A Medley of Moptops

A medley of moptops for wildflower Wednesday, definitely one of the most distinctive alpine flowers – I just love the way they catch the light. They only flower for a brief time as soon as the snow melts, leaving their fluffy seed heads to decorate the meadows for the rest of the short alpine growing season.

Moptop, tow-headed baby, hippy on a stick, muppets of the mountains… The seed-heads of the western anemone have multiple nicknames. Many people liken them to characters from Dr Seuss books; to me they’re just moptops. I didn’t have much exposure to the Dr Seuss characters when I was a kid but what little I had I didn’t think much of; I have a vague recollection of thinking that it was kinda silly and unrealistic, even at a young age. So, forgive me if I shrug or even grit my teeth if one more person exclaims about how Dr Seuss-like they are!

It’s remarkable to see how tall they grow and how they dominate some meadows when they start off so small. But the best thing about them is the way they catch the light, be it afternoon, evening, or morning. And I can’t stop taking their picture when that happens!

Peak wildflowers

How did it get to be wildflower Wednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you’ll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others.

View this post on Instagram

How did it get to be #wildflowerwednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you'll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others. #wildflowers #lanceleavedstonecrop #lupine #pinkmonkeyflower #smallfloweredpenstemon #spreadingphlox #sulphurbuckwheat #westernanemone #moptop #arnica #fringedgrassofparnassus #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #backpacking #coastmountains #explorebc

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

Another weekend, another backpacking trip, and another chance to catch the wildflower bloom in the high country. The first flush of flowers is done now: anemones have become moptops, while glacier lilies and others are only visible as seed pods. The next wave of favourites is showing up in force with flowers such as pink monkeyflower, broad-leaved willowherb, and fringed grass-of-Parnassus.

  1. Lance-leaved stonecrop in flower – they’re hard to see but this flower takes its name from the tiny pointy leaves at the base.
  2. Small-flowered penstemon – well-named, this little flower is usually only a few inches tall, and often really hard to photograph.
  3. Dwarf lupine – as tiny a flower as you’ll ever see, and so easy to miss; the leaves are not even an inch across!
  4. Arnica – not sure which type, but this little perfect trio in bloom was too good not to photograph.
  5. Spreading phlox – widespread in the dry alpine soil, it was great to find a near-perfect little patch, with a few flowers only just opening up.
  6. Sulphur buckwheat – this was remarkably widespread way up on the ridges above the treeline. We’ve only really seen it in Manning Park before so it was a nice surprise to find it here.
  7. Moptops of course! Who can resist moptops, especially when lit up by the late-afternoon sun?
  8. Pink monkeyflower – common in wet areas, and when they bloom, they really bloom!
  9. Fringed grass-of-Parnassus – one of my favourite late-season flowers (check out the little golf-ball flower buds!), I recently learned of its un-fringed cousin that grows in the UK.

I could spend hours crawling around photographing these and more, even though the bugs were as hungry as we’ve ever known them, especially the horseflies that managed to take a chunk or three out of me! Unfortunately, the flowers and bugs go hand-in-hand; it’s impossible to get one without the other. I suppose I should be grateful for the insects but sometimes…! 🙂

Flowers, flowers, flowers

Wildflower Wednesday Part 1: a selection of flowers from our trip to the Southern Chilcotins. Glacier lily, paintbrush, moptops, Menzies larkspur, western anemone in flower, white bog orchid, white paintbrush in the snow/hail, columbine, Columbia lily, and a double feature of pink monkeyflower and broad-leaved willowherb. Good times!

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery!

View this post on Instagram

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery! #wildflowerwednesday #wildflowers #phelixcreek #whiteheather #pinkheather #woodbetony #bractedlousewort #onesidedwintergreen #phlox #spreadingphlox #glaucousgentian #reinorchid #alpinemitrewort #arcticlupine #alpinemarshmarigold #kalmia #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #coastmountains

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

What can I say? We saw lots of flowers on our two backpacking trips – it was wonderful! And these are just some of the species that I photographed with my phone; we took many more with our other cameras. I was pleased to be able to find enough flowers on the second trip that I hadn’t photographed on the first too, even though there was a fair bit of overlap (as you might expect). Not much else to add, really; I think the IDs in the text above are in the right order. If not I’ll edit them later 🙂

Flower season

If you don’t like wildflowers, keep scrolling! It’s wildflower Wednesday and the alpine flowers are beginning to bloom. Glacier lilies, spring beauty, western anemone, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, Sitka valerian, Columbia lilies, and white bog orchids can all be found in Manning Park right now along with many others I neglected to photograph!

View this post on Instagram

If you don't like wildflowers, keep scrolling! It's #wildflowerwednesday and the alpine flowers are beginning to bloom. Glacier lilies, spring beauty, western anemone, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, Sitka valerian, Columbia lilies, and white bog orchids can all be found in Manning Park right now along with many others I neglected to photograph! #wildflowers #flowerstagram #manningpark #ecmanningpark #ecmanningprovincialpark #glacierlily #springbeauty #westernanemone #paintbrush #sitkavalerian #sulphurbuckwheat #columbialily #whitebogorchid #bogorchid #bcparks #mybcparks #yourbcparks #explorebc #frostymountain #heathertrail #paintbrushtrail #beaverpond #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

I maxed out my allocation for this multi-photo post – I would have included more if Instagram allowed….

  1. A glacier lily backlit by afternoon sunshine – the perfect glacier lily photo! This photo was taken on our descent from Frosty Mountain and we arrived at this pocket meadow in the forest at just the right time for the sun to find a gap in the trees and light up the flowers. Beautiful!
  2. Of course, one is never enough but I like this one because it shows the under-appreciated (and hard to photograph) spring beauty, a gorgeous diminutive little flower that blooms alongside the glacier lily and anemone.
  3. Spring beauty in full bloom – see how pretty it is? It’s well named! We first encountered spring beauty when we lived in Maryland, though it was common in low-lying woodland rather than in the alpine (of which there wasn’t any really!).
  4. The glacier lilies may be my favourite, but the stars of the show up at Blackwall Peak were the western anemones which were blooming everywhere, and often right along the edge of the trail. That made getting photos very convenient!
  5. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the shot from the side or from above, so I posted both.
  6. I can never resist a photo of paintbrush either, especially when it’s still in bud like this. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much detail my phone camera captured, down to all the fine hairs on the reddening bracts.
  7. This was a nice surprise: sulphur buckwheat in bud. I like how the flower head is divided up into sub-flowers, each with their own collection of florets.
  8. Sitka valerian – the name conjures up the smell of autumn in the mountains as they have quite a pungent scent when they begin to fade. It was the shape of this one that caught my eye, and it was only later I realized I’d caught just a single flower blooming.
  9. This Columbia lily was blooming right next to our camp site, and taking its picture was the first thing I did when I got out of the car 🙂 We saw many at the roadside as we drove into and through Manning Park; I’d love to have stopped and taken a few photos but that’s just not a particularly safe thing to do on such a busy highway.
  10. Lastly, a tall white bog orchid. As with the Columbia lilies, we saw some really good displays of these by the side of Highway 3. But I was happy with this one at the edge of the marsh by the beaver pond. I love the contrast of the green and white on these flowers.

As I alluded to in the caption above, there were many flowers that I either didn’t photograph or couldn’t feature in this little collection, although a good many of those were taken with our “real” cameras which aren’t as easy to post to Instagram. This is definitely my favourite time of the year now, where I’m torn between seeking mountain summits and spending hours photographing flower meadows…

Anemone

Freshly blooming Western anemone in the high alpine meadows of the Cayoosh Range. Also known as the pasqueflower (and later moptops when they go to seed), these little flowers were blooming all over the meadows, each one looking more perfect and more photogenic than the last 🙂 Needless to say, we have dozens of photos just of these flowers never mind all the glacier lilies we saw…

I took so many photos of these little flowers at the weekend I’ve had the hardest time picking my favourite. But at the end of the day I love this kind of radar-dish view, especially against a blue sky and mountains. Just to give you an idea of the scale, the flower is probably about 4 cm/1.5 inches in diameter. The tilting screen of my RX100II came in really handy for getting down at flower level too.