Wildflowers of Montana by Donald Anthony Schiemann

81wdyYqMQALNonfiction — print. Mountain Press, 2005. 306 pgs. Library copy.

While my mom is attempting to become knowledgeable in all things, I’m more interested in the wildflowers I see on my hikes. I can easily identify the large mammals (bison, grizzly bear, gray wolf, deer) during trips through Yellowstone, but the tiniest flower is not something I can name right on the spot. According to Schiemann’s introduction, there are approximately 2,500 flowering plants growing in Montana, and his book features more than 350 species. Not comprehensive, by any means. And Schiemann says he has tried to include Montana’s more beautiful and most common wildflowers, as well as examples of less common species.

After using this book for over three weeks, I’ve decided that (a) there are too many white flowers in Montana and (b) there are too many yellow flowers in Montana. I’ve pretty much decided photographing yellow and white flowers aren’t worth it because I won’t be able to identify them when I get home. There are a couple of exceptions, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to identify yellow or white flowers upon site. I also need a book that concentrates on wildflowers common to the county or at least region of Montana that I live in. Schiemann’s books include flowers native to certain sections of Montana I have not visited, but some of the flowers I see every day are not included. Very frustrating.

“Wallflower — Erysimum asperum. Wallflower, also called prairie rocket, is an 8- to 30-inch-tall biennial, with bright yellow or orangish yellow, four-petaled flowers arranged in a tight raceme. The stem is occasionally branched and has a cluster or spreading, linear to elliptical leaves at the base and numerous alternate, linear steam leaves. The margins of the leaves are entire or may be toothed, and the surface is covered with fine hairs.” (pg. 156)

“Great Plains Paintbrush — Castilleja sessiliflora. Great Plains paintbrush, called by many other names, including downy paintcup, may not be recognized at first as a paintbrush. The clustered steams are 4 to 12 inches tall and covered with shaggy hairs. The lower leaves on the stem are linear and the upper ones have a pair of narrow lobes. The corolla consists of a long curved tube, longer than the narrow three- to five-lobed greenish bracts that are tinged with pink or red and covered with fine hairs. the flowers vary from pink to purple or pinkish green to yellowish green, or a combination of these.” (pg. 92)

As for the structure of this book, I appreciate the “thumbnail identification guide” included at the beginning of the book as identifying a red photo was much easier when the red flowers are all printed side-by-side on one page. That said, though, when a flower isn’t of a rarer color such as red or isn’t funnel or bell-shaped, the pictures are too small for me to identify a flower based on pistil color, leaf arrangement, or anything other than the number of petals. Of course, the guide makes it easier to narrow down my photo of a yellow flower to the seventeen that include five petals, but I still have to turn to the larger photo in the back to really identify it. And even then that’s not possible because the photo within the book doesn’t always include the leaves, which often distinguish one yellow flower from another.

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