I’m living with wildflowers! I was quite surprised to find so many varieties growing on our property. At first I thought it was just a grassy field. Acres and acres of waving grass blowing in the constant wind. But as I walked across the land I began to see. Nestled among the grasses, growing low to the land, occasionally shining brightly amidst a sea of green, the flowers were growing and thriving as part of a meadow community. It’s so interesting that I often don’t see until I actually look. Slowing down and looking can be challenging. At first my eyes were drawn to the horizon, admiring mountains and clouds and verdant valleys. But naturally I wanted to discover what was growing on our land and after an intentional plant walk I collected a beautiful bouquet. I wasn’t expecting to find so many flowers and was thrilled to become acquainted. Here are the plants I found on my first foray in the meadows of Swan Valley, Idaho.

Yellow Salsify
  • Achillea millefolium, Yarrow. This plant is so tough! It grows in such dry conditions and produces a lovely flower along with many medicinal uses. I was thrilled to find it because I actually brought Achillea ‘Summer Pastels’ with me that we had grown in the greenhouse last year. Some of my other experimental plants have been struggling, but Achillea has been a champ. Growing and thriving with little water and lots of sun. I will definitely keep this one on the property!
  • Erigeron speciosus, Aspen Daisy, Showy Daisy, Showy Fleabane. A beautiful pop of purple in the meadow. I wonder if I can propagate these lovely little flowers? I would rather grow what thrives here in Idaho than struggle to keep something alive that doesn’t belong.
  • Taraxacum officinale, Dandelion. So beautiful, so bright and useful too. I’ve always loved this little lion.
  • Tragopogon dubius, Yellow Salsify, Yellow Goatsbeard. This one looks dangerous to me. Those pointed floral bracts seem to be a warning…’don’t eat me!” They reproduce by seed which is very similar to the Dandelion. It would be easy to collect.
  • Thlaspi arvense, Pennycress. This one is referred to as a ‘common weed’ growing in disturbed areas. It’s a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae. The flowers are followed by large flattened oval seedpods which is what I first noticed. Reminds me of weedy euphorbia.
  • Campanula rotundifolia, Harebell. Flowering purple bells in our field, hurray! I am excited to find this little beauty growing here. Sources say it is easily cultured and flowers are long lasting, good news!
  • Vicia americana, American Vetch. A little purple pea plant. Cute and low growing in the sunny field, I look forward to watching it grow.
  • Linum lewisii, Blue Flax, Prairie Flax, Lewis’s Flax. When I first saw this stunning plant it was just after a soaking rain and the flowers were lush and almost glowing. Now, weeks later, after endless days of sun and wind, the flowers are small and withered, darker than before. And they no longer glow, but rather seem dusty. Regardless, the deep blue color is rare and wonderful. To me it’s reminiscent of the Himalayan Blue Poppy or that evanescent color in a rainbow between blue and purple. I’ve already collected the seeds and can’t wait to experiment with propagation.

This isn’t detailed information about these plants, but rather my first impressions. I hope to learn more about them as I watch them grow in our field and learn about their cultivation. I found most of my information in this excellent book:

Tilt, W. (2015). Flora of the Yellowstone: A guide to the wildflowers, shrubs & trees, ferns, and grass-like plants of the greater Yellowstone region of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Published by Gallatin Valley Land Trust.

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