Early Spring Wildflowers

Mar 17, 2021
Early spring wildflowers are starting to appear in Central Oregon! See if you can spot these flowers the next time you're out and about.

By Jana Hemphill

The days are getting longer, tree buds are starting to peek out, and the first of our wildflowers are beginning to bloom. Ah, spring. As Central Oregon begins to shift from its winter slumber, we are looking towards the high desert to get our wildflower fix. Places like Whychus Canyon Preserve, Gray Butte, and Lake Billy Chinook are the first to be dotted with the bright colors of our early spring wildflowers. If there aren't muddy trails in these areas (a common occurrence), get out and explore. How many of these stunning blooms can you find?!?


Goldfields. Photo: Joan Amero.

 Goldfields. Photo: Joan Amero.


Goldfields, Crocidium multicaule

One of our very first wildflowers of the season, they are a sign that spring has arrived! You’ll find these dime-sized flowers carpeting sagebrush flats. In particularly good wildflower seasons, that's no exaggeration--they truly carpet the ground. Goldfields have a single yellow flower with 8 rays 1/4-1/2” long on a delicate stem up to 6” tall.

Sagebrush buttercups. Photo: Gary Miller.

 Sagebrush buttercups. Photo: Gary Miller.


Sagebrush buttercup, Ranunculus glaberrimus

This is another one of the first wildflowers of the season. These yellow flowers can turn white as they age. They are found in sagebrush flats to pine forests. The flowers have 5 petals that are 1/2” long atop a single stem. Petals are glossy, often looking wet with dew.

Yellow bell. Photo: Land Trust.

 Yellow bell. Photo: Land Trust.


Yellow bell, Frittillaria pudica

A beautiful yellow, pendant-shaped lily that can be found in grasslands to pine forest. Yellow bell flowers are 7/8” long and can be yellow to brownish-orange. Leaves are grasslike. Yellow bells typically emerge after goldfields have already arrived.

Prairie Star. Photo: John Williams.

 Prairie star. Photo: John Williams.


Prairie star, Lithophragma parviflorum

Reminding us that nature is fragile, this early bloomer has a delicate, white to lavender-pink, irregular flower atop a slender red stem. Prairie stars are found in sagebrush flats to pine forests. Flowers have 5 petals that are 1/4” long atop a 4-12” tall stem.

Phlox. Photo: Land Trust.

 Spreading phlox. Photo: Land Trust.

Spreading phlox, Phlox diffusa

This low-growing flower prefers rocky crevices and exposed locations. These beauties always astound with their pop of color--flowers have 5 pink-purple-white petals. Adapted to extreme environments, cushion-like plants like phlox often have taproots 8-15’ deep!

Happy wildflower viewing!

**Although we make every effort to be accurate in our flower identification, it is often difficult to tell the differences between subspecies from a photo.**


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