Despite recent snow flurries, spring has once again arrived in the Black Hills and many flowers are blooming. On a recent hike along the Hell Canyon Trail (#32), a Celebrating Wildflowers site, I encountered many early spring flowers. Flowers are appearing in the northern Black Hills as well, especially the flowering shrub species.
A few small pink flowers have appeared on the landscape including littleleaf pussytoes (Antennaria microphylla), alyssumleaf phlox (Phlox alyssifolia), and western red currant (Ribes cereum).
Many small purple-blue flowers have also emerged across the Forest including prairie bluebells (Mertensia lanceolata) and hookedspur violet (Viola adunca). In drier areas, especially in the southern Black Hills, tufted milkvetch (Astragalus spatulatus) can been seen growing in gravelly soil.
Slightly larger purple flowers now blooming include rock clematis (Clematis tenuiloba), little larkspur (Delphinium bicolor), darkthroat shootingstar (Dodecatheon pulchellum), and Rocky Mountain iris (Iris missouriensis). In addition some pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) are still flowering, but most are starting to produce fruit.
Some of spring’s most beautiful white flowers are appearing including common starlily (Leucocrinum montanum) and roughfruit fairybells (Prosartes trachycarpa). Some more common white flowers currently blooming include field chickweed (Cerastium arvense), wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), and Hood’s phlox (Phlox hoodii). In addition the showy (and odiferous!) flowering shrub species are in full bloom including Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).
A bounty of small yellow flowers are displayed across the Forest including, stemless four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), goldenpea (Thermopsis rhombifolia), and Oregon grape (Mahonia repens). Several yellow blooms can be encountered along the Hell Canyon trail including golden corydalis (Corydalis aurea), foothill bladderpod (Lesquerella ludoviciana), narrowleaf stoneseed (Lithospermum incisum), slender wildparsley (Musineon tenuifolium), cinquefoil (Potentilla sp.), buttercup (Ranunculus sp.), Nuttall’s violet (Viola nuttallii), and meadow deathcamas (Zigadenus venenosus).
Finally, many species of species of shrubs and trees are flowering, but not in as showy of a manner. Some of the less conspicuous flowers like Canadian gooseberry (Ribes oxyacanthoides), look like what we commonly think a flower should look like (obvious petals, etc.), while others like boxelder (Acer negundo) do not have obvious flowers, but have male reproductive parts (stamens) exposed (the red tips are stamens). Still others like russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis), have flowers so small and green they are more easily observed with a hand lens. Tree species are currently producing catkins. Catkins are cylindrical clusters of flowers with inconspicuous petals. Many other trees and shrubs, such as paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), produce catkins.
The Hell Canyon trailhead (http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5194584.pdf) is approximately one mile west of the Jewel Cave National Monument entrance on Highway 16. The trail is rated moderate to difficult and is open to hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. If you do venture out to this great wildflower viewing area, bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
If the weather continues to stay warm and dry, we are likely to see a new flush of species blooming in the coming weeks, so keep checking for updates.