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Yosemite Wildflower Trails (1975) by Dana C. Morgenson


Just as in the month of July spring will have fully matured in Yosemite’s rim country— between 6,000 and 8,000 feet—in August this magic season will move on up the mountain slopes to paint with color the meadows, lake shores and rocky ridges of the higher elevations. This region, just under tree line and with bare granite peaks etching jagged shapes against the sky, is known to its devotees simply as the “High Country.”

Those who know it best will tell you that here the Sierra attains its ultimate perfection of mountain grandeur. Near the source of eternal snows on the peaks, icy streams flash down the mountain slopes to linger a while in the grassy meanders of lush meadows, trailing garlands of wildflowers along their banks. Many lakes, from the smallest of rocky tarns to those filling ancient glacial valleys, lie in grass-rimmed splendor reflecting the sky, the clouds and the crags. Alabaster-white granite, sometimes mottled with the rust of iron oxide, rises in sharp summits against the azure sky. The russet of metamorphic rock adds a contrast along some parts of the Sierran crest.

Throughout this whole landscape is an infinity of exquisite rock gardens—ledges and tiny meadows of mosses, grasses, flowers and wind-sculptured trees. Each one is different, each one is a delight to encounter. Watered by occasional summer showers and the residue of winter moisture, these are the places where spring’s last blooms appear before the approach of autumn. At this elevation the growing season is only 7 to 9 weeks between winter and fall, so the pace is furious and often one finds many species in bloom simultaneously. Even on the mountain tops, from 12,000 to 13,000 feet, spring’s influence is felt; about 170 different types of flowering plants including grasses and sedges have been classified in the Alpine Zone, above tree line. We will find a few of them in the next chapter.

Tuolumne Meadows—Lemmon’s Paintbrush, Castilleja lemmonii
[click to enlarge]
Tuolumne Meadows—Lemmon’s Paintbrush,
Castilleja lemmonii

One or the easiest ways to sample the unforgettable beauty of the High Country is to drive the Tioga Road all the way to the Park’s eastern gateway at 9,941-foot Tioga Pass. Near the roadsides many of the typical flowers to be described in this chapter will be found, especially if short excursions are made on foot from the scenic viewpoints provided along the route.

Tuolumne Meadows, 8,600 feet in elevation, is an excellent place to explore; during July and August an impressive number of the flowers in this mountain region can he found in and near this beautiful area. By continuing beyond Tioga Pass, down air scenic Lee Vining Canyon grade to Mono Lake (only an additional 15 miles), one gets a selection of those somewhat different species growing in the drier environment on the east side of the Sierra—facing the arid region of the Great Basin and the sagebrush belt.

However, by far the best way to establish an intimate acquaintance with the flowering residents of Yosemite’s High Country is to travel some of the trails which White like the spokes of a wheel from Tuolumne Meadows. Trails to beauty may be long or short, depending almost entirely on your time, interest and energy; they may require only two hours or can occupy two weeks or more.

The best known trail is the High Sierra Loop, starting from Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and tying together the five High Sierra Camps which operate from early July until Labor Day. These camps offer meals and lodgings in rustic tent accommodations, each one in a different setting which thus runs the gamut of High Sierra scenery. Advance reservations are very essential, because of the small size of the camps and their popularity; these arrangements can be made by writing or phoning the Reservations Office of the Yosemite Park and Curry Co., in Yosemite National Park. The five camps are spaced along the trail at intervals of about 8 miles, the entire Loop aggregating approximately 50 miles. Many people walk or ride on mules around this Loop each summer, but if time is not available for the entire trail even a day’s hike to one of the camps can be rewarding. National Park Service naturalists accompany the once-a-week scheduled Seven Day Hikes.

Let’s take a walk on the High Sierra Loop Trail and find some of the many flowers which live there. The Loop can be walked in either direction, but the route used most often runs north from Tuolumne Meadows to the first High Camp at Glen Aulin, returning finally to the point of origin via Vogelsang Camp. Going this way, one has an easy first day on the trail, mostly downhill for about 6 miles, in which to get accustomed to the demands of higher altitude on one’s energy supply.

Crossing Tuolumne Meadows itself, there will be an opportunity to become acquainted with a number of the flowers which will be seen again and again on this trail. One which often appears in massed colonies, making splashes of magenta across the wide green floor of the meadow, is Lemmon’s Paintbrush (Castilleja lemmonii), perhaps the brightest of all this large genus of mountain flowers. Its vividly colored blossoms are lifted 4 to 8 inches high on slender stems which grow as a small group from a single root stalk, with linear leaves 1 or 2 inches long. The actual flower of the paintbrush is an elongated tube, but many are crowded into a dense terminal spike interspersed with purplish or magenta bracts. The total effect is of a burst of floral color on a short stem, often barely higher than the surrounding grass. This paintbrush is easily mistaken for Owl’s Clover (Orthocarpus purpurascens) which, however, rarely occurs above 5,000 feet and never reaches the High Country.

Another flower commonly seen in Tuolumne Meadows is a little Buttercup (Ranunculus alismaefolius var. alismellus). Look for it in damp places, where its 6- to 12-inch stems bear bright yellow, 5-petalled blossoms, a half an inch across. The waxy shine of its petals will distinguish this little flower from other yellow ones which seem to have a superficial resemblance to it. Buttercups are one of the first flowers of springtime, so are more usually seen in the High Country in June and July, though some will remain in bloom into August. If one drives the Tioga Road about the first of July, another early bloomer to be seen in Tuolumne Meadows is the Pigmy Shooting Star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi ssp. pygmaeum). A variation on the one seen in the wet meadows of lower elevations, this one makes bold magenta-pink splashes of color as the first green returns to the meadow turf, even though its stems are only 3 to 8 inches high.

An attractive small aster ranges widely over the meadows in July and August (Aster alpigenus ssp. andersonii). It grows as a single pink blossom, an inch or more across, on the tip of a slender stem only a few inches high; only one flower is allotted to each plant. Its leaves are so slender they appear to be mere blades of grass in the broad sweep of the meadow. Often, it will be found intermingled with Lemmon’s paintbrush, the two producing a most pleasing color variation from pink to magenta.

Near the Soda Springs, where heavily impregnated mineral water bubbles up e continuously from a reddish-tinged bank, is a stand of Deer’s Tongue (Frasera speciosa). This large, rather coarse plant is easy to recognize with its 3- to 5-foot high stalks and its graceful whorls of 3 to 7 leaves. The latter are long—4 to 10 inches—covered with tiny, soft hairs and remind one of the out-thrust tongue of a deer. The flowers are a striking geometric pattern, arranged in fours (4 petals, 4 sepals, 2 stamens), about an inch across and greenish-white in color. This huge plant is in the gentian family, sometimes called Green Gentian; we will encounter some very different and smaller species farther along the trail.

Commonly seen across Tuolumne Meadows, too, is the Whorled Penstemon (Penstemon oreocharis), growing typically on slender stems 8 to 20 inches high. Each stalk supports 1 to 6 whorls of blue-purple tubular flowers, a half inch long, which Contrast pleasingly with the yellowing meadow grasses of late summer.

Almost reluctantly, we leave Tuolumne Meadows, the largest area of grassland in the High Sierra, to begin the trek around the Loop Trail. However, it does promise an unending variety of visual delights for as long as we have time to savor them. From the Soda Springs we have an easy segment of the trail, little more than 5 miles, to our first objective, Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. The route leads through a picturesque forest of lodgepole pines, past miniature meadows of grass and sedge, across open flats where vistas of distant peaks and domes loom in every direction. Within a mile we will cross a delightful stream, Delaney Creek, one of many we will encounter on this trail. Beyond it, in the open flat before we cross Dingley Creek, is a warm dry area Ideal for the growth of a plant which prefers such a Spartan habitat: the odd little Mousetails (Ivesia santolinoides), which we met along the Pohono Trail.

After crossing Dingley Creek, we follow close by the Tuolumne River for some time, enjoying wide views of the rugged Cathedral Group of peaks and crags to the south. In early summer, snow lies deeply in the cirques of their north-facing slopes; the blue water of the river and the deep green of the meadow grasses contrast dramatically with their wintry aspect. Just ahead is an expanse of meadow, surrounded by lodgepole pines, which often exhibits a fine showing of flower color: the flame of Lemmon’s paintbrush; pink shooting stars; the silvery sheen of Pussytoes (Antennaria rosea), tiny silken heads scattered far and wide over the meadows; the first brightness of alpine goldenrod; deep purple whorled penstemons. Such mosaics of color are one of the memorable rewards of High Sierra hiking.

Now, our trail leaves the gentleness of meadowy landscapes, threads its wiry over rocky domes, and crosses the now-turbulent Tuolumne on a picturesque footbridge. From this point, we make a continuous descent toward Glen Aulin, following the river closely, a roaring torrent of white water most of the way. Less than a mile above Glen Aulin, the river plunges over a sheer drop exceeding a hundred feet, forming Tuolumne Fall, the first of five spectacular waterfalls in this area. Shortly above the waterfall and along the trail is a fine display of Labrador-Tea (Sedum glandulosum var. californicum). These are rather stiffly branched shrubs, 1 to 5 feet high with leathery, deep green leaves up to 2 inches long. The leaves exude a pleasant fragrance not unlike that of turpentine. In midsummer, the shrubs bear masses of white flowers, individually tiny but forming compact heads 3 to 4 inches across. You will find this attractive shrub in damp areas or around lakeshores.

Just before reaching the Camp, we come to the top of the White Cascade, where the Tuolumne flings itself tumultuously over a high granite bench into a deep green pool. Because of the ever-present moisture from the mist, this region is a favored one for several of the most beautiful High Country flowers.

The bright gold of Arnica (Arnica nevadensis) seems to take its color from the very sunlight. In the sunflower family, its flowers are 2 inches wide and look not unlike the common sunflower itself. The stems are 1/2 to 2 feet high, with leaves mostly in pairs, frequently heart-shaped, woolly and somewhat aromatic.

For contrast, the Mountain Daisy (Erigeron peregrinus) blooms in shades of rose-purple with yellow centers, growing on stalks 4 to 20 inches high with long, slender leaves. Its flower heads are up to 2 inches wide and are usually solitary on each stalk, even though a large number may be found growing together and giving the illusion of many-flowered plants. We will have this lovely flower as a trail-side companion frequently.

A strange little plant common along this trail will be seen here—the Shieldleaf (Streptanthus tortuosus var. orbiculatus). It prefers rocky locations and finds them in the massive granite near the waterfall. Round [eaves clasp the slender stems, which may he 1/2 to 1 1/2 feet high. Green in early summer, the leaves later turn gold, resembling circular brass shields. At the tips of the stems the small purple flowers (sometimes whitish) occur in a raceme of several. They resemble tiny urns, about 1/2 inch long. In the seed stage, long slender pods are produced, like miniature string beans. These long pods, and the prominent yellow leaves, make the plant easy to recognize.

Others adding their beauty to this rock garden by the White Cascade are: Golden Stars (Brodiaea gracilis), with 5-pointed yellow petals and brown mid-veins; tall stalks of yellow senecio similar to those encountered in the rim country; deep blue spikes of lupine; the royal purple of larkspur; white yarrow, its flat clusters of tiny flowers making highlights in the forest shadows; the ever-present, delicate pussytoes; the crimson tones of mountain-pride penstemon; the lemon-yellow of Stonecrop (Sedum obtusatum), with small clusters of flowers and thick fleshy leaves which often turn faintly pink, creeping over rocky crevices.

A half mile below the High Sierra Camp is the Glen Aulin itself, from which the Camp takes its name. Here, the river seems to rest for a while, drifting slowly through a thick stand of aspen, fir and pine, its quiet surface mirroring the clouds and the forest. It is a place for peaceful contemplation, a quiet grotto, seemingly far removed from the turbulence of the river just above and below the Glen. Beyond it, to the west, the Tuolumne continues its downward plunge toward its eventual destiny in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Along the way, it forms California Falls, then LeConte Falls. Three miles from Glen Aulin Camp is one of the most impressive white water spectacles in all of Yosemite National Park—the Waterwheel Falls. Best seen in early summer when the water is high, it features great vertical “wheels” of spray, created when the swift river plunges over upcurving spoons of granite, along a mile of its course. Many of the flowers we have admired on our walk from Tuolumne Meadows can be seen in this area too and, if time is available, the 7-mile round-trip detour to the Waterwheels will provide a memorable experience. However, the High Sierra Loop Trail leads elsewhere.

Our trail turns to the west, toward May Lake High Sierra Camp, about opposite the top of the White Cascade. Now we will do Tittle climbing, for May Lake is some 1,500 feet higher than Glen Aulin and 8 1/2 miles distant. Within less than a mile we come to McGee Lake, an idyllic place where the calm water is enclosed by deep lodgepole pine forest, leaving open windows through the trees at either end, however, for inspiring views of Mt. Conness (12,590 feet) to the east and Mt. Hoffmann (10,921 feet) to the west. Though we may only have started our hike for the day at this point, the urge to pause for a while amid such serenity is nearly irresistible.

Shortly thereafter, the trail crosses Cathedral Creek, a robust stream at times, which rises under Cathedral Peak and flows northward to join the Tuolumne River several miles west of Waterwheel Falls. In this region, notice the infiltration of Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), one of the most beautiful trees of the Sierran forests and one which is mainly confined to the subalpine zone. Larger, mature specimens are characterized by richly cinnamon-colored trunks and dark green foliage, with small, cylindrical cones, 3 inches long. Young trees are extremely slender and graceful in appearance, their tops often drooping slightly, with a limber quality unknown to most pines which stand with them in the forest aisles. Their blue-green needles cluster thickly on the branches, producing almost a fern-like quality.

Another handsome tree of these elevations, now appearing here and there along the trail, is the Western White Pine (Pinus monticola), also called Silver Pine. With needles in groups of five, it is closely related to the much larger sugar pine. Its cones are similarly long and cylindrical but much smaller (4 to 8 inches) than the huge cones of sugar pines.

Our trail continues to climb, and not long after passing the junction of the Ten Lakes Trail, we cross a prominent granite spur which affords the most sweeping view of the entire day’s walk between Glen Aulin and May Lake. Mt. Conness and the adjacent peaks of the Sierran crest loom against the horizon to the east. Lembert Dome, towering above Tuolumne Meadows, can he seen clearly while, to the south, Tenaya Lake sparkles in the sunlight, nestled in a basin of huge domes.

On this portion of the trail, we pass again some of those incredible rock gardens of the High Sierra. Where small streams descend from higher sources of snow melt, the rose-purple blooms of Spiraea (Spiraea densiflora) offer dramatic contrast to the white granite rocks. This member of the rose family grows as a low bush, 3 to 5 feet high, with small dentate leaves resembling those of roses. The prominent flowers, Individually tiny, occur in flat-topped clusters which give the appearance of single blossoms 2 inches wide. A patchwork quilt of other flower colors enlivens these gardens too: the bright red of mountain-pride; tall spikes of purplish lupine; deep sky-blue of Sierra forget-me-not; tall stalks of red-orange paintbrush; dark purple larkspur; the startling white of yarrow’s flat-topped heads; the distinctive rounded, yellow leaves and purple flowers of shieldleaf. If one looks closely at these damp stream-side gardens, the muted blue flowers of Speedwell (Veronica alpina var. alterniflora) will be seen among the grasses and sedges. The tiny flower is less than 1/2 inch wide, 4-petalled, and appears as a short raceme on erect stems 4 to 12 inches high with leaves in pairs.

Just below the ridge lies little Raisin Lake, a favorite of fishermen. Surrounding it Is a heavy growth of Labrador-Tea. Nearby are some small meadows, lush with the dampness which drains into the lake, a classical habitat for flowers which prefer marshy conditions. Here again are asters, buttercups, lupines, tall senecios and the corn lily, found in the meadows of the rim country. A tiny stream trickles across granite pavement and nearby are fine showings of the Pink Monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii). In any rating of all the flowers of Yosemite, this one would have to rank near the top in exquisite beauty.

Beyond this meadowy region, our trail climbs again, up and up to the final ridge enclosing May Lake. From the top, another sweeping panorama of High Sierran peaks unfolds: Mt. Clark’s sharp pinnacle (11,522 feet) to the south, Tenaya Peak (10,301 feet) above Tenaya Lake, the Gothic-appearing architecture of Cathedral Peak (10,940 feet) in the east near Tuolumne Meadows, Mt. Conness on the far north-eastern horizon, with many more bare domes and ridges rimming our vista. On this rocky promontory, another gravel garden is provided for our pleasure by the plants of the dry environments: pink pussy paws; richly red mountain-pride; warm-toned golden stars; small purple blossoms of shieldleaf; the yellow-gray Alpine Paintbrush (Castilleja nana), only 3 inches high, crouching among the rocks; mats of pink and white phlox creeping across the gravelly slope.

And so, on down to May Lake and its High Sierra Camp, situated under the east face of Mt. Hoffmann. On its shores grows one of the most typical plants of these elevations, the Mountain Heather (Phyllodoce breweri). The flowers are rose-red, about 1/3 inch long, cup-shaped and with protruding stamens. They appear in terminal clusters on the rather short stems (6 to 12 inches), which are crowded with many small narrow leaves resembling fir needles. The impression is of a miniature forest of firs, as these shrubs hug the ground in their stiff manner of growth. Although most of the blossoms appear in early summer, the pervasive green of the shrubs themselves is one of the most common features of the flora of the subalpine zone. Growing prominently with the heather around May Lake is much Labrador-Tea.

This area is difficult to leave. Mt. Hoffmann beckons the hiker, for an easy route leads to its summit and the view extends to the far horizon in every direction. The peak is located in almost the geographic center of Yosemite National Park, overlooking a vast wilderness panorama. A beautiful meadow nestles under the peak, near the route to the summit, where a fine stand of pink mimulus and other flowers of wet locations can be enjoyed.

Leaving the May Lake area our trail begins a sharp descent of about 1,100 feet to Tenaya Lake. Along the upper part of this trail we pass some magnificent specimens of western white pine. The flowers follow us, too, most generally those of the dry locations: shieldleaf, mountain-pride, phlox, paintbrush. Pine-Mat Manzanita (Arctostaphylos nevadensis) can be seen near the trail, hearing a strong resemblance to the much larger type we observed in the foothill region below the park. However, the pure white blossoms rather than pink ones, and the ground-hugging propensities of this species, clearly distinguish it.

About a mile below May Lake we reach a portion of the old Tioga Road which was left intact to furnish access to this trail junction when the present road realignment was completed in 1961. Hikers going into the norihem part of Yosemite National Park find it convenient to drive to this point and start their trip here. A small pool, the residue of nearby snow melt, forms here in early summer, providing the moisture for a line display of Jeffrey shooting star. Mountain heather adds its hit to the beauty of the area, too.

From this point, our trail follows the old Tioga Road for another mile to Tenaya Lake. This portion has been closed to traffic since the new road was built, so it has become a most scenic element of the trail system. Particularly fine views of the Tenaya Lake basin are enjoyed as we descend, while due south we see Mt. Clark as a sharp spire on the horizon. Many of the flowers we have found since starting our trip at Tuolumne Meadows will be seen again along this old road, which traverses areas of forest, of tiny meadows and of open rocky slopes as it descends.

From Tenaya Lake, there is a choice of routes leading on to Sunrise High Sierra Camp, which is situated at the lower end of Long Meadow. The shorter trail (about 5 miles) climbs a steep series of switchbacks to Forsythe Pass, then turns east to thread its way past the three Sunrise Lakes, over a divide north of Sunrise Mountain and down to the High Sierra Camp.

The other trail is longer (8 miles) but infinitely rewarding in the spectacular quality of its scenery and wealth of flowers. In 1963, Mary Tresidder took a trip around this portion of the High Sierra Loop Trail, to Sunrise, Merced Lake and Vogelsang Camps. As a by-product of this outing, she compiled a detailed check-list of plants in bloom at that time, a sort of floral diary of an enriching experience. With this as a handbook, we will follow the longer trail to Sunrise Camp via Cathedral Pass.

To reach the beginning, we turn east at Tenaya Lake toward Tuolumne Meadows —an additional distance of 7 miles through a landscape of huge gray domes, tall lodgepole pines and occasional gleaming meadows. The present Tioga Road parallels this part of the trail; a choice of driving or walking is thus open. If time is available, though, the trail is well worth the walking. Our alternate trail to Sunrise Camp is reached soon after our arrival in Tuolumne Meadows, where Budd Creek crosses the Tioga Road.

Leaving Tuolumne, the trail immediately starts to climb toward Cathedral Peak, through a heavy forest of lodgepole pine, hemlock, western white pine and occasional red firs. Within less than a mile, we reach the first of several level benches on the north side of the Peak. Some of these are dry, but others are the sites of damp meadows providing flower gardens of rich variety. Lavender asters, deeply purple lupines, tall stalks of corn lilies, marsh marigolds, glossy little buttercups, mountain heather, pussytoes make a happy company in these forest glades.

A tiny plant, almost unnoticed, forms an extensive part of the ground cover of these subalpine meadows. This is Dwarf Bilberry (Vaccinium nivictum), growing recumbent on the turf, its smoothly rounded branchlets only 1 to 3 inches high, with shiny green, alternate leaves. The small pink or white urn-shaped flowers, less than 1/4 inch long, bloom in early summer and produce blue-black berries. Often one sees it creeping across granite rocks at the edge of a meadow, its tiny head not more than an inch or two above the ground. In September, the leaves of the little plant turn a vivid crimson, making a striking contrast to the gold of the meadow grasses.

Along drier parts of the trail, look for the shimmering yellow of Wallflower (Erysimum perenne). Its flowers, with four, almost-round petals, are less than an inch across but they bloom as a curved head or elongated spike of color on stiff stalks ti to 14 inches high. Wallflower is in the mustard family, as is the shieldleaf, and the seed pods of each are quite long and slender, forming while individual blossoms farther up the stem are yet in flower. These distinctive pods make each plant easy to recognize. One of the memorable qualities of this wallflower is the pleasantly sweet fragrance it exudes, but one must bend low to savor it.

Other dwellers in the dry flats or in sunny-areas between the tall pines and firs are: the yellow globes of sulphur flower; a low-growing groundsel or senecio, also bright yellow; the little white stars of phlox; crimson mountain-pride. As the trail limbs closer to the north side of Cathedral Peak, we enter a fine forest of hemlock, enjoying the darkly fluted cinnamon-colored trunks of the mature trees and the equally attractive grace of the young ones, clothed in blue-green needles. Farther along, a delightfully open meadow rimmed with Aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) provides an excellent vista of Fairview Dome, to the north. A small stream picks its way leisurely through the grass, providing the moisture so desired by the aspens.

This region, in the large cirque just north of Cathedral Peak, is well supplied with water from the snowfields which lie in the deep shadow of the north wall and remain as snow late into the summer. Evidences of winter avalanches can be seen, where great snowslides have carved gashes through the forest. About two miles after leaving Tuolumne Meadows, conveniently located on a steep portion of our trail, is a most welcome spring of clear mountain water. The stream which flows from it nourishes a fine display of mountain heather, marsh marigold, Labrador-Tea, lupine.

A smaller flower, frequently seen in moist habitats such as along these streams and in wet meadows of the High Country, is the Meadow Monkeyflower (Mimulus primuloides). The scientific name gives a clue to its appearance for it means, literally, primrose-like. The small yellow blossom, less than an inch wide, does in fact remind one of a primrose. It rises on short stems from a cluster of hairy leaves, presenting a round, golden face, funnelform with a drooping lower lip and a scattering of red-brown spots across the lower petals.

Rounding the north face of Cathedral Peak, we approach Upper Cathedral Lake, lying in a little basin with meadowy lawns sloping down on all sides. A small tributary stream crosses our route, providing moisture for an interesting growth of arnica, lupines, asters, senecios. The meadow itself is covered with the bright flames of Lemmon’s paintbrush, the yellow of goldenrod, blue-purple lupines, delicately pink Anderson’s asters. We have a sublime view of the great south face off-Cathedral Peak with its twin turrets, as we look back across the lake. To the east, the sharp pinnacles of the Echo Peaks form an exciting horizon, while to the south Tresidder Peak (named for Dr. Donald Tresidder, former president of Stanford University and husband of Mary Tresidder) juts into the sky. This is a place of unusual, soul satisfying beauty— one which is difficult to leave.

An easy climb brings us to the top of nearby Cathedral Pass, highest point on the trail to Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Here the view is more extensive and includes the peaks surrounding Matterhorn Canyon in the far northern reaches of Yosemite National Park and, in the other direction, the sharp crest of the Clark Range near the southern boundary. A marshy meadow extends for some distance after we cross the pass, the trail skirting it on the west under the rocky talus slopes of Tresidder Peak. Ahead, looms the sharp spire of Columbia Finger, and the trail heads for a gap which takes us close under the sheer side of this unusual landmark. The small blonde Alpine Paintbrush (Castilleja nana) will be seen growing in the gravels nearby. Much of the rock here shows the prominence of feldspar phenocrysts imbedded in its structure— strange little cubes of granite scattered in random fashion within the rocks or weathered out, to make piles of small blocks an inch or more square.

On a ridge east of the trail as it curves around Columbia Finger is an interesting and attractive plant, Lobb’s Buckwheat (Eriogonum lobbii). It prefers exposed rocky ridges, and crouches on the granite, ending out slender stems from a basal rosette of woolly, gray leaves. These stems too lie flat on the rock surface, as though weighted down by the large, round flower heads of white to rose. The heads are composed of many minute flowers which crowd together to give the appearance of a single globe of color, extremely appealing in its contrast to the clean, gray granite. You can find it commonly in similar situations on exposed rocky ridges at 8,000 to 9,000 feet.

In the same general area, look for the pink tone of pussy paws in the gravelly crevices. Another plant typical of these locations is also to be seen here: the little Sandwort (Arenaria kingii). Its tiny white flowers have 5 petals on very slender stems, 4 to 8 inches high, from mostly basal leaves which are needle-like in structure and somewhat bristly. The presence of this delicate flower in such a rugged granite setting seems remarkable.

Now our trail drops steadily into the upper end of Long Meadow, descending from the broken granite landscape of the last mile into the lush greenness of a stream-watered valley. Occasionally, deer interrupt their browsing to disappear into the forest as we pass. Gradually, the lodgepole pines and willows give way to expansive meadows where our old friends of the trail—asters, paintbrush, goldenrod, dwarf bilberry, lupine—luxuriate in the mellowness of late afternoon.

Sunrise Camp, at an elevation of 9,300 feet, is situated on a grassy bench near the lower end of the meadow with a wide view in three directions—north toward Columbia Finger, the Echo Peaks, Tresidder Peak, Cathedral Peak and the great granite ridge of Matthes Crest, a mile long and almost 2,000 feet above its base—east toward the Sierran crest, where Mt. Florence dominates the scene at 12,561 feet—south to the sharp horn of Mt. Clark. The large expanse of green in the foreground gives an aspect of serenity to the scene. To the west is a high ridge over which lie the three Sunrise Lakes, an hour from Camp. Down this side comes a musical stream which flows through the Camp area, across the meadow and on to join Echo Creek.

Such a setting promotes a fine growth of wildflowers, and one is not likely to be disappointed with the Sunrise displays. Again, we will meet the shiny yellow buttercups; the dwarf bilberry; the rose red of spiraea; sky-blue Sierra forget-me-rots; deeply purple whorled penstemons; primly white yarrow; lavender and gold asters; crimson paintbrush; golden senecio. They form a brilliant company, inhabiting the moist meadow and stream-side locations. Clambering over rocks or basking in sunny, gravelly areas, one often finds the yellow sulphur flower; magenta-toned mountain-pride penstemon; lavender stars of phlox; rosy bells of mountain heather; pink pussy paws.

Other attractions may vie for our interest in this beautiful area. Strange little “picket pins” (Belding ground squirrels) scamper across the meadow grass, stand stiffly erect while appraising our moves and then, with a shrill whistle, disappear from sight. Another ground squirrel, the golden-mantle, is often seen near Camp, scurrying here and there in his ceaseless quest for food. Sometimes, we may be fortunate enough to see a Sierra marmot sunning himself on a rock. This large (14 to 18 inches) relative of the woodchuck is a mellow gold in tone, has a large tail, and is reasonably common at these elevations. Little gray chickadees, with black-striped heads, forage through the pines for insects. Mountain bluebirds hover over the meadow or perch on rocks or small trees, scanning the area for insect food. Their horizon-blue color has about it the quality of a wildflower.

Mary Tresidder had a special love for Sunrise Camp, as she and her husband often had camped on the very ledge where it now is located. Feeling that there was such a unique quality to the place that she wanted to share it with other lovers of the High Country, she contributed a substantial part of the cost of its construction. A bronze plaque, inconspicuously located in a huge rock, commemorates her generosity and intimate association with this superb region.

The trail to Merced Lake and its High Sierra Camp crosses Long Meadow and works its way into the valley of Echo Creek, first following its Cathedral Fork for several miles to its junction with the main stream. The valley becomes deep, and for periods we seem to lose contact with the impressive mountains around us. From time to time, we can look up side canyons to remote peaks in the east. There is much to engage our attention, though, in the wildflowers along this fine stream. As we gradually lose elevation (Merced Lake is 7,275 feet above sea level) we find some of our old friends from the rim country reappearing, together with those we have come to know on the present trip.

Deep blue larkspurs, pink shooting stars, richly orange leopard lilies, sky-blue forget-me-nots, tall Indian paintbrush, yellow sulphur flowers, lavender asters, white yarrow, orange-gold senecio, mountain phlox—all are similar to those we admired in the rim country gardens, yet there are many we have learned to know in the last few days, too. Gooseberries (Ribes montigenum) are encountered along the creek; their red fruit is ripe in August and makes a tempting but tart trailside snack.

We continue to descend as the trail follows the creek, finally dropping into Echo Valley where we meet the main Merced River, less than two miles below Merced Lake itself.

Near the lower end of the trail along Echo Creek, look for a common plant of the dry locations in medium elevations—the Mountain Pennyroyal (Monardella odoratissima). It is multi-branched, with straight stems to about a foot high, bearing flat clusters of pale lavender flowers, fading to gray, about an inch across. Since it is a mint, the leaves are in pairs while the stems are often 4-sided. The aromatic leaves, when rubbed between the fingers, give off a strong mint fragrance which is pleasant and makes a tasty cup of tea. You will find it frequently along the trail in dry areas of good drainage.

As we approach Merced Lake, many of the flowers of the Rim Country meet us once more: the fragrance of wild azalea (in July—faded by August), huge umbels of cream-colored cow parsnip, brilliant orange leopard lilies, tall white stalks of corn lilies, pink pussy paws, the rose-like white blossoms of wild strawberries, golden senecio. Much aspen grows in this part of the Merced Canyon, its round leaves on fragile stems glittering as the afternoon breeze moves through the groves.

The Camp lies in a picturesque setting at the east end of the lake, surrounded by a luxuriant forest of Jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine and white fir. The high peaks stand farther back and are not easily seen without going out on the trails. However this is just what should be done; there is much to see, to discover, to enjoy in this region.

About three miles above Merced Lake, on the upper reaches of the Merced River, is Washburn Lake, almost as large, with fine meadows extending yet farther up the canyon. Sparkling, singing streams of snow-melt come down from the high peaks of the Clark Range to the west and from the great basin under Mt. Lyell on the east, to form the headwaters of the Merced. This area was also a great favorite of Mary Tresidder; she and her husband often camped on these streams above Washburn lake. As might be expected, wildflowers are in great numbers in these meadows and stream side habitats, and many we have met before are here again to greet us: red columbines, orange leopard lilies, bright yellow monkeyflowers, tall golden senecios, crimson mountain-pride.

A striking yellow flower of the drier wooded slopes and forest openings is Mule-Ears (Wyethia mollis). The large blossom, 1 1/2 inches across, is similar to a sunflower, with 5 to 9 bright golden rays. Perhaps its most unusual feature, however, is the leaf structure, which gives the plant its name. Indeed, these huge leaves do look like mule ears, 8 to 16 inches long, woolly in texture and on stems which rise 1 to 3 feet. It grows frequently in the sunny north side of Tuolumne Meadows, also.

A charming flower of the trail-side, which we probably have noticed before, is the Mariposa Lily (Calochortus leichtlinii). Its 3 snow-white petals, a dark purple spot at the base of each, form a softly moulded 2-inch-wide cup lifted on slender grass-like stems, 8 to 16 inches high. The narrow, basal leaves die back early, giving the flower the appearance of floating airily with little support. It prefers only gravelly locations; expect to see it often at these elevations. Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly; the flower’s fancied resemblance to these beautiful winged creatures suggested the name. The roasted bulbs were an important part of the diet of Yosemite’s Indians and other western tribes.

Between Merced Lake and Vogelsang High Sierra Camps there is again a choice of trails. One of them goes up Lewis Creek and over 10,700-foot Vogelsang Pass, a distance of 8 1/2 miles. The other follows Fletcher Creek, gradually ascending toward the 10,160-foot elevation of Vogelsang Camp itself (without climbing the additional 500 feet to surmount the Pass). This trail is about one mile shorter. There is much to be enjoyed on either route, and each offers excellent summer wildflower gardens of the High Sierra. The dramatic view from Vogelsang Pass, highest point on the Loop Trail, includes unusual vistas of many high peaks along the Sierran crest, with rugged canyons and lake basins lying between them. On the other hand, the Fletcher Creek Trail follows near plunging cascades, great granite domes and lovely open meadows —with more intimate landscapes. It seems to have been a favorite of Mary Tresidder’s, so let’s take it this time.

One of the bright flowers seen frequently along this trail is the Cinquefoil (Potentilla gracilis ssp. nuttallii). This little member of the rose family has 5 sunshine-gold petals, forming a shallow cup about an inch across, on stems 1/2 to 3 feet high. The compound leaves are interesting in themselves; they have 5 to 7 serrated leaflets arranged in a whorl radiating from the long leaf stem. The word “cinquefoil” means literally “five leaves,” which refers to this type of leaf arrangement. Potentillas are widespread throughout the Sierra, some with yellow flowers and some with white, but only those with the digitate leaves, as in this species, are properly referred to as cinquefoils.

In the higher meadows, as our trail approaches Vogelsang Camp, we find a most attractive Lupine (Lupinus covillei), “the beautiful silver foliage one,” as Mary Tresidder described it. This member of the very large lupine genus (over 150 species, subspecies and varieties have been classified in California) occurs in the subalpine zone between 8,500 and 10,000 feet; the area we are traveling on this portion of the Loop Trail is a most typical habitat. The plant grows on till straight stems, 1 to 2 1/2 feet high, covered with soft, silky hairs. The leaves too are softly hairy, and in normal lupine fashion are composed of 7 to 9 long, slender leaflets. Tall racemes of deep blue flowers rise like a fringe above the mass of leaves, topped by the silvery caps of unopened buds. Thin, rocky soil of High Country meadows and the margins of tiny streams are the places it prefers.

The lower Fletcher Meadow, under Vogelsang Camp, is one of the most idyllic areas on this portion of the trail. The expansive views of craggy peaks above tree line, the lawn-like meadow for a foreground, the icy clarity of Fletcher Creek, the seeming closeness to the blue Sierran sky, all contribute to a quality of serenity and remoteness long to he remembered happily by anyone fortunate enough to pass this way. As might he expected, many of the flowers we have come to know on this trip are represented in generous measure in the Fletcher Creek gardens: mountain-pride penstemon, spiraea, paintbrush, lavender asters, wallflowers, pussy paws, whorled penstemons, forget-me-nots, senecios, tiny yellow monkeyflowers, corn lilies.

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, highest on the Loop Trail, is at an elevation of 10,160 feet. There is a definite exhilaration here at tree line, an on-top-of-the-world euphoria as though one were endowed with some of the restless freedom of the wind, the strength of the icy crags, the far-ranging vision of the golden eagle wheeling serenely in the limitless blue sky. Many travelers on the Loop Trail feel this Camp to be the climax.

If time is available—and it should be made available—one should walk the mile from the Camp to the summit of Vogelsang Pass, providing the Fletcher Creek trail from Merced Lake was chosen. Shortly after leaving the Camp, the trail climbs gently around the shoulder of Fletcher Peak. In the ledges and small terraces between the huge blocks of rocky talus, where snow melt produces bounteous water, look for the little bells of White Heather (Cassiope mertensiana). This dainty little flower blooms somewhat early in the summer, but some of it will be seen into the first part of August. It is a small, creeping, almost prostrate, evergreen shrub, with ascending branches closely covered by needle-like leaves. At the ends of the branches are the tiny, snow-white flowers, cup-shaped with small red sepals which clasp the cups to form a most pleasing contrast. The blossoms are turned down demurely until they begin to dry, when they raise their little heads. Cassiope is lavish in the number of individual blossoms it produces, sometimes seeming to cover the plants as with a light snow. John Muir was especially fond of the white heather and mentions it eloquently on a number of occasions in his writings. For the hiker in the High Country, few flowers will be associated in memory with the wild places of snow and rocks as intimately as cassiope.

Another charming plant of the boggy areas will be found nearby, the American Laurel (Kalmia polifolia var. microphylla). It, too, is a low, many-branched shrub with paired leaves 1/2 to 1 inch long, the stems not more than 3 to 8 inches tall. The handsome rose-colored flowers are cupped discs, about 72 inch wide. A unique feature of the blossoms is in the arrangement of the 10 stamens, whose slender filaments, like tiny springs, are tucked into small pouches in the petals until released by the touch of a visiting insect or other sudden motion, thus scattering the pollen. Close examination of any group of flowers will reveal several in either stage.

About halfway to the Pass, situated in a basin directly beneath it, is Vogelsang Lake. The meadow surrounding it is rich in the flora of this high region. Brilliant magenta paintbrush, pale lavender asters, richly purple whorled penstemons, shiny yellow buttercups, brick-red mountain heather—sometimes occurring in startling contrast to the white heather, delicate lemon-yellow monkeyflowers, combine in scatter rugs of colorful designs. The rich carpet of grass encourages the hiker to tarry a while in this sky parlor, to lie down in it, to examine the little flowers face to face. Such a maneuver enables him to make some fascinating discoveries.

For instance, we find the Elephant Heads (Pedicularis groenlandica), richly pink shafts of color 1 to 2 feet tall, rising out of a mass of basal leaves, finely-toothed and almost fern-like. Until you look quite closely, you are not likely to notice the unusual structure of the individual flower in these tall racemes, which give to the plant its appropriate name. Each tiny blossom, about 1/2 inch long, is the miniature head of an elephant—the broad forehead, two large, floppy ears and the upthrust trunk as though it were reaching for a peanut. This flower, and a smaller relative (P. attollens), are widespread in boggy, meadowy areas up to 12,000 feet. Here is your chance actually to see pink elephants!

Above the Lake, on the granite slopes sweeping upward to the Pass, you will notice a vivid rose-purple tone among the gleaming white rocks of the talus. This is a smaller relative of the fireweed, appropriately named Rock-Fringe (Epilobium obcordatum). Growing on short stems, 2 to 6 inches high, it nestles among rocks, seeming to prefer areas of relatively little natural humus. The blossom has 4 petals, each deeply notched, forming a rounded flower about an inch across. This exquisite little bloom seems particularly lovely in this region of harsh rock—another treasured memory of the High Country.

In this high meadow and near the Pass itself, look for the Alpine Willow (Salix anglorum var. antiplasti), a true willow in fact but so tiny as to become a mere part of the ground cover. Its branches creep along the surface, forming mats of willow-like leaves, 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches long. The catkins rise on short stalks, up to 3 inches high, dispensing their woolly seeds as little masses of gray fluff on the meadow grass. This little plant is reasonably common from 9,500 to 12,000 feet.

The Vogelsang area is indeed a sort of alpine climax. Long to be remembered are the moving splendor of the view from the Pass itself; the impressive bulk of Vogelsang Peak (11,516 feet) as seen from the Camp; the idyllic basin of Townsley Lake and the smaller, un-named lakes above it; the vast upland of flower-strewn meadows, known as the Indian Trading Mesa, just north of Townsley Lake; the serrated ranks of peaks marching southeast to join the Sierras crest at the Mt. Lyell axis.

Reluctantly, once again, we leave this region of mountain grandeur to take the trail back to Tuolumne Meadows. As is true wherever we are in Yosemite’s High Country, though, we continue to walk through beauty. About a mile from Vogelsang Camp, we cross the flat, rock-strewn expanse of Tuolumne Pass. Much sky-blue lupine is enjoyed through this area, interspersed with yellow senecio, red mountain heather, purple whorled penstemons and others of the grand company of wildflowers we have travelled with on the trail.

In the rocky crevices along the trail look for the Mountain Sorrel (Oxyria digyna), a plant 3 to 12 inches high with rounded, kidney-shaped leaves arranged as a base. From these arise the flower stalks bearing thick clusters of tiny, greenish-yellow to red blooms. The long leaf stalks have a pleasantly acid taste. One of the admirable features of this sorrel is its choice of location, for its grows in dramatically rugged settings in which its almost frail appearance seems emphasized.

From Tuolumne Pass, our trail drops through forests of lodgepole pines to occasional meadow glades, past Rafferty and Johnson Peaks, following Rafferty Creek. In early summer, this is a robust stream, but by mid-August it loses much of its volume. The snow-white blossoms of Labrador-Tea are a frequent sight along the Creek’s damp banks, with tall stalks of magenta fireweed adding rich color in late summer. Occasional small tributary streams cross our trail, rising under the high ridges to the west; one in particular is an excellent place to find the dainty little primrose monkeyflower. The tiny bells of white heather decorate stream-side gardens in early summer, before coming into bloom at higher elevations. Toward evening, bird songs permeate the forest, distant music akin to the soft quality of the long rays of golden sunlight slanting through the trees. One of the most memorable is that of the hermit thrush, an ethereal, flute-like series of notes, usually repeated in a more minor key, and seeming to come from far away. Closer at hand, the soft little songs of the juncos are like quiet conversations.

In damp, meadowy areas or stream-sides, we are almost certain to find the tall stalks of Button Parsley, or White Heads (Sphenosciadium capitellatum). The flowers are white, sometimes purplish, and extremely minute but are clustered in dense, hairy balls 1/2 inch wide. These form in umbels (umbrella-like heads) of 10 to 20 little balls, on stalks 1 1/2 to 5 feet tall. The long leaves are finely divided into many leaflets, in the manner of carrots, to which family this plant is related. Button parsley is a common trail-side companion at this elevation.

Within a mile and a half of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, the trail along Rafferty Creek reaches its junction with the John Muir Trail which has come down the adjacent canyon of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. The forest here is open and sunny, many tall lavender asters waving gently in the mixed sunlight and shadow of these glades. Along the creek and the river Swamp Onions (Allium vaiidum) are often seen, with tall stems and rosy-hued flowering heads. The actual blossoms are very small, about 1/2 inch long, crowded into dense, compact heads 1 1/2 inches across. The stems rise 1 1/2 to 3 feet high, and are surrounded by 3 to 6 long leaves, grass-like, rising from the base. There can be no doubt at all that these are onions, for the odor of the leaves is onion-like, with considerable strength. The plant was a favored one with the Indians and early settlers in the Sierra, as it gave zest to their otherwise tasteless diet. They used the bulb as well, but it is hoped that today’s Park visitors will refrain from digging them! About a dozen different onion species occur in Yosemite National Park; this is the largest one, found extensively in damp places between 7,000 and 11,000 feet.

As we come back once more into the open reaches of Tuolumne Meadows, we find many of our flower friends following us. Lupines, senecios, larkspurs, whorled penstemons, pussytoes, yampah, short-stemmed goldenrods, dwarf bilberry are present in abundance. Selected areas of good moisture show stands of Western Blue Flag (Iris missouriensis), a very beautiful plant occurring in moist flats and meadows between 3,000 and 11,000 feet. On flower stems 8 to 20 inches high, the 3- to 4-inch wide blossoms have pale blue to lavender stripings. Slender, grass-like leaves rise almost as high as the stems. A typical location is in the meadow just east of the bridge crossing of the Tuolumne.

In late August, two little gentians decorate the short-grass meadows of the High Country, typically Tuolumne and Dana Meadows. The more commonly seen one is the Sierra Gentian (Gentiana holopetala), a short-stemmed (3 to 12 inches), dark-blue to purple tubular flower, 1 to 2 inches long. The flower tube is 4-petalled, each one recurving slightly at the apex. Each stem bears a single erect bloom, held aloft from a base of small pointed leaves 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches long. Often the entire plant, flowers and all, seems almost concealed in the grass and sedges of these lush meadows, so that lying prone on the turf is by far the best way to get to know them well.

The other gentian is Gentiana newberryi, often called the Alpine Gentian. It is readily distinguished from the purple G. holopetala by its white color and the funnelform tube of the blossom itself. This tube has dark bands on the outside, while the greenish-white interior is speckled with tiny dots. Each stem bears but one flower and is 2 to 4 inches high; the blossom is not more than 2 inches long. As with the Sierra gentian, the stem arises from mostly basal leaves, a bit broader and longer, however. The flowers tend to open only in the afternoon, so that an inspection of a meadow in the morning may yield no results even though they are there for you to admire later. This white gentian is not common in Tuolumne Meadows, but can usually be seen in the Dana Meadows near Tioga Pass Entrance Station.

The High Sierra Loop Trail is indeed the perfect introduction to Yosemite’s subalpine zone and its world of wildflowers. More than just a superb botanical garden, this region reveals itself as an aesthetic experience which will always remain in memory as one of life’s highlights.

Mary Tresidder, whose entire life was so closely interwoven with Yosemite’s beauty, felt it keenly and had the gift for expressing it warmly. Of a camping trip into the headwaters of the Merced River, above Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, she wrote: “I slept in the most beautiful of beds for one of the loveliest of nights. High on the Merced Peak Fork, a crystal stream of the High Sierra, my sleeping bag was cradled in the circling roots of a lodgepole pine and a mountain hemlock, their bases and a few low branches sheltering me from the night wind down the canyon, whose floor fell away in front of me. Far down beyond its mouth rose the peaks at the headwaters of the Merced’s Lyell Fork—Lyell and Rodgers and Electra. The sky was full of stars, with the hemlock foliage soft above me. I could scarcely sleep for looking up through it. Then came a saffron dawn, and the form of things became distinct again. I moan that I shall not always remember it in every detail, but I hope I may pass that way again.”

And so do we all!

Lemmon’s Paintbrush, Castilleja lemmonii
[click to enlarge]
Lemmon’s Paintbrush,
Castilleja lemmonii
Meadow Aster, Aster alpigenus ssp. andersonii
[click to enlarge]
Meadow Aster,
Aster alpigenus ssp. andersonii
Buttercup, Ranunculus alismaefolius var. alismellus
[click to enlarge]
Ranunculus alismaefolius var. alismellus
Deer’s Tongue, Frasera speciosa
[click to enlarge]
Deer’s Tongue,
Frasera speciosa
Labrador-Tea, Ledum glandulosum var. californicum
[click to enlarge]
Ledum glandulosum var. californicum
Whorled Penstemon, Penstemon oreocharis
[click to enlarge]
Whorled Penstemon,
Penstemon oreocharis
Arnica, Arnica nevadensis
[click to enlarge]
Arnica nevadensis
Mountain Daisy, Erigeron peregrinus
[click to enlarge]
Mountain Daisy,
Erigeron peregrinus
Spiraea, Spiraea densiflora
[click to enlarge]
Spiraea densiflora
Shieldleaf, Streptanthus tortuosus var. orbiculatus
[click to enlarge]
Streptanthus tortuosus var. orbiculatus
Red or Mountain Heather, Phyllodoce breweri
[click to enlarge]
Red or Mountain Heather,
Phyllodoce breweri
Dwarf Bilberry, Vaccinrurn nivictum
[click to enlarge]
Dwarf Bilberry,
Vaccinrurn nivictum
Meadow Monkeyflower, Mimulus primuloides
[click to enlarge]
Meadow Monkeyflower,
Mimulus primuloides
Lobb’s Buckwheat, Eriogonum lobbii
[click to enlarge]
Lobb’s Buckwheat,
Eriogonum lobbii
Wallflower, Erysimum perenne
[click to enlarge]
Erysimum perenne
Mountain Pennyroyal, Monardella odoratissima
[click to enlarge]
Mountain Pennyroyal,
Monardella odoratissima
Mule-Ears, Wyethia mollis
[click to enlarge]
Wyethia mollis
Cinquefoil, Potentilla gracilis ssp. nuttallii
[click to enlarge]
Potentilla gracilis ssp. nuttallii
Mariposa Lily, Calochortus leichtlinii
[click to enlarge]
Mariposa Lily,
Calochortus leichtlinii
Lupine, Lupinus covillei
[click to enlarge]
Lupinus covillei
White Heather, Cassiope mertensiana
[click to enlarge]
White Heather,
Cassiope mertensiana
American Laurel, Kalmia polifolia var. microphylla
[click to enlarge]
American Laurel,
Kalmia polifolia var. microphylla
Rock-Fringe, Epilobium obcordatum
[click to enlarge]
Epilobium obcordatum
Elephant Heads, Pedicularis groenlandica
[click to enlarge]
Elephant Heads,
Pedicularis groenlandica
Mountain Sorrel, Oxyria digyna
[click to enlarge]
Mountain Sorrel,
Oxyria digyna
Button Parsley, Sphenosciadium capitellatum
[click to enlarge]
Button Parsley,
Sphenosciadium capitellatum
Swamp Onion, Allium validum
[click to enlarge]
Swamp Onion,
Allium validum
Iris or Western Blue Flag, Iris missouriensis
[click to enlarge]
Iris or Western Blue Flag,
Iris missouriensis
Sierra Gentian, Gentiana holopetala
[click to enlarge]
Sierra Gentian,
Gentiana holopetala
Alpine Gentian, Gentiana newberryi
[click to enlarge]
Alpine Gentian,
Gentiana newberryi
Alpine Willow, Salix anglorum var. antiplasti
[click to enlarge]
Alpine Willow,
Salix anglorum var. antiplasti
Alpine Paintbrush, Castilleja nana
[click to enlarge]
Alpine Paintbrush,
Castilleja nana

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