Monday, May 12, 2008
There's a particularly good bloom of arrowleaf balsamroot this spring, at least in areas of southern Idaho where the snow has melted. These beautiful yellow wildflowers--members of the sunflower family, are common on dry hillsides throughout the Rocky Mountain West. There are so many flowers this year that many hillsides shimmer with a golden hue from a distance: It only took me a few minutes this weekend to walk into patches of thousands of flowers blowing in the breeze. All the photos here are from that short trip (you can click on them to see larger versions).
Lewis and Clark described the arrowleaf balsamroot on their expedition, calling them "sunflowers." Native Americans ate every part of the plant, which is quite nutritious. However, much of the plant apparently tastes bitter. The plant was also used as an anesthetic on wounds as well as other medical uses. Xeriscaping and native plant enthusiasts love it, but it is a challenge to raise: it takes seven years to flower.
Of course, arrowleaf balsamroot is just one of the many wildflowers that can be found throughout the foothills, sagebrush country and Rocky Mountains. On my walk, many lupines (below) were mixed in with the balsamroot, as well as many other beautiful flowers.
But the balsamroot steals the show. If you'd like to learn more about wildflowers, Silver Creek Preserve offers free wildflower walks at 9:30 a.m. May 14, 15, 17 and 24. Call 208-788-7910 to reserve a spot. The Idaho Native Plant Society offers plant walks in the Boise Foothills throughout May; the next one meets at the Boise Foothills Learning Center on the 15th at 6:30 pm. --Matt Miller