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You Can Grow It: Idaho wildflowers blooming in mountain country

There are hundreds of different kinds of wildflowers growing throughout Idaho's forests and mountain valleys. Many of them are at their peak this time of the year.

BOISE, Idaho — Wildflowers are in bloom all throughout Idaho's mountain country, blanketing meadows and hillsides with a painter's palette of red, pink, purple, blue and yellow. 

For Thursday's You Can Grow It, KTVB Garden Master Jim Duthie chose several of his favorite mountain flowers for viewers to look for as they head to the hills this summer. 

There are hundreds of different kinds of wildflowers growing throughout Idaho's forests and mountain valleys and this is the time of year when many of them are at their peak. There are even a few that only grow here in the Gem State. 

Credit: U.S. Forest Service
Credit: Shutterstock

Take a look at some of these pictures of wildflowers posted on KTVB's Idaho Weather Watchers Facebook page, like this beautiful shot of a mix of mountain wildflowers against a perfect view of the Sawtooth Mountains. It was taken by Richard Blair at Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch near Stanley:

Credit: Richard Blair

Carol Lynn Macgregor captured these purple loosestrifes blossoming in the long valley:

Credit: Carol Lynn MacGregor

Melissa Stoner found some yellow sagebrush buttercups while she was camping in the hills:

Credit: Melissa Stoner

A field of bright red penstemons caught by Ed Simms at sunset:

Credit: Ed Simms

These blue camas lilies in a mountain meadow, taken by Jacob Nordby:

Credit: Jacob Nordby

Sean Creasman found a field of blue penstemons against a dramatic sky:

Credit: Sean Creasman

Robert Wilcutt was on Scout Mountain when he found these yellow mountain daises:

Credit: Robert Wilcutt

If you are heading into Idaho's mountain country, you will see these pretty bloomers everywhere. Let me show you some of my favorite mountain wildflowers.

Larkspur is one of the most common Idaho wildflowers. You will find it growing in sunny meadows and along dry slopes between forests of ponderosa and lodgepole pines. Larkspur is the common name for delphinium, which is found in many home flower gardens:

Credit: U.S. National Park Service

Columbine is also common to Idaho's mountain areas and it's actually the state flower of Colorado. Columbines occur in a wide range of colors and many of the flowers are bi-colored. 

An interesting feature of the columbine is the presence of spurs, long, narrow strips, running horizontally behind the flowers.

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Buttercups are a low-growing plant with grass-like leaves and clusters of five-petaled flowers, often yellow, but sometimes white with yellow centers. Many varieties grow at high elevations and emerge right after the snow melts. 

Credit: Larkspurbooks

Forget-me-nots were a favorite of the pioneers who crossed the plains and prairies on their way west, but these tiny blue forget-me-nots grow as high as the tree line. Loose clumps of saucer-shaped flowers are usually blue, but are sometimes white or pink and often have a tiny white eye in the centers of the petals. 

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Penstemons are widespread throughout the Rocky Mountain states. They grow up to 3-feet high, with numerous stalks of snap-dragon-like flowers in various colors. One variety, the Payette Beardtongue, is especially common to Idaho. 

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

The Rocky Mountain Indian paintbrush usually shows up as red flowers, although it can occasionally be orange or yellow. It's found commonly in Idaho, but very rarely in neighboring states. It's a leafy, hairy plant, about a foot high. 

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

An extremely rare variety, called Christ's Indian paintbrush, is a showy yellowish-orange flower that is only found in one location, on the summit of Mount Harrison in Cassia County, making it the rarest plant in Idaho.

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Lupines grow in spikes up to 3-feet tall with dense clusters of bonnet-shaped flowers, from pinks to blues and sometimes bi-colored. After the flower fades, a pod develops, which contains the seeds. Lupines often flourish in open meadows created after a forest fire. 

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Camas lilies grow from a bulb and produce flowers that are pale blue to deep blue. They can usually be found in wet meadows and prairies and near streams. 

While the bulb is edible, it can be confused with a similar plant called the death camas, whose bulbs are highly poisonous. You might want to just enjoy the flowers and skip eating the bulbs. 

Credit: Buckwildepresents

Bluebells are one of the first blue flowers to show up in the spring. There is also a lavender-colored variety that is common in shady areas of higher elevations, when they appear right after the snow melts. 

Deer and elk like to browse on bluebells and it is not uncommon to find matted areas where large animals have bedded down in patches of bluebells.

Credit: Larkspurbooks

Finally, the syringa is Idaho's state flower. Also called the mock orange, the syringa isn't really a wildflower, but a woody shrub that grows up to 10-feet high, with clusters of white, fragrant flowers.

Meriwether Lewis wrote about the plant in his journal as he traveled through Idaho. 

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

So, when you are in the great outdoors of Idaho this summer, pay attention to the wildflowers. They are only in bloom for a few short weeks, but they put on a great show.

Credit: Wordpress

Wildflower season has peaked at lower elevations, but you will still find a vast array of wildflowers in bloom along mountain roadways and in the higher valleys, includes scenic drives, like Highway 21 from Lowman to Stanley and Highway 75 north of Sun Valley.

Watch more You Can Grow It:

See them all in our YouTube playlist here: 

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