Identifying Native Plants on High Country Hikes

Identifying Native Plants on High Country Hikes

Explore native plants can add an extra dimension to your hiking experience and can also serve as an effective distraction from any sore muscles you might be feeling!

The following list includes some of the wildflowers that you might find along Aztec Ruins National Monument’s Native Plant Trail, each one featuring its own fascinating name and ethnobotanical background.


Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale) are one of the most widespread spring wildflowers, often appearing as icons in flower guides. Although non-native, this non-native weed has quickly taken over lawns worldwide but we also have native varieties with similar characteristics; orange mountain dandelion and false dandelion (Agoseris glauca) come to mind; both feature bright yellow blooms topped off by dark brown disc-shaped petals and form puffy seedheads.

Dandelion is an evergreen perennial broadleaf weed that thrives in most environments except deserts. It can be found growing in mountain meadows, turf areas, perennial crop fields (particularly alfalfa fields), orchards vineyards and disturbed sites; furthermore it hosts the aster yellow disease fungus that damages many vegetable crops.

Every dandelion head typically contains between 150 and 200 individual flowers called florets, often mistaken for pollen. When exposed to air currents or pulled by flowers, these pollen-like florets scatter easily due to apomixis – one reason dandelion seeds spread so rapidly.

Native peoples and early pioneers valued the dandelion for its food, medicine and magic properties; unlike modern gardeners who tend to dismiss it as an unsightly nuisance.

Before vitamin pills were ever imagined, dandelion leaves and petals were used to treat all manner of ailments: from baldness and dandruff to toothaches and sores; weak digestion to fatigue, fevers, scurvy and the common cold. Dandelion greens, roots and blossoms contain high concentrations of vitamins A & C along with minerals like iron potassium calcium for relief.

Although advertising, peer pressure, and our pursuit of the perfect lawn have led us to view dandelion and other spring edibles as unwanted invaders, there are still ample opportunities for you to harvest these delicious and nutritious treats! Just remember that some people may be allergic; be sure to consult with a poison control center first if consuming too much dandelion; it contains certain toxins which could make you very ill if consumed too frequently.

Moss Campion

Summer may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean the mountains won’t still provide plenty of vibrant greens and hues to look forward to during high country hikes. Look out for Silene acaulis (moss campion), an alpine plant found thriving in mountainous regions all around the world such as Greenland, Rocky Mountains and Alps.

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Moss campion, an evergreen perennial that thrives on limestone or dolomite soils, grows in small cushions of compacted moss-like material on grassland and scree. These mats form closed forms to retain heat and moisture as well as offer shelter against drying winds from high mountains; furthermore they serve as recycling factories to turn dead plant material into nutrients for the growing moss campion plants.

Moss campion usually blooms during late summer when temperatures have warmed enough for germination to occur, when its small flowers on short stalks begin to show their beauty in full. Moss campion flowers play an integral part of mountain landscapes by adding color and giving it depth otherwise dominated by gray and white hues.

On your hike, keep an eye out for moss campion in rock crevices or openings on rock faces or among talus fields, or in protected meadows of the subalpine zone where it co-occurs with pearl-everlasting, paintbrush, and aster.

Watering your moss campion regularly is essential to its health, promoting optimal growth. Use filtered room-temperature water until all soil particles have become saturated – best done during spring and fall to avoid frost damage to this sensitive plant!

Moss campion thrives best in an environment of between 68 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal growth. Transplantation should take place when temperatures reach 95 or higher; watering should also be prioritized during its first few years or when transplanted to new soil locations.

Alpine Willow

Alpine zone’s rocky tundra environment presents unique challenges for plants. Yet, despite these extreme conditions, many different species thrive here; including shrubs that provide cover or food to animals.

One of the easiest plants to identify is alpine willow (Salix petrophilia). This small shrub can be found throughout Rocky Mountain regions as well as those with tundra habitat.

Careful examination of this shrub reveals it to be part of the willow family, specifically alpine willow. Unlike its close relatives, alpine willow does not have leaflets but instead has narrow leaves with short stems that don’t spread when the wind blows. Furthermore, its flowers exhibit blue bell-like blossoms which move in response to wind currents – sure signs it belongs there!

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These small shrubs thrive at higher elevations, usually above treeline. They prefer moist but well-drained soil and can often be seen in meadows and along streambanks where snowmelt water collects on alluvial benches; this habitat can often be seen in Colorado Rocky Mountains but they also grow on steep slopes of mountain ridges or even in avalanche chutes.

At its core lies alpine willow; however, this region also hosts other shrubs, such as bearberry (kinnikinnick), saskatoon (serviceberry), Western snowberry, chokecherry, black gooseberry, thimbleberry and all three types of juniper (Rocky Mountain, common and creeping). The South Willow Falls Trail provides ample opportunity to view these and other native plants – it offers moderate hiking suitable for all ages and abilities and features a spectacular waterfall along its route as well as stunning views across the Continental Divide. This moderate hike offers opportunities for all these native plants along its route – its moderate hike provides ample viewing opportunities along its length to view these and other native plants – its peaceful waters create an ideal setting where all three types can coexist together! The South Willow Falls Trail provides ample opportunities to view these and other native plants as it winds its way along its moderate hike trail gives opportunities for all these and more native plants as it travels north towards its destination at South Willow Falls Trailhead; here there’s ample chance of seeing all three types of junipers: Rocky Mountain Common and Creeping). South Willow Falls Trail provides opportunities to see all three species as it includes beautiful waterfall views across Continental Divide! – suitable for all ages and abilities with gorgeous waterfall views across this moderate hike! Featuring scenic waterfall views! This moderate hike features beautiful waterfall views with views that feature gorgeous waterfall and views of Continental Divide scenery along its route! – ideal for all ages/achievers! a stunning waterfall! – its beautiful waterfall. This moderate hike caters views over Continental Divide views! It features stunning waterfall and spectacular Continental Divide! View! junipers (Rocky Mountain common and creeping), while providing opportunities for viewing these and more native plants within this moderate hike is suitable for all ages/abilities with its moderate hike suitable terrain as it features stunning Continental Divide views! Suitable hike with spectacular Continental Divide views! View!! vista!. This moderate hike suitable views as it leads up close! This moderate hike! plus an exquisite waterfall! s. This moderate trail. Suitable hike features gorgeous waterfall and views along this moderate route suitable all ages/abilities across its Continental Divide views too.

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Park staff ensure the alpine willow survives in its difficult environment by maintaining and eliminating competing plants through proper maintenance and removal of competitors. This includes timely trimming of residual and lateral branches as well as clearing away fallen branches or debris; this increases air permeability and light transmittance while decreasing competition among species that compete for available resources in this difficult habitat.


Huckleberries are an iconic Northwest treat, treasured by residents for their deep purple to red hue and sweet-sour flavor. Although rarely found on supermarket shelves, fresh or processed huckleberries can often be enjoyed right in nature or turned into jams and shakes for maximum enjoyment. In fact, even grizzly bears love huckleberry picking! It isn’t uncommon to spot these furry predators looking for their own stash!

Huckleberries are small, round berries with glossy surfaces and sweet, slightly tart flavors similar to blueberries and raspberries. These small, round fruits thrive on huckleberry plants (Vaccinium tayloricum or Gaylussacia americana) where they’re abundant, belonging to the Ericaceae family alongside other species like blackberries, wild strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Find an optimal Huckleberry Patch By Looking for locations which receive partial to full sunlight such as old clear cuts or burns, ski runs or forested trails in Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Parks.

In order to prevent overharvesting and disrupt the ecosystem of huckleberries, it’s crucial that only enough for personal consumption is harvested each time. Furthermore, unripe or green huckleberries have an unpleasant bitter flavor which should only be harvested when fully ripened.

For optimal huckleberry harvest, plan a visit during late summer – they typically reach their prime between July and September depending on climate conditions and how old the tree is. Keep in mind, though, that each year and climate condition could vary the huckleberry season significantly.

Hannah Stibal, administrator for Mount Hood National Forest, suggests huckleberries can be difficult to locate due to specific environmental conditions that impede production. To increase chances of finding them she suggests looking for patches where logging has occurred or fire has burned through areas, such as Dollar Lake Fire area on Mt. Hood or Eagle Creek Fire near Mt. Hood; wilderness areas will not produce as many.