Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Snow Lilies for Mothers' Day

Glacier Lilies (c) John Ashley
Glacier Lilies blooming this week in Glacier National Park

"Near our encampment we saw great numbers of the Yellow lilly with reflected petals in blume; this plant was just as foward here at this time as it was in the plains on the 10th of May."
                                 - Captian William Clark 

A modest 207 years ago today, Captian Clark collected his first specimin of a native plant with a handsome yellow flower that was previously unknown to American and European botanists, though the plant was a well-known food and medicine for a number of northwestern Native American tribes. Clark wrote about these lilies in his journal entry from June 27, 1806. The species he collected has since been called Dogtooth Violet, Snow Lily and Fawn Lily, but it currently goes by the moniker of "Glacier Lily" (Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh).

Trillium ovatum (c) John Ashley
Trillium in bloom
The Expedition was travelling through the mountains of Idaho, and they frequently commented about how much snow remained "undissolved" in May and June. Captian Clark took note that the Glacier Lilies growing at high elevations were almost two months behind their counterparts growing lower down on the plains. And that is still happening in the springtime mountains of northwestern Montana.

In localized patches in and around the melting mountain snowfields, Glacier Lilies and the slow-growing but long-lived Trillium (Trillium ovatum) are putting on a modest show of persistence, just in time for Mother's Day. Need another reason to get outside this weekend?