Tag: wildflowers

Last summer I posted about the wildflowers on Josie’s Ridge, specifically clematis. This summer’s rock star is the Sego lily, and her lil’ buddy the Flower Crab Spider.

The Sego lily (Calochortus nuttallii) is one of 70 species in the Calochortus genus (calochortus derives from Greek, meaning beautiful grass) found up and down the Americas from British Columbia to Guatemala. This wild lily is both elegant and tasty – its edible bulbs have long been part of the diet of many tribes like the Hopi and Navajo. It’s the state flower of Utah, mainly because the Mormon pioneers discovered this nutritional fact and didn’t die of starvation. The word sego is the Southern Paiute name for the bulb itself, according to Merriam-Webster.

I have never eaten a Sego lily bulb, but I do see these flowers all over hillside trails around Jackson Hole in mid-July, and they are exquisitely beautiful. Also, these lilies always seem to have tiny chartreuse spiders tiptoeing around on their stamens and petals. I finally got a photo of one pretty arachnid and sent it off to two super-helpful plant identification websites, hoping for a name. I got answers within only a day or two! For free!

1024px-Misumena_vatia_qtl2You can read my question (basically: what is this spider??), and the speedy response I got (it’s most likely Misumena vatia) at the Land Grant University’s eXtension website here. This was so fun I’m trying to come up with more questions to ask!

I also sent my spider ID question to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s help site Mr. Smarty Plants, which has to be the best cutesy name ever. Mr. Smarty Plants couldn’t give me a definitive answer because hey, he isn’t Mr. Smarty Spiders, which I understand. BUT I still got a great list of insect identification websites.

Misumena vatia, pleased to meet you! I’m fascinated that you use flowers as your hunting grounds. And you can change color to suit your flower! There you are hanging out on some yarrow this time, eyeing your prey. Eight eyes on the prize, spidey!


Photo of Sego lily and her flower crab spider by me.

“Misumena vatia qtl2” by Quartl – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons  


field notes

If I were a wood nymph or a tiny fairy, I would wear purple skirts made out of rock clematis petals.  They’re perfect and so fashionable!  Bees and flies might try to pollinate me, but that would be okay.

Rock clematis (Clematis columbiana) is a perennial vine that’s native to the Rocky Mountains.   With about 300 other species, including sugarbowls, it belongs to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.

Sometimes called Virgin’s Bower (which actually applies to a sister plant, Clematis ligusticifolia), this delicate little creeper blooms in June and July in the Tetons.  I took a photo while hiking up Josie’s Ridge in Jackson in early June.  Josie’s is a well-known local cardio-grunt with a quick elevation gain from the trailhead, right off the bike path near Flat Creek.  The steep slope up to the ridge is host to a succession of amazing wildflowers all summer long.

Looking southwest from atop Josie's Ridge, Wyoming.
Looking southwest from atop Josie’s Ridge, Wyoming.


When Clematis columbiana goes to seed and loses its fragile lavender petals, it’s no less beautiful.  The seedheads fluff into frondy white tendrils.  They’d make great fairy pompoms.

Clematis columbiana-2, by Mary Vaux Walcott

Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940), an American watercolorist, painted numerous wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains and other botanicals, including these lovely images of Clematis.

Clematis columbiana-1, by Mary Vaux Walcott

field notes