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Wasatch wildflower update: Early blooms emerging in low places

First Published      Last Updated Jun 14 2017 11:06 am

On of my favorite traditions of spring and summer is to chase the wildflower blooms uphill. I love following the flora of the Wasatch and learning how it interacts with slope, aspect and elevation to create different displays at different times. Trying to identify the plants makes hiking like a scavenger hunt for me.

This year I'm going to share my little finds in a hiking log here. I'm not looking for anything rare — just whatever is in bloom. It may give you ideas of places to hike and take your camera to capture the brightest ornaments of our mountains.




Entry 1: March 21

Hike: Bonneville Shoreline Trail from Terrace Hill Drive to the old cars above City Creek.

(Warning: In my return from the old cars, I noticed a sign indicating the footpath I had just walked up was closed for revegetation. I have reached out to Salt Lake City to learn whether the cars also are off-limits, and I am awaiting a reply. I will report here what I find out. In the meantime, please stay on the main trail and bypass the footpath to the cars.)

The foothills are getting green, and the foliage that will produce coming displays of penstemons, buckwheats and lupines is perking up.

Today my daughter and I found several Glacier Lilies nodding in a westward drainage we crossed 0.7 mile into the hike (elevation 5,322 feet). Glacier Lilies are among my favorites. The little yellow flowers arch so delicately and humbly — even though they bloom when it's too cold for almost all of the other wildflowers, sometimes popping up in steep, tough ground next to snow. If I ever get a tattoo, it will be a Glacier Lily. Well, that or maybe a Skeletonweed Buckwheat, which also is amazingly plucky, but in a totally different way, and probably would make a better tattoo.

I really like wildflowers.

Anyway, you will be able to chase Glacier Lilies higher and higher as snow melts in the coming months.

In the same oak grove, lots of yellow buds were forming on the Oregon Grape; one already was in bloom.

We also found one Utah Ladyfinger Milkvetch in bloom on a southwest-facing slope about a quarter mile into the hike (elevation 5,420 feet). Many others were there but not yet blooming.

One unhappy find was in the revegetating area. The southwest slopes in the drainage with the old cars are carpeted with invasive Myrtle Spurge. This is a rubbery-looking plant with yellow flowers and caustic white sap. It is a menace. Do not admire it.

The pickins are slim but special, giving the foothills above the Avenues an electric sense of new life and the changing of seasons.

A map with photos and flower sightings labeled is available on Google Maps.

A version of this hike appeared as a Hike of the Week in The Tribune.

— Erin Alberty

 

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