the river.

Many of the wildflowers, some not shown here, were in the pea family.  All members of the Pea family (Fabaceae) fix nitrogen in the soil.  These kinds of plants and shrubs, like Ceanothus which also fixes nitrogen and comes up after a burn, pave the way and amend the burned soil for successive plants.

I’m still learning my local wildflowers, but lucky for me I’ve found that I can recognize many plants by at least family or Genus based on experience with similar flowers.  I haven’t identified all species so feel free to chime in with correct I.D.

Phacelia sericea

Phacelia sericea

Pea family.  An astragalus

Pea family. An astragalus

Pea family-Lupine

Pea family-Lupinus argenteus

Penstemon eriantherus

Penstemon eriantherus with catepillar

Cryptantha  Borage family

Cryptantha Borage family



Mimulus guttatus

Mimulus guttatus

Fire and water.  The West IS fire.

Fire and water. The West IS fire.

7 Responses

  1. You are so right about fire. The “Only you can prevent forest fires” era, topped with your standard greed and corruption, mixed in with suburban wildland interface residential development creates a perfect recipe for disastrously damaging fires, so the only thing to do then is suppress them all? That’s too bad since it’s such a critical force in the balance of things. How is it being back from the city? Nice I bet. Thanks! Bonnie


  2. I think your u.i. is Franklin’s Phacelia though I couldn’t see the flowers well enough to be sure. Or maybe Elephant’s Head (or some other species of Pedicularis) though it would be way too early for it here.

    Where are those morels???


    • I vote for the Phacelia. I know Elephant’s head and it wasn’t that. I was thinking maybe some kind of Phacelia. I did get a good pix of some saucer cup shaped mushrooms but didn’t post it. Didn’t see any morels though. I might post those mushrooms in the next post so you can I.D. them for me.


  3. Blue pea flower, Oxytropis lagopus, easy key to tell astragalus from oxytorpis, astragalus has leaves along the flower bearing stem.

    The white borage is Myosotis miracantha, common forgetmenot

    I can’t see the last one well enough but it looks as though it maybe a beeflower, caper.


    • Thanks Sian, is it possible that that Myosotis had a name change? Can’t find it in my several books but do see that one as Cryptantha. It does have that wonderful forget-me-not look of the flowers.

      I wondered about that last one being in the Caper group. Its leaves were throwing me off, how short it is, etc. I’ve grown Cleome before. The book ‘Wildflowers of Wyoming’ by the States does not include this plant in that family or, in fact, no where in the book.

      Thanks for the tip on the Oxytropis. Worth knowing.


  4. No Myosotis is correct, the species may be out of date. You may find this site helpful: montana.plant-life.org I was just guessing on the flowers on the bee plant, the leaves aren’t right, need to see more of the flowers.


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