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Friday, July 29, 2011

Identification

Despite the snow-covered mountains and trails we hiked in Glacier National Park, there were plenty of blooming wildflowers. I can identify many traditional flowers: columbine, forget-me-not, paintbrush, lupine, low larkspur, bunch berry. Along the trail to Iceberg Lake (which was still covered in ice), I saw this lovely five-petaled purplish flower (only a few others were nearby). With the sunlight streaming through its petals, the yellow stamen glimmered. I captured the image on two photographs.

We came down from the mountain and lake several hours later and headed to the ranger station. My sons had found the remains of an animal and brought samples of the fur to the rangers for identification (a moose). I brought photographs. One ranger thought it was a sticky geranium and showed me a photograph of that. No. The color was too light, and the stamen was not yellow. Another ranger suggested the red monkey flower. Did it grow by water? she asked. Yes! That was it.

The rangers are like librarians, helping visitors discern differences, asking questions to get at details, and guiding them to sources (like Wildflowers of Glacier National Park by Shannon Fitzpatrick Kimball and Peter Lesica, which I used often). They promote discovery while fulfilling a desire to find the answer.

3 comments:

  1. How wonderful. Like good librarians these park rangers didn't give up until they had the right answer for you. So satisfying.

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  2. I wish I knew more wildflowers like you. There's only a handful I can identify. For awhile I brought along the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers on my hikes in state parks. There was a sense of accomplishment as I checked off each species I found. Maybe it's time to dust it off again.

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  3. I'd like to see that book with your check marks, David.

    Mr. Brattcat was with me in spirit, nudging me to identify what I saw!

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