August 19, 2011

Mt. Rainier Wildflowers

It looks like the summer has finally arrived in western Washington! Heading outdoors and basking in the sun is on all of our minds lately, and the Burke has been getting asked:

When is the best time to view wildflowers on Mt. Rainier and what kinds of flowers could I see?

This chilly summer has delayed the breathtaking wildflower blooms on Mt. Rainier. Usually blooming during July and August, snow still covers much of Mt. Rainier National Park’s Paradise area and the snow is starting to melt at Sunrise. As the sun returns to the Pacific Northwest, wildflowers will make a belated appearance that should stretch from early to late-August.

Once these amazing flowers bloom, the sight is breathtaking. To help hikers and other nature-lovers identify the blossoms, the Burke Museum’s Herbarium has just published Alpine Flowers of Mt. Rainier, a color-coded identification guide with photos and descriptions of 90 common wildflower species found above the tree line at Mt. Rainier National Park. Here are a couple of the many flowers you may see.

One of the unique wildflowers found on Mt. Rainier is the Mt. Rainier Lousewort, Pedicularis rainierensis. This flower is endemic to the park and can grow up to 16 inches high.

In naturally disturbed areas like streamsides and burned areas, you may see Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium. This colony-forming plant has a striking pink bloom with four petals.

For those interested in wildflower excursions on Mt. Rainier, Alpine Flowers of Mt. Rainier is available at the Burke Museum shop, Mt. Rainier National Park gift shops, Seattle Audobon, Discover Your Northwest, Metsker Maps, and Third Place Books. Proceeds from the guide will support the Burke Museum Herbarium’s educational outreach and field research activities. 

Photos courtesy of Donovan Tracy, co-author and photographer of Alpine Flowers of Mt. Rainier guide.