03 August 2017

What are the "Dr. Seuss Flowers" in the mountains?

Did you know Steelhead Trout are simply Rainbow Trout that choose to head into saltwater for 3ish years, thus growing bigger and living longer than their non-anadromous counterparts and becoming Steelhead? Yup! Steelhead Trout and Rainbow Trout are, in fact, one in the same. I love things that aren't quite what they seem.

That's why I find myself in love with the Western Pasqueflower. Last week my colleague and friend Suzanne shared photos from a recent hike and told me all about this shape-shifter. I've seen it for years and never knew the history of this dynamic plant. With this year's wildflower 'Super Bloom', it's an awesome time to go see this Dr. Seuss Truffula Tree in real life.

Here's what you need to know:

Sometimes called the white pasqueflower, this Dr. Seuss looking plant is a member of the buttercup family and starts its life as a short-stemmed flower. The flowers are usually white or soft purple, with a yellow buttercup center.

A White Pasqueflower. Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

These plants flower briefly in the mid-spring to mid-summer, usually right after the snow has fully melted, exposing the ground to sun. You can find these beauties in western North America, from British Columbia to California, from Washington to Montana. They thrive on gravelly slopes and in moist meadows. 

As the flowers grow, the petals (5-7 of them on average, if you are a counting person) fall off. The buttercup grows hair and the plant shoots up into a seedhead, eventually standing 1-2 feet tall. The hair continues to grow, giving these plants the Dr. Seuss we all love.

Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

You can see the entire lifecycle of the pasqueflower on this youtube video. And you can see it in person RIGHT NOW! Head to the mountains, specifically at an elevation where the snow has recently melted. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, head to Mt. Rainier or Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker to see these in person. Extra bonus points if you dress as a Lorax for your adventure.

Photo by Nikki Brown. She likes to call them "floofs".

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