Arnica cordifolia “Heart-leaf Arnica” Asteraceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

These lovely flowers are literally blanketing the otherwise barren burn areas of the Lolo National Forest this year!

Misumena vatia “Goldenrod Crab Spider” Thomisidae on
Cymopterus glaucus “Waxy Spring Parsley” Apiaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Goldenrod Crab Spiders are inordinately abundant in spring blooms all around the PNW. They can be differentiated from their cousins in the genus Misumenoides by the lack of a faint white ridge on their face between their lower eyes and their jaws. But far more interesting than this lurking ambush predator is the fact that this image of Cymopterus glaucus is the first to grace the internet. And all because I thought I was taking a picture of a cool spider. You can see more photos of this plant below. C. glaucus is endemic to Idaho and western Montana where it is locally common on sandy or gravely slopes in dry Ponderosa Pinelands. I’m so confounded by the lack of images of this plant online that I’ll be checking out the UM herbarium later to verify that this is indeed C. glaucus. Any suggestions to the contrary would be much appreciated.

Equisetum arvense “Common Horsetail” Equisetaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Horsetails were once abundant, diverse organisms, but today all surviving members of this ancient clade are restricted to a single genus with a worldwide distribution. This particular stalk is a fertile, strobilus-bearing stem. Their infertile counterparts look almost nothing alike!

Sea Stacks at Stawberry Bay

Olympic National Park, WA
June 3, 2013
Robert Niese

Sea Stacks are created as wave action erodes certain rock faster than others along the coastline. Olympic National Park is famous for its sea stacks which come in countless shapes and sizes.

Castilleja hispida “Harsh Paintbrush” Orobanchaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

There are three or four species of paintbrushes with red bracts in the Pacific Northwest. The two most common are the Harsh Paintbrush (C. hispida) and the Common Crimson Paintbrush (C. miniata). C. hispida has a dense coat of long, hispid hairs (which look lovely when back-lit!) and will always have lobed leaves on the upper third of their stems. Conversely C. miniata is often less hairy and will have unlobed leaves on the entire stem (sometimes with small lobes on the upper-most portion). The two can also be differentiated by their calyces which are pointed in C. miniata and blunt in C. hispida.
Fun Fact: All paintbrush species are parasites, growing on the roots of other plants to survive.

Cicindela oregona “Western Tiger Beetle” Carabidae

Olympic National Park, WA
June 6, 2013
Robert Niese

Look for these awesome predators on sandy river banks west of the Cascades. They are lightning fast and voracious hunters, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of their iridescent exoskeleton!

Erodium cicutarium “Stork’s Bill” Geraniaceae

Missoula, MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

Erodium is famous for its fascinating dispersal mechanism. Their fruits are shaped like a stork’s bill (hence the common name) and separate into five seeds with a wirey tip upon maturity. As the seeds dry out, they begin to curl up into a corkscrew-like shape. If they are resting on soil as they begin to dry, this curling process will drive them into the ground. You can watch this self-planting mechanism here or check out the GIF below. It’s really freaking awesome!

Osmoderma subplanata “Leather Beetle” Scarabaeidae

Missoula, MT
July 30, 2014
Robert Niese

These large (3 cm), circumboreal beetles get their name from the leathery odors they emit from their exoskeleton (Osmo- means smelly, -derma means skin). Adults spend most of their lives feeding on the decaying centers of fallen logs.

Alyssum desertorum “Desert Madwort” Brassicaceae

Missoula, MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

Desert Madwort is a common weed east of the Cascades. Although it is an invasive plant (native to Eurasia), the madwort has been incorporated into the diets of many important PNW species. For example, Pronghorn Antelope consume large quantities of madwort in the winter when other food is scarce. And harvester ants have been known to collect copious quantities of madwort seeds in the fall, and will sometimes collect every single seed that was dropped in a given season.

Balsamorhiza sagittata “Arrowleaf Balsamroot” Asteraceae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

Arrowleaf Balsamroot was first collected by Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) when he was exploring the northern Rockies in 1806. These particular specimens appear to have been munched by some deer (notice that the left side is missing some flowers).