National Treasures: Plants in Our National Parks
The more into gardening I get, the more I notice the plants and flowers whenever I travel. I’m continually amazed by the diversity of plant life and how different landscapes look from one state or region to the next. Comparing my Minnesota town’s plant life to Phoenix or Palm Springs (business trips I took this year) – it almost feels like we live on separate planets. In honor of Independence Day, I wanted to share some flora photos I took during my family’s recent vacation to some of our country’s most amazing natural wonders: Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
I cannot for the life of me find what this first plant is, but it was the first one to grab my attention, just west of Yellowstone near Earthquake Lake. I just loved how the rain from earlier in the afternoon settled into these leaves to make them look like flowers.
The audio guide app we used during our trip revealed the reason for the “lines” of vegetation in this photo of the Tetons. In the foreground, the glaciers left rocky soil that cannot hold sufficient water or nutrients to support much more than sagebrush and a few wildflowers and grasses. In the richer soil by the river, conifers find a welcoming home. But as elevation increases on the mountains, only a few plants survive, making the mountaintops appear barren.
But the tenacity of plants is amazing. This flower, which I think is a Cinquefoil or High Altitude Buttercup, was growing at the top of Rendezvous Mountain at Jackson Hole, WY. At an elevation of 10,450 feet where little plant life survives, here was this tiny, humble yellow flower, providing a welcome spot of color to an otherwise gray and rocky surface.
And here is another tender, delicate flower (identity unknown) that is growing near the edge of an acidic hot spring in Yellowstone, where I wouldn’t imagine even the hardiest plant surviving. Yet here it is, clearly thriving.
But when I think of Yellowstone and the Tetons, it will be the Arnica that I remember most. Beautiful beacons of yellow to punctuate the greens and grays and browns of the fields and mountains. The sunsets in the parks were amazing, but fleeting. I prefer the all-day beauty of these blooms and their floral sunshine.