The sand lily, also known as the star lily, is a delicate perennial wildflower found in western North America. It grows in sagebrush deserts, open montane forests, and in sandy and rocky soils.
The plant above is growing near sagebrush in an uncultivated part of my property near Bend, Oregon. There is only one plant and I look forward to it blooming every spring.
I have seen “fields” of sand lily growing in other locations. This field was seen on a hike near Tumalo dam.
Last year I planted two sand lily plants I purchased at WinterCreek Restoration and Nursery and they bloomed a couple weeks ago. This nursery specializes in native plants that use little water.
If you see sand lilies in nature, you may be tempted to dig them up to plant in your yard. Unfortunately, this plant, with its long rhizome growing beneath the soil, does not transfer well.
Please enjoy them in nature and purchase them from a trusted source. They will grow in USDA zones 5-9. They do well in rock gardens with lots of sunlight. Sand lilies require very little water to shine brightly in your garden.
Here’s a haiku about this plant I featured in a previous post – Tiny Oasis
The fringed gentian, Gentianopsis thermalis, grows in meadows, bogs, and on moist ground. This species prefers growing in warm places and it’s common near geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. It is the official flower of the park.
This plant grows to a height of 4-16 inches and blooms in May through August. This annual has purple flowers 1.5-3 inches in length. The showy flowers are fringed along the edges.
Fringed gentians can be found across northern Canada and south through the Rocky Mountains and into parts of New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.
Native Americans used gentians to treat headaches and as an antidote to witchcraft.
Fun fact: The flowers curl up and close on cloudy days leaving just the tops visible. The closed flowers resemble a small windmill.
Prairie smoke, Geum triflorum, is a native plant of the prairies and it’s a less showy member of the rose family. The sepals on their droopy flowers are fused shut so they can’t open fully. I was drawn to this plant with its plain flowers and deeply serrated leaves.
The plants grow 6-10″ tall and bloom in late spring through early summer. Once the flowers are fertilized, they are followed by feathery wispy “fruits” (achenes) that somewhat resemble smoke. Another common name for this plant is Old Man’s Whiskers. The semi-evergreen leaves turn varying shades of red, purple, and orange in the fall.
Native Americans used prairie smoke roots and crushed seeds in eye washes, sore throat remedies, yeast infection treatments, and to help with stomach and menstrual cramps. The Nlaka’pmx used its roots in a drink and in a body wash in sweathouses. The Okanagan also used it in a love potion for women.
This plant can be found in southern Canada and in the central and northern United States (Zones 3-7). It grows in gravelly soils, but also in silty and loamy soils.
It can be grown in rock gardens and prefers sites with moist springs and drier winters. Prairie smoke tolerates summer sun and has low water needs.
Fun fact: Prairie smoke flowers are pollinated mainly by bumblebees. They have to force their way into the closed flowers to reach the nectar.
This type of hydrangea has interesting flowers and foliage. This shrub blooms over a long period of time in the summer. The white flowers fade to pink in the fall. The large leaves turn maroon, orange-bronze, or red in autumn.
The antelope bitterbrush appears to be reaching for the sky in this photograph. This plant gets its common name due to the fact that it is so important to wildlife. Deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, and pronghorn (antelope) browse on its small three-toothed leaves and use its dense growth for cover. It’s also important for deer mice, kangaroo rats, sage grouse, and Lewis’ woodpecker.
I have seen plants over twelve feet tall but in my yard, they only reach a height of about three feet. My “landscapers” love to prune them. In certain parts of this plant’s range, bitterbrush can comprise up to 91% of mule deer’s diet in September.
These colorful ice plant blossoms brighten up my garden in the spring and summer months. This a drought resistant plant that the bees love. The small succulent leaves are interesting too. Ice plants are a low-maintenance ground cover plant that does well in areas with hot, dry summers.
I saw these apple blossoms in the McCoin Orchard near the trailhead for the Gray Butte trail. This orchard, near Terrebonne, Oregon, was originally planted in the late 1880s and it was rescued by range specialists 100 years later.
There’s a nice hike here with some spectacular views of the country. The close up views of spring flowers are great as well.
These honeysuckle blossoms are pretty but they are on an introduced plant that has been so successful it’s considered invasive in some parts of the country. These tall shrubs are growing along the Deschutes River and they produce a lot of berries later in the summer.
Sometimes the common name of a plant really fits. Here is one of those plants. The red hot poker plant is native to Africa and it grows well in the high desert of Oregon. It is a drought tolerant perennial that has both herbaceous and evergreen species. They are also known as torch lilies.
Red hot plants can grow to a height of five feet and their colorful flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Orioles are also attracted to the nectar. Here’s a post from Mountain Valley Growers showing orioles busy sipping nectar. This plant is deer and rabbit resistant.
The Better Homes and Garden site refers to this plant as “an eye-catching burst of color that is both whimsical and architectural.” Yes, that description fits the red hot poker well. 🙂
There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was fortunate to share a moment with a wild rose near Clarno, Oregon. It is beautiful and delicate when viewed close up.
Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.
Zooming out you can see how its blossoms and fruits are protected by sharp thorns. As you make your way through the thorns of life, keep looking forward towards the moments of peace offered by its flowers.
The hike to Gray Butte, located in the Crooked River National Grassland near Terrebonne, Oregon, is great to walk in the spring because of the wildflowers. I went here in May and we saw quite a few colorful flowers. The habitat is sagebrush steppe with scattered western juniper trees.
View of Mt. Jefferson from Gray Butte trail
I have been here twice with Leslie Olson, one of my favorite guides with Bend Parks and Recreation. One time we went on Cole Loop Trail #854 and the other time we went on Gray Butte Trail #852. The roads to the trailheads have sections that are rough but passable. We did out-and-back hikes of around four to five miles total distance. They are listed as easy to moderate hikes. Here’s a map that shows both trails.
McCoin Orchard at Gray Butte trailhead
A piece of history
My most recent hike began at Gray Butte trailhead, elevation 3,800 feet, near the McCoin Orchard. The orchard was originally planted by Julius and Sarah McCoin in 1886. The property was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930’s. At one time there were 100 fruit trees here – apple, pear, plum, etc. Grassland range specialists saved the surviving trees in the 1980’s. When I was there, the trees were in full bloom.
Gray Butte Peak
Did I make it to the top of the butte yet? Nope, but we had fantastic views from the Gray Butte Trail. Gray Butte reaches an elevation of 5,108 feet. We stopped for lunch on a rocky overlook known as the Austin Creson Viewpoint, elevation 4,200 feet. Austin Creson was involved in the planning of this trail. The viewpoint is 1.9 miles from the trailhead and this was where we turned back.
Views from Gray Butte
The Austin Creson Viewpoint is on the northern edge of the Crooked River Caldera. This caldera is enormous. It encompasses 425 square miles. In fact, the volcanic eruption associated with this caldera was the sixth largest on earth. Woah! Right here in Central Oregon. That’s impressive.
From our lofty perch at the viewpoint we had great views of Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Black Butte. Yes, it was a bit cloudy but seeing the peaks peeking through is always thrilling.
American Oil Beetle
We saw and heard eagles, swifts, and sparrows on our hike. We also saw a weird beetle known as the American oil beetle. Nice to look at but don’t touch them because they will produce an oil that will irritate your skin.
Gray Butte wildflowers
Seeing the wildflowers on this hike made my day. They are so beautiful! I am including photos from my most recent hike and from my earlier hike a couple years ago. Enjoy!
Giant Head Clover
For driving directions, see Gray Butte Trailhead. Note that if you stay on the trail for about 6.5 miles from the Gray Butte trailhead, you’ll end up at Smith Rock State Park. Please use applicable maps for this route.
Purple sage and paintbrush
Be prepared on any trips you make into the backcountry and help to preserve its beauty for the rest of us. Thanks!
Lupine plants were in full bloom on a recent trip I took to Glass Buttes, Oregon. They have beautiful flowers and a unique leaf form. The palmately divided leaves of lupine can have five to 28 leaflets. Water often funnels down the leaflets and collects at their base.