Wild Flowers in Glacier National Park
St Mary's Lake
There is nothing more beautiful than an alpine meadow decorated with the color of wildflowers against a backdrop of Glacier Park's towering peaks. Beargrass and glacier lilies carpet the landscape. Ironically beargrass is not a grass and bears don't particularly like it. Flowers like clematis or the Indian paint brush are common throughout the park. In late summer, purple asters paint the meadows between aspen groves on the east side.
There is never a shortage of color during the brief growing season and nowhere is the season shorter than in the glacial region of Glacier. Extreme winds, cold nights, occasional snow squalls and intense ultraviolet light make the life of an alpine wildflower down right strenuous. Almost all alpine plants are perennials -- there simply isn't enough time or warmth for annuals to go through their entire life cycle.
Mother Nature woke one lovely morning,
and decided to bless us with an array of colors. She gazed over the
mountains and meadows of a place dear to her heart, ----
Glacier National Park.
Now, she decided, I'll plant flowers of every color and shape to match this beautiful place. And while I'm at it, I'll pick only those that will thrive in cold nights, and short seasons. Their beauty will flare in the presence of icy glaciers. My flowers will also provide food for the wildlife that roams these meadows and valleys.
Her palette of many colors, helped her to plant a scene of beauty to behold.
Today, as we hike in the Logan Pass area, which is a gateway to beautiful alpine meadows, we will find lupine, glacier lilies, geranium, monkey flower, and many others. Most all are in bloom from late June until early August.
Beargrass (Jesse Malone)
Bear grass, is a flower that will amaze you. It reaches a height of five feet, and blooms with large, cream colored, fragrant blossoms. Some years, they will nearly cover the rocky slopes by mid July. Each plant, may bloom now, and not again for several years.
Glacier Lilies break through the icy snow early. These hearty beauties will show off at their best in July and August. Mother Nature has planted many of them because their bulbs are a favorite food for the grizzly bear. It's all in the balance of Nature.
For those of you who are photographers, there are sights here you won't want to miss. But do take pictures at different times of the day, as the light changes and so does the scenery.
We all know that nights in the park can be very chilly, but these alpine flowers have adapted to the cold, and to the short season. They can even be found where heavy winter snows prevent tree seedlings from growing.
If your trip to Glacier National Park has to be later in the season, we suggest warm clothing. You will never be sorry by treating yourselves to the beautiful fall colors. As the trees put on a display of fare-well colors against a backdrop of evergreens, and a surprise dusting of snow on the mountain tops, your camera will be busy. Late September to mid October, is a Fall Paradise.
Lake McDonald Bridge
As our winters seem to be milder than in the past, our glaciers are gradually melting, and this also affects the wild flowers. It's sad but true, that some experts have predicted, by the year 2030 there may be no more glaciers in our park. These huge ice fields have created the beauty of the landscape we see today. As the glaciers slowly slide, they have molded the peaks and valleys that are so lovely. As this melting progresses, it will affect not only the plant life but the animals who roam this area in freedom.
As this global warming gradually melts the glaciers, the plant life will not have the heavy snow cover. Longer summers and milder winters will produce drier soil and could prevent the growth of many of the wildflowers.
We have a fear of wild fires each summer but Nature has used this as a cleansing and it may actually make some varieties of flowers grow more abundantly.
You will enjoy the Visitor center at Logan Pass. It sits on top of the Continental Divide, with an altitude of 6,680 feet. As you look to the west in peak season, there is a display of wildflowers that is sure to bring you back again next year.
Wildflowers in Glacier Park, by Verna Parks.