Signs of spring in Montana are all around us, and each year I love checking them off the list. First come the robins, then the smell of a skunk, and finally the first buttercup sighting. Each spring and summer Montana produces a host of wildflowers native to our state and surrounding region; spotting a buttercup is a sure sign of spring.
Buttercups are usually the first wildflowers to bloom around Montana. I found the one above in the O’Brien creek drainage west of Missoula. Blue Mountain hiking trails in the same area are a great place to spot wildflowers.
I was able to get out for a hike in the north hills of Missoula, another popular place for spring blooms. I spotted shooting stars and yellow bells pictured above. The large arrow shaped leaves of the arrowleaf balsamroot were abundant and should be producing bright yellow flowers in the next week or two. You can see the early stages of bloom pictured below.
Also soon to be blooming in the next few weeks will be our state flower the Bitterroot, and I spotted a few larkspur flowers here and there. I snapped the photo below.
The first time I learned to identify wildflowers native to Montana was for a sixth grade school project. We scoured Missoula and the surrounding mountains to collect, take photos, and identify local blooms. It was a huge project but I still remember at least most of the flower names I learned over two decades ago, and take pride in being able to point them out to hiking partners. Identifying native wildflowers is a fantastic way to enhance a walk and enjoy being outside in Montana. It is as simple as buying a local field guide, taking a walk, and opening your eyes to the amazing state we enjoy.
Photos by Alyson Booher