Don’t know wildflower names as well as you’d like? Self-tutorials are available at the Whitefish Library where local volunteers Mary and Gary Sloan have pressed more than 100 native flowers in a handsome, homemade herbarium. If you're not a professional botanist - or even if you are - this is a fun way to identify local flowers and learn a bit about their natural history.
For aficionados of wildflowers, the Crown of the Continent is one big bouquet of natural beauty in the late spring and summer months. For many people, it's pleasurable enough to look and smell. But putting a name to the flower is a passion for many explorers of the region's forests, prairie, and alpine meadows.
Be sure to check out the link to the Montana Native Plant Society for a listing of free wildflower strolls and hikes.
Our featured wildflower photo this month is the bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), Montana's state flower and a flaming pink beauty that thrives on windswept, rocky soils. In a public ballot organized in 1894 by the Montana Floral Emblem Society , Montanans were asked to vote for their favorite wildflower. Nearly 6,000 ballots were returned . After a vigorous public debate, nearly three dozen flowers were nominated. The bitterroot received 3,621 votes, followed by the evening primrose, at 787 votes, and the wild rose at 668. The 1895 Legislature adopted the bitterroot as Montana's State Flower on February 27, 1895.
Local volunteers Mary and Gary Sloan have pressed and described more than 100 native wildflower plants, which are displayed in an attractive, homemade wooden case. As lifelong Montana residents, these retired schoolteachers epitomize the well-versed amateur naturalists that have contributed so much to ecological understanding of the region. The Library also features a poster display of the "Native Plant of the Month."
The Sloans donated the collection when the new Library in downtown Whitefish was completed. Ever the adventuresome explorers, they regularly add new specimens to the herbarium.
Mary Sloan and the Native Plant Society have developed a schedule of wildflowers blooming for northwestern Montana, which you can download.