NODDING ONION Allium cernuum Nodding onion is a perennial
herb with a characteristic onion or garlic odor and taste. It
grows six to 18 inches tall on slender, erect stalks from elongated,
layered bulbs. The small, white or pinkish flowers are clustered
in an umbel that droops or nods at the end of the stalk. The
leaves, mostly basal, are long and somewhat grasslike. HABITAT/RANGE:
This species is one of the most common wild onions found in
North America. It prefers moist sites of valleys, open hillsides
to mountain meadows. It is distributed across southern Canada
from British Columbia to New York, south to Georgia, Wisconsin,
Texas, Mexico and southern Oregon. Flowers during June to August.
FACTS/USES: Allium is the ancient Latin name for garlic. The
specific name, cernuum, means drooping or nodding. In
the spring, wildlife feed upon the bulbs and foliage, and when
dairy cows graze on onion, it flavors the milk they produce.
ONION Allium textile Textile onion is a slender perennial
that ascends and reproduces by bulbs, aerial bulblets or seed.
The three- to 15-inch unbranched, leafless, round stalk terminates
in an open umbel of 15 or more flowers. Each flower is comprised
of six white or pinkish tepals and six stamens, attached by a
long pedicel. Each stalk, rising from a clump, has two long, roundish,
basal leaves. The stalks and leaves have an onion or garlic odor.
HABITAT/RANGE: A plant of plains and foothills of Idaho to Alberta,
Manitoba, Minnesota and south to New Mexico and Utah. Flowers
in early summer. FACTS/ USES: The Latin specific name, textile, refers to the net-like coat of fibers covering the bulb. All the
onions are edible and can be prepared a number of ways. The bulbs
can be eaten raw, cooked or boiled. The leaves, too, can be used
as seasoning. Consuming large quantities of onion, like many native
foods, can cause poisoning.
BRODIAEA Brodiaea ciouglasii This flower has
an onion-like appearance. Five to 15 blue tubular flowers are
clustered in a terminal umbel. Each one-inch, tubularflower is
comprised of six fused tepals with flared lobes, and each flower
is attached by a short pedicel. The one- to three-foot, erect,
leafless stalks ascend from bulb-like corms. The narrow, grasslike
leaves are basal and seldom exceed the height of the flowering
stalk. HABITAT/RANGE: Douglas' brodiaea inhabits well-drained
slopes of grasslands and sagebrush plains to pine and montane
forests. It is distributed from British Columbia to Montana, south
to Utah and northern California. Flowers from late April to mid-July.
FACTS/USES: The generic name honors the Scottish botanist, James
Brodie, and the specific name honors the Northwest explorer-botanist,
David Douglas. The edible corms were used by Native Americans
and early pioneers, who ate them raw or cooked.
|SEGO LILY Calochortus gunnisonii The sego lily is
a goblet-like perennial flower with three narrow, greenish sepals
and three broad, cream-colored petals with an elongated, often
fringe-margined gland near the base. The long, narrow basal leaves
are channeled and V-shaped in cross section. Each tall, slender
stem, six to 18 inches high, terminates in a single flower. HABITAT/RANGE:
An inhabitant of meadows to light woods, this Rocky Mountain species
is common east of the Continental Divide, from central Montana
to South Dakota, south to New Mexico, eastern Arizona and Utah.
Blooms from May to mid-July. FACTS/USES: Another common name for
sego lily is mariposa illy, a Spanish word meaning
butterfly. The Greek generic name, Calochortus, is a derivative
of kato, meaning beautiful, and chortos, meaning
grass. Although most sego lilies reproduce from seeds, it takes
three to five years for seedlings to establish bulbs and flower.
|NUTTALL'S SEGO LILY Calochortus nuttallii This erect, slender-stemmed
perennial herb has a terminal, white, wineglass-shaped flower.
Each flower has three lanceolate, greenish sepals and three triangular-shaped
petals. At the base of each petal is a roundish gland, fringed
with hairs, and an arched brownish-purple spot above the gland.
The pale green leaves are slender and grasslike. HABITAT/ RANGE:
Prefers dry, grassy or open sagebrush foothills of the Rocky Mountains,
from Oregon, Montana and North Dakota to New Mexico and California.
An early summer bloomer. FACTS/USES: This is Utah's state flower
and commemorates the 1847 arrival of Brigham Young and his followers
into the Salt Lake valley. The first few years, they faced famine
caused by drought, cricket infestations, and heavy frosts. The
sweet, starchy bulb-like roots of the sego lily helped sustain
the pioneers through those harsh times.
CAMAS Camassia quamash Common camas is a perennial,
bulbous herb that grows one to two feet high. The bright blue
to purplish flowers are arranged in loose racemes. The six tepals
(sepals and petals are similar) spread outward in a star pattern
with six yellow stamens. Most of the long, linear leaves are basal,
with a few leaflike bracts in the inflorescence. HABITAT/RANGE:
Camas prefers moist or wet meadows that often dry by late spring.
It is found from British Columbia to Alberta, south to Colorado
and California. When it flowers in early spring, camas produces
large fields of blue that, from a distance, resemble pools of
water. FACTS/USES: Camas has been one of the most significant
staples and monetary plants of Western Indians. The bulbs are
dug in spring but care must be taken not to collect death camas (Zigadenus venenosus). Camas bulbs are either cooked,
producing a sweet gummy taste, or dried for later use.
|BEADLILY Clintonia uniflora This low-growing perennial herb
usually has one distinct white flower terminating on a three-
to eight-inch slender stalk. Six tepals flare back into a star
shape, revealing six yellow stamens. The two to three leaves are
mostly basal, broad and bright green. After the flower matures,
it develops into a blue berry. The extensive rhizomatous root
system produces a number of paired leaves surrounding the flowering
plant. HABITAT/RANGE: This dweller of moist or wet soils in shaded
coniferous forests is found from foothills to montane forests.
It is distributed from Alaska to California, but mainly west of
the Rocky Mountains. A late spring and early summer bloomer. FACTS/USES:
The specific name, uniflora, means one-flowered. The root
has known medicinal values, including use in a poultice for dog-bite
wounds, and a tea also can be made to help expectant mothers during
|WARTBERRY FAIRY-BELL Disporum trachycarpum This is an
unusual perennial herb. The one- to two-foot stems ascend from
thick underground rhizomes. The stems branch angularly into horizontal
positions, and the end of each branch bears one or two small,
white or cream-colored, bell-shaped flowers. The pendulous, six-tepaled
flowers are in-conspicuously hidden below the leaves on slender
stems. Long, ovate or oblong, prominently veined leaves branch
from the stem. A round, velvety berry containing six to 15 seeds
develops from the flower. The berries are yellow at first, then
turn red. HABITAT/RANGE: Fairy-bells often grow along stream banks
or slopes of moist, shaded woods. Found from British Columbia
to Alberta, the Dakotas, south to Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Blooms from late spring into early summer. FACTS/USES: The generic
name is derived from the Greek word, cfe, meaning double, and spora, for seed, referring to the two seeds per ovary cell.
LILY Erythronium grandiflorum Glacier lilies
are colorful and showy wildflowers. Six bright yellow tepals form
a nodding flower at the end of a six- to 15-inch stalk. The tepals
curl back and display six yellowish to purplish anthers. There
usually are two basal leaves, which are shiny, long and broadly
lanceolate. HABITAT/RANGE: This lily inhabits a wide variety of
environments, from sagebrush to montane forests to subalpine meadows.
It is a Western species, existing from British Columbia to Montana,
south to Colorado and Oregon. Flowers from April to August, depending
upon elevation. FACTS/USES: The Greek generic name is derived
from erythro, meaning red, in reference to the pink or
reddish color of some species. The starchy, elongated corms are
a favorite food source, especially for grizzly bears, which rake
their long claws through a patch to collect the bulbs. Indians
used to cook or dry the corms for later consumption.
LILY Fritillaria atropurpurea Leopard lily is
an unusual camouflaged flower. One to four brown, pendulous, bell-shaped
flowers with purple, greenish and yellow mottled tepals help hide
this flower. The one- to three-foot, erect stems have several
very narrow, long, linear leaves. Stems ascend from bulb-like
corms, usually surrounded by smaller bulblets. HABITAT/RANGE:
Found on grassy slopes, coniferous forests and montane ridges
to near timberline, it is distributed, but locally rare, from
Washington to the Dakotas, south to Wyoming, New Mexico and central
California. Flowers from late spring until early summer. FACTS/
USES: The generic name, Fritillaria, is Latin for dice
box, for its resemblance to the shape of the bell-like flowers.
The specific name, atropurpurea, means dark purple. The
corms of this species are surrounded by small seedlike bulblets.
The starchy corms are edible but the plant is too rare to dig
BELL Fritillaria pudica This small perennial arises
three to eight inches from a starchy corm. The stem usually is
unbranched and terminates in a pendulous or nodding bell-shaped
flower. The six bright yellow tepals fade to reddish or purplish
at maturity. The leaves are long, linear and thickened and usually
are basal or midway along the stem. HABITAT/RANGE: An inhabitant
of grassland, sagebrush plains, dry hillsides and coniferous forests.
Distributed from British Columbia to Alberta, the Dakotas, Wyoming,
Utah and northern California. One of the earliest spring bloomers,
the yellow bell follows the snowline and usually is found with
springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata). FACTS/USES:
The specific name means bashful or retiring. The starchy bulbs
or corms are edible and were known by Native Americans. The corms
also are a favorite food for grizzly bears and pocket gophers.
LILY Ulium philadelphicum Red lily is one of
the most colorful and rare species of the Rocky Mountains. The
one- to two-foot, unbranched stems arise from fleshy-scaled bulbs.
Long, narrow, lanceolate leaves are arranged alternately on the
lower portion of the plant and in whorls near the top. Usually
one, or sometimes several, large, orange-red, funnel-shaped blossoms
with purple spots and large anthers terminate on the stem. HABITAT/RANGE:
Occurs on moist grassland prairies, woods to mountain meadows.
It is a rare plant, mainly because it has been reduced by grazing
and picking. It now is found only locally along the eastern slopes
of the Rocky Mountains, from Alberta to New Mexico, east to Saskatchewan,
Ohio and Arkansas. Blooms from June to August. FACTS/USES: This
plant may be in danger of extinction and should not be picked
or transplanted because it usually does not survive transplanting.
SOLOMON-PLUME Smilacina racemosa This species
is very similar to S. stellata. The main difference is
in the inflorescence and leaves. Numerous, tiny flowers are arranged
in a dense panicle with each cream-colored flower having six minute
tepals that are smaller than the filaments, or stalk, of the six
stamens. Small quarter-inch, round, juicy, red-spotted berries
develop from the flowers. The leaves are long, ovate, and clasp
the stem. HABITAT/RANGE: This species prefers moist woods, stream
banks and open forests from sea level to mid-mountain elevations.
It is distributed from Alaska to Nova Scotia, south to Georgia,
Missouri, Colorado and southern California. Flowers from April
to July. FACTS/USES: The specific name, racemosa, means
flowers in racemes. The young shoots, berries and roots are edible,
if prepared properly.
SOLOMON-PLUME Smilacina stellata This plant has simple,
terminal racemes with three to 15 small, whitish or cream-colored
flowers arranged alternately along the peduncles. Each flower
is comprised of three sepals and three petals that look alike;
collectively, they are called tepals. A globose, greenish to red
berry develops from the flower. The long, lance-shaped leaves
are alternately arranged on a slender, unbranched, erect stem.
The plants are rhizomatous perennial herbs. HABITAT/RANGE: An
inhabitant of shaded, moist woods and stream banks to exposed
hillsides of valleys and mountains. Found in cooler, moist climates
throughout North America. Flowers from late spring to midsummer.
FACTS/USES: The specific name means stellate or starry. The berries
and roots are edible. Berries are best eaten cooked to reduce
laxative effect, and Native Americans used to cook the bitter
|TWISTED-STALK Streptopus amplexifolius This is an unusual perennial
wildflower of deep, shaded woods. The plant is characterized by
a slender, zigzagging stern. At each bend of the stem branches
a clasping, broad, ovate leaf with distinct parallel veins. Beneath
the leaf axils are white, six-tepaled flowers on slender stalks
that have a distinct twist or kink-hence the name twisted-stalk.
The flower matures into a bright red berry. HABITAT/RANGE: It
is a dweller of shady mountain thickets, most forests and the
edges of stream banks. Twisted-stalk is distributed widely in
North America, from Alaska to California. Flowers from late spring
into midsummer. FACTS/USES: The Greek generic name is derived
from streptos, meaning twisted, and pous, for foot,
and refers to the bent flower stalks or peduncles; the specific
name means leaf-clasping. The berries are browsed by grouse and
|TRILLIUM Trillium ovatum Easily recognizable by its habitat
and three broad, ovate leaves just below a white, three-petaled
flower, the plant arises from short, thick rhizomes and reaches
four to 15 inches high. The stems are erect, unbranched and terminate
with a single white flower, which turns pinkish or red with age.
The three leaves below the flower are whorled and stalkless. HABITAT/RANGE:
This plant prefers moist, thick montane woods, especially along
stream banks and boggy areas. Mostly found in the Central Rocky
Mountains, from British Columbia to southern Alberta, south to
Colorado and central California. A very early spring to early
summer bloomer. FACTS/USES: The Latin generic name is derived
from tres, meaning three. The specific name means ovate.
The root of this plant is known for its medicinal qualities, such
as a treatment for cramps or to reduce a swollen eye.
HELLEBORE Veratrum viride False hellebore is
a large, cornstalk-like perennial herb that grows in dense patches
and reaches three to six feet high. The conspicuous, large, broad
leaves have deep, parallel veins that give the appearance of pleats.
The small, six-tepaled, white or greenish flowers are densely
clustered on a branchedpanicle. HABITAT/RANGE: Falsehelleboreisfound
in wet thickets to swamps and lowlands to mountain meadows, and
it ranges from Alaska to Maine, south to North Carolina, Colorado
and Oregon. Asimilar and related species, V. califomicum, is found in the southern range of the Rockies. Blooms from April
to early August. FACTS/USES: This plant is extremely poisonous.
Alkaloids concentrated in the root and young shoots often poison
livestock in the early spring, when the plant is just emerging.
False hellebore has been used medicinally as a heart depressant
and spinal paralyzant. The chief reactant is veratrum, an alkaloid
|BEARGRASS Xerophyllum tenax This plant supports a dense, conical
raceme of small, white or cream-colored flowers. A stout two-
to four-foot stem ascends from a large basal tussock of grasslike
leaves that are one to two feet long, strong and sharp-edged.
The erect stems often persist through the next season. HABITAT/RANGE:
This mountain plant grows best on well-drained slopes and ridges.
It ranges from British Columbia, Montana and Nevada to central
California. Beargrass begins to bloom at lower elevations, about
3,000 feet, in June and continues into August at elevations of
8,000 feet. FACTS/USES: The name beargrass refers to bears digging
the starchy rhizomes in spring and to the grasslike leaves. The
generic name, Xerophyllum, refers to the leaves being dry
and tough. Native Americans used this plant by roasting the roots
for food and by drying and bleach-ing the leaves for weaving and
DEATH-CAMAS Zigadenus venenosus This plant is
a perennial herb with a dense raceme of small whitish or cream-colored
flowers. The six- to 20-inch, unbranched, erect stems arise from
small, onion-like bulbs. The leaves are narrow, linear, grasslike
blades that grow from the base with smaller leaves along the stem.
HABITAT/RANGE: Death camas has a wide variation of habitats-from
plains, grassy foothills, sagebrush slopes to montane forests
and alpine meadows. It is distributed widely throughout the West,
from British Columbia to Saskatchewan, south to Nebraska, Colorado
and Baja, California. Flowers from early spring to midsummer.
FACTS/USES: The specific name means poisonous. Next to hemlock,
this is the most poisonous plant in the West. The active agent
is an alkaloid called zygadenine, which causes a quickening and
irregularity of the heartbeat, slow respiration and convulsions.