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Notes from the Field: Summer in Color

Indian Paintbrush

The Stewardship Staff has officially begun conducting its annual monitoring visits of the 229 JHLT conservation easements in the valley. With the recent rainfall giving the valley a jumpstart to new growth and an abundance of green as far as the eye can see, we are excited to meet with landowners and visit their beautiful and unique properties. Due to the diversity of this valley, every easement property we visit is home to at least two of the five major plant communities found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and each community fosters the growth of the various and wonderful wildflowers that have begun to blossom in the summer sun.

Riparian communities are those that live and thrive with an abundance of water. Willows and cottonwoods make up the core of this community and can be seen along the banks of every stream, river and pond in the valley. Among these moisture loving trees and shrubs, common selfheal, mountain bluebell, and silvery lupine grow abundantly. All three share hues of blue and purple which stand out in stark contrast to the deep greens of the surrounding grasses. In the coming weeks, white flowered false Solomon seal and common yarrow will bloom as the summer breezes carry the airy seed pods of their neighboring cottonwoods.

Moisture is a deciding factor in where one finds a certain flower, and as the Stewardship Staff wanders away from the streams and towards the higher and drier slopes, we pass into the aspen and conifer communities, which include a great many of the common plant varieties found in the valley. Silvery lupine, one of the first flowers to be seen in Jackson, blooms with small pea-shaped flowers arranged in a tall cone and grows from grasslands to forest. Sharing much of the same range, the Indian paintbrush, which is also the Wyoming state flower, is characterized by its deep red color with petals that actually look more like leaves. It’s already making its presence known and will continue to bloom for the majority of the summer.

The sagebrush community, while one of the driest, is home to a great many colorful companions. The most obvious and earliest arrival is the arrowleaf balsamroot; easily identified by the shape of its leaves and large yellow flowers. These plants grow all over the valley and are about to hit their peak before phasing out by the middle of the summer. The JHLT Stewardship Staff is privy to all of this vibrant life, and we take great pleasure in seeing how one property’s microclimate fosters the growth of an entirely different group of plants than its neighbors. The wildflowers are only here for a brief amount of time so we plan to take full advantage of their beauty and encourage you to do the same. Happy Summer!

-Joe Meier, Stewardship Associate

Photo: Blooming Indian Paintbrush atop Josie’s Ridge

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