Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Early Cinquefoil: Prairie flower in the Bow Valley

Early Cinquefoil, in the Bow Valley Provincial Park.  © SB
At the top of a dry, sandy moraine in the Bow Valley, we saw bright yellow Early Cinquefoil in bloom.

These low, short-stemmed wildflowers are native to the dry, open prairie, and belong to the Rose family.

The species name, concinna, means "elegant and well-behaved," a reference to this small plant's neat appearance, Royer and Dickinson say in Plants of Alberta.

We looked for more along the trail, but only found a few Early Cinquefoil plants at the top of one sunny hill.

Early Cinquefoil, blooming in dry dirt and stones at the top of a moraine. © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Early Cinquefoil
Location: Moraine Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta.
Photo Date: April 13, 2016

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hooker's Townsendia - Low White Townsend Daisies

Hooker's Townsendia. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Hooker's Townsendia, in early bloom near Banff, Alberta. © SB

Hooker's Townsendia, a cushion of low white flowers on grey-furred leaves, grows on dry prairie grasslands and eroded slopes.

I was surprised to find a few blooming on a sun-drenched hillside in April in Banff National Park, near the helpfully illustrated sign, labelled "Townsend / Townsendie de Hooker."

The name of this native plant honours the 19th century American naturalist David Townsend, and his English contemporary, botanist William J. Hooker.

Although Royer and Dickenson's Plants of Alberta indicates July/August as this plant's flowering time, the Montana field guide shows sightings only in April/May. 

Hooker's Townsendia. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Hooker's Townsend Daisy  © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Townsendia (Hooker's Townsend Daisy / Townsendia hookeri)
Location: Near Banff, Alberta.
Photo Date: April 12, 2016

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Prairie Crocus: First Growth from Dry Grasses

Prairie Crocus. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Prairie Crocus. Wascana Trails, near Regina, SK  © SB
Prairie Crocuses are still blooming freely around Regina, Saskatchewan and even west into the foothills of Alberta, near Banff. Yesterday, I even heard of a spot near here with hundreds of huge clusters — so many that you'd have to walk carefully to avoid them! I would like to visit... 

I love these plants, whose buds push through the late winter ground before any of their leaves appear. Among the earliest blooming wildflowers on the Prairies, they are one of our first signs of spring, and striking for their soft, bright, blue-purplish-pink-white flowers. (Yes, all shades — it depends how open the flowers is, and the colour of the light around them.) 

Of course, Prairie Crocuses aren't really crocuses at all, but a kind of anemone. They are also called Pasque-flowers. But those are just details. What matters to me is the sight of these flowers bobbing in the wind on a cool, sunny day on the Prairies. Spring! 

Prairie Crocus. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
The first buds on this cluster have died off - or been by frost,
but every day, new ones will open. © SB
Prairie Crocus. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
I'm so amazed - each and every year - to see
fully formed flowers jutting out of the bare earth. © SB 
Prairie Crocus. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
A breeze, a Prairie Crocus. Or two.
In the Prairies - or in this case - at Banff! 

(And that startled us... We didn't realize they'd grow 
in dry alpine or montagne landscapes, too. Who knew?) © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Prairie Crocus  
Location: Top 2: Wascana Trails, near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; lower 2: Near Banff, Alberta.
Photo Date: Top 2: April 16, 2016; lower 2: April 12, 2016 


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Saturday, April 2, 2016

It's Prairie Crocus Time on the Prairies

The Prairie Crocuses have started to bloom — a definite sign that Spring is really and finally here! I expect within the next few days, as the weather continues to stay warm, there will be a lot more of these lovely purple and gold flowers appearing on our straw-brown Saskatchewan hillsides.

Prairie Crocus, © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
The first Prairie Crocuses of the year.
Qu'Appelle Valley, SK, Canada  © SB

We were also relieved not to see any insects in the dry grasses — especially not any wood ticks, which will soon be out in great force. (A recent local radio item said that they are already out, but as I didn't see any, I prefer not to believe that...) 


Prairie Wildflower: Prairie Crocus  
Location: Hidden Valley, near Craven, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: April 2, 2016 


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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Birdsfoot Trefoil in Regina's Wascana Park

Birdsfoot Trefoil  © SB
Yesterday, when we were walking in Regina's Wascana Park, I noticed bright yellow flowers growing beside the path.

A member of the pea family, Birdsfoot Trefoil is an introduced species that has adapted well to Prairie life.

This coarsely leaved, dense and colourful plant spreads in fields and roadsides — and parks.

Birdsfoot Trefoil - a low growing plant with very pretty bright yellow flowers.  © SB

Birdsfoot Trefoil along the path in Wascana Park,   
with dense leafiness and pinkish buds.  © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Birdsfoot Trefoil  
Location: Wascana Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: August 17, 2015. 


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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Scarlet Mallow in the Grasslands: Summer Orange

Scarlet Mallow is one of my favourite Prairie wildflowers. This low, distinctive, native plant has dusty leaves and lovely scarlet flowers. (And yes, I know, I have many favourites, but every time I see Scarlet Mallow, I know it's definitely among them!)

Lovely bright orange Scarlet Mallow flowers © SB

We saw these Scarlet Mallow plants near the edge of an amazing teepee ring and view across the valley in the South Gillespie part of the West Block of Grasslands National Park. 


Prairie Wildflower: Scarlet Mallow.
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: June 22, 2015.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fireweed beside a Saskatchewan slough

Fireweed flower © SB
Saskatchewan is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of Fireweed.

Instead, I'd imagine B.C., the Yukon, and Alaska, where I've seen this plant growing freely. 

But as Fireweed likes open areas and riverbanks, why wouldn't it like growing beside a Saskatchewan slough? 

And on the bank above the water the day I took these pictures, three plants were growing, full and healthy... 

Who knows? Next year, there may be none... or more. 

Fireweed flower  © SB

A graceful Fireweed plant, growing beside a Saskatchewan slough.  © SB


Prairie Wildflower: Fireweed.  
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 4, 2015.  

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Blue-eyed Grass: Tiny Summer Prairie Wildflower

You might have to look carefully to see Blue-eyed Grass at your feet. These tiny purplish flowers bloom well in the midst of taller grasses, and as the stalks of Blue-eyed Grass look like, well, grass, they will be well disguised.

Blue-eyed Grass, with seed pods. Usually upright, this stalk had fallen or been bent over.  © SB

Once I started looking last week, I found many Blue-eyed Grass flowers, and even more swaying stalks, with multiple seed pods.

Delightful, though too small for more than an instant of joy while searching moist or sandy Prairie areas. (The ones I found were along a train track and in a ditch.)


Prairie Wildflower: Blue-eyed Grass
Location: Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Dates: July 6, 2015. 


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Friday, July 24, 2015

Late Yellow Locoweed: Creamy white July flowers

Late Yellow Locoweed. © SB
The creamy flowered Late Yellow Locoweed comes by its name honestly:

  • It blooms much later than Early Yellow Locoweed; and 
  • Both Locoweed plants can apparently affect the nervous system, and thus the behaviour of animals who eat these plants. 

Late Yellow Locoweed blooms in Prairie grasslands, open woodlands and eroded slopes, with the whitish flower stalks rising straight and tall above the leaves.

I saw Late Yellow Locoweed this summer in a corner of a ditch where several other early summer wildflowers were blooming.

The very light colours of the petals were a challenge to capture — too much light, and they washed out; too little, and the detail vanished.

Stalks of Late Yellow Locoweed, with small creamy white flowers   © SB

A stand of Late Yellow Locoweed.   © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Late Yellow Locoweed.  
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 8 and 9, 2015.   

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Ascending Purple Milk-Vetch: Blue and Purple Flowers

Ascending Purple Milk Vetch flower cluster © SB
The dense purple and blue flower clusters of Ascending Purple Milk-Vetch remind me of clover.

And that's what I thought it might be the first time I saw it — though I've never seen clover the colour of this milk-vetch.

Ascending Purple Milk-Vetch flower stalks are usually erect, and, well, ascending...

Except when they're weak, and slump along the ground...

The flower clusters on Ascending Purple Milk-Vetch are up to two inches long, and when they're upright, rise well above the clearly vetch-like multiple leaflets.

Even from a distance, this is a very pretty Prairie wildflower, with petals shading through lilac, lavendar and white.

It's small enough, though, that long grass can overwhelm it. (Or hide the particularly lovely clusters from this photographer, who doesn't practice clear-cutting other vegetation for each shot.)

Flowers of Ascending Purple Milk-Vetch, with leaflets in background. © SB

Ascending Purple Milk-Vetch plants.  © SB 

Prairie Wildflower: Ascending Purple Milk-Vetch .  
Location: 1&2: Near Muenster, and 3: in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: 1&2: July 9, 2015, and 3: June 26, 2015.  

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