Blue and violet wildflowers in-bloom in the first week of June

(from top-to-bottom, left-to-right: Penstemon sp., Mertensia longiflora,Delphinium bicolor, Lupinus sericeus, Viola adunca, Linum lewisii, Mertensia paniculata)

Lolo National Forest, MT
June 2014, 2015, 2016
Robert Niese

I finally have an instagram with loads of not-so-sciencey nature and personal content! Feel free to drop by and peak into the life of a nerdy natural historian!

Aconitum columbianum “Columbian Monkshood” Ranunculaceae

Great Burn, Lolo National Forest, MT
July 10, 2015
Robert Niese


Also known as Wolf’s Bane, Aconite, and Queen of all Poisons, members of the monkshood genus are world famous for the toxins they produce. The name Aconitum is believed to come from a Greek phrase that means “without struggle,” which is, of course, a reference to its swift lethality. Throughout the millennia, aconite has been utilized in countless murders, including the murder of Ptolemy XIV by his sister, Cleopatra. The poisons produced by this plant are so potent that simply brushing up against them can reportedly cause death. Here in the PNW, some native peoples once coated their spears and arrows in monkshood poisons to paralyze large game such as bears, wolves, and even whales.

Anemone multifida var. multifida “Cut-leaf Anemone” Ranunculaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3 2015
Robert Niese

This anemone is found sporadically throughout the northwest – from the Olympic Peninsula and coastal BC to the Cascades and various eastern mountain ranges – but it is uncommon throughout its range and varies drastically from population to population. Its subspecies designations are thought by many to be inaccurate and based on traits that simply vary with environmental conditions, even within populations.

Anemone piperi “Piper’s Anemone” Ranunculaceae

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

Piper’s Anemone doesn’t look much like other common PNW anemones. It tends to have glabrous, trifoliate bracts that look exactly like leaves, while other anemones would have highly dissected, not-very-leafy bracts such as these here. And instead of having five white petaloid sepals it can have up to eight, as you can see in this photo. Apparently, the genetic and developmental mechanisms that determine which floral parts will be sepals, petals, or stamens are easily changed, allowing flowers with loads of stamens (like roses, buttercups, cherry blossoms, anemones, larkspurs, etc.) to produce a few extra petals instead. This is how we get the ornamental varieties of many Ranunculaceae and Rosaceae flowers (their wild versions should have five petals). Piper’s Anemone is a PNW endemic and is uncommonly found in moist coniferous forests from the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon and southwestern Washington, through central Idaho, west to the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.

Pulsatilla patens (Anemone patens) “Prairie Crocus” Ranunculaceae

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

These beautiful spring flowers are most abundant in the early spring and often bloom around Passover earning them the common name “Pasque Flower” (pasque is an old Latin word for Easter). The prairie crocus is in decline throughout its range, but is protected as a threatened species in Washington where it is restricted to only a few locations in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Andrena “Mining Bee” Andrenidae
on Ranunculus glaberrimus “Sagebrush Buttercup” Ranunculaceae

Council Grove State Park, MT
March 16, 2015
Robert Niese

Andrena is one of the world’s largest genera of bees. There are probably only a few people in all of North America who possess the specialized knowledge necessary to make a reliable species identification. Andrena bees are remarkably cold tolerant and are some of the first small bee species to frequent flowers in the spring, although this little guy was clearly struggling with the chilly morning air.

Apis mellifera “European Honeybee” Apidae 
on Ranunculus glaberrimus “Sagebrush Buttercup” Ranunculaceae

Council Grove State Park, MT
March 16, 2015
Robert Niese

It’s warming up here in Missoula and spring may have sprung early! The first Ranunculus glaberrimus flowers bloomed around town in early February which is several weeks earlier than previous years. Today was even warm enough to bring out a few species of bees like this European Honeybee.

Aquilegia formosa “Western Columbine” Ranunculaceae

Olympic National Park, WA
June 5, 2013
Robert Niese

This abundant, widely-distributed Northwest native flower is a favorite of hikers from Yellowstone to Yukon. Look for it blooming in open moist forests from May to August.