Botanicals | Plains Phlox

This diminutive plains phlox, phlox andicola, demonstrates with a vengeance that apparent delicateness does not exclude hardiness or determination or tenacity. While agate hunting with a friend down near Fairburn, I found clusters of these flowers scattered all over the agate beds, alongside pincushion cacti and not much else. A close relative of the plain’s phlox is Hood’s phlox, phlox hoodii, another tiny flower that looks like it shouldn’t be able to withstand the harsh climate of western South Dakota.
IMG_7094eAgain and again, wildflowers defy human logic and reason. I love it.

Botanicals | White Beardtongue

White beardtongue is a penstemon, penstemon albidus, a member of the figwort family. These little beauties were blooming all over the family property for the last couple of weeks! I found this one on a short hike down to Battle Creek. Pretty little thing!
IMG_7150eOnce again, the variety of our wildflowers amazes me.

Botanicals | Yellow Wood Violet

Every time I find a flower that I don’t see every day, it constitutes a “favorite find.” And as I mentioned regarding Nuttall’s Violet, I’ve always had a soft spot in my botanical heart for the violet family. This little beauty is one I’ve only seen one other time in the Black Hills, and that was down near Little Falls. It definitely loves moisture, and this one I found near Battle Creek recently.
IMG_6482eSome violets can be difficult to distinguish, but the yellow wood violet is unmistakable in the Hills, with a growth habit and structure distinctly different from all the other violets, except the Canada violet, which is white. As I said, unmistakable.

 

Botanicals | Blue Columbine

This must be one of my favorite finds to date. We have wild columbine, or red columbine, in abundance all over the Hills, but blue columbine, aquilegia brevistyla, is one I’ve never had the delight of finding. We hiked Hell Canyon this afternoon (one of my favorite hikes to date), and this little gem was growing prolifically in the canyon itself. My wonderful, handy field guide, Plants of the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains, states, “Blue columbine….is much less common than [wild columbine, aquilegia canadensis] and is never abundant where it is found.” Well. Today it was abundant.
IMG_7028eI had never seen one before and sort of figured I was unlikely to ever see one, but I can now put a check mark next to its entry in my field guide, and revel in the pleasure of a rare find.

Botanicals | Nuttall’s Violet

For years, this little flower has been one of my favorites. Nuttall’s violets are diminutive, as far as violets go, and are the only species with lance-shaped leaves – thus, they are impossible to misidentify. IMG_6150eViolets have always intrigued me, and I can probably credit the violet family for first getting me interested in wildflowers. Their little faces are so shy and cheerful, and each species is so unique. I remember the first time I found a Nuttall’s violet, up behind my grandparents’ house, and I came back to their house and looked it up in a decades-old fieldguide of South Dakota wildflowers. I’ve since rejected this book in favor of a much more complete Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains fieldguide, which is a fantastic book I highly recommend for anyone looking to grow their knowledge of regional plants! Anyway, this first find was probably 15 years ago, and I have only managed to find any a few times since. Just a few each summer. But this year I have seen more Nuttall’s violets than ever before – they are having a wonderful year!

 

God’s Garden

Wildflower hunting was one of the stated intentions of this hike. Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed by the number of little gems that we saw and had never expected to see this many. It seemed as if my whole field guide was spread out and blooming. Flowers I’d never seen before, except in my field guide, were in full bloom, and others that I did know grew in quantities I’d never seen! It was truly stunning. There was absolutely no shortage of wildflowers in the burn area of the Legion Lake Fire. Rather, they were particularly abundant and spectacular. Prickly pear and barrel cacti were also quite abundant, which was some cause for concern: I’ve been accused of “crawling around on the ground” to take pictures of wildflowers. But one encounter with spines today was enough to make me much more cautious, so after that I was careful to look before kneeling down.

IMG_6433eWhite crazyweed – Oxytropis sericea

IMG_6415eTufted milkvetch – Astragalus spatulatus

IMG_6394eDesert biscuitroot – Lomatium foeniculaceum

IMG_6384eNarrowleaf gromwell – Lithospermum incisum

IMG_6380eMeadow deathcamas – Zigadenum venenosus

IMG_6377eMissouri pincushion – Coryphantha missouriensis

IMG_6354eLow larkspur – Delphinium bicolor

IMG_6323eDarkthroat shootingstar – Dodecatheon pulchellum

IMG_6315eHood’s phlox – Phlox hoodii

IMG_6314eDowny paintbrush – Castilleja sessiliflora

IMG_6304ePrairie smoke – Geum triflorum

IMG_6299eSmall-leaf pussytoes – Antennaria parvifolia

IMG_6293eeMountain blue-eyed grass – Sisyrinchium montanum

IMG_6283eWestern wallflower – Erysimum asperum

IMG_6278eNuttall’s violet – Viola nuttallii

Other flowers not shown here were the star lily, leafy phlox, prairie golden pea, various milkvetches and legumes, including the groundplum milkvetch (a favorite of mine, with an edible bean), yellow salsify, and a number of others. A beautiful afternoon to stroll in God’s Garden.