May Wildflowers

May 17, 2020
As the old adage goes, April showers bring May flowers. Find out what we've been spotting in Central Oregon this month.


By Jana Hemphill


As the old adage goes, April showers bring May flowers. Central Oregon's blooms are certainly staying true to this! Find out what we've been seeing outdoors.


Bitterroot. Photo: Land Trust.
Bitterroot. Photo: Land Trust.
Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva)
Other common names: none

An absolute showstopper in the desert! Bitterroot have a green rosette of small, fleshy leaves. Flowers are a vibrant deep rose, pink, or sometimes white, up to 2" wide. Bitterroot blooms very close to the ground. The plants remain dormant through the summer. Bitterroot is named for Merriwether Lewis, who collected the first specimens in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana in 1806. The plant is widespread in the western US and grows in dry shrublands.

Bloom time: all spring

 
Red-flowering currant. Photo: Land Trust.
Red-flowering currant. Photo: Land Trust.
Red-flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Other common names: Pink winter currant

Found along the edges of the Cascade crest in Central Oregon, red-flowering currant is a less common currant in our area. This shrub grows 3-9 feet tall. Leaves are a classic currant shape--nearly round with 3-5 shallow lobes that are irregularly toothed. Flowers are on the ends of branches in a cluster that hangs down, 10-20 bright red to fuschia flowers. Hummingbirds love these flowers.

Bloom time: Late spring


Bitterbrush. Photo: Joan Amero.
Bitterbrush. Photo: Joan Amero.
Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
Other common names: Antelope-brush

You've likely seen bitterbrush blooming lately! Bitterbrush is very common in our east-side forests. This shrub has rigid stems and grows to be 3-10 feet tall. Flowers are small with 5 yellowish petals. Leaves are thick and three-lobed with edges that roll under. Bitterbrush is an important food for wildlife that browse--deer, elk, and pronghorn. The shrub is well-adapted to our area with water-loss resistant leaves and long taproots.

Bloom time: Late spring


Spotted Fritillary. Photo: Land Trust.
Spotted Fritillary. Photo: Land Trust.
Spotted Fritillary (Fritillaria atropurpurea)
Other common names: Spotted mountain bells

Perhaps one of our most unusual lilies, the spotted fritillary is brown to greenish in color with yellow, red, or white markings. They grow in grasslands or Cascade foothill forests and can be hard to spot because of their subdued color. But just because they are subdued, doesn’t mean they aren’t stunning! The beautiful spotting and delicate petals just beg for a closer look. Flowers hang downward or facing outward and 1-3 blooms can be found per stalk.

Bloom time: Late spring-early summer


Common larkspur. Photo: Land Trust.
Common larkspur. Photo: Land Trust.
Common Larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum)
Other common names:
Two-lobe larkspur, Upland larkspur, Nuttall's larkspur

One of the most wide-ranging flower species in North America, larkspur can be found from British Columbia and Alberta south to California, Arizona, and New Mexico. It grows in sagebrush desert, shrublands, and open conifer forests. Common larkspur has distinctive purple flowers ¾-1 ¼” across with 5 sepals that look like petals. The uppermost petal has a long hollow spur that holds nectar. A cluster of 3-12 purple wildflowers are found on a slender stem 6-16” tall. Leaves are on the lowest part of the stem.

Bloom time:
Early summer


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