A Wildflower Guide to Alta, UT Ski Area

Wildflower season is in full swing in Alta Ski Area, UT. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

This article originally appeared on Alta.com

Wildflowers have been celebrated since time immemorial and there is no exception in Wasatch. Below is a small selection of the wild flowers that await you in the Albion Basin and beyond! Common plant names refer to descriptions in the Wildflower.org database. The photos are by photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk. We’ve also included descriptions of plants borrowed from the Alta Environmental Center, Lexi Dowdall of Ski Utah, and Tim Remkes of the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation.

But first, some rules from the Alta Environmental Center on how to enjoy wildflowers responsibly.

  • Don’t pick the wildflowers, let them stay wild – All living organisms need to reproduce. Digging up wildflowers, picking or stepping on wildflowers, or collecting their seeds will reduce a plant’s ability to reproduce and harm its long-term survival in that location.
  • Removing wildflowers from the wild can harm pollinators and other animals that rely on the species for food or cover.
  • It is illegal to harm or remove wildflowers on Forest Service land – you will be fined

So grab your Wildflowers of the Cottonwood Canyons guide from the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation and let’s head into the mountains to #RecreateResponsibly while we enjoy Alta’s wildflowers.

BRUSHES | WYOMING, WAVY-LEAF, BROKENLEAF & GIANT RED

CASTILLEJA LINARIIFOLIA, APPLEGATEI, RHEXIIFOLIA, MINIATA

Indian brush on the slopes of the Alta ski area
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: July and August

A few different brush species can be found in Alta with a wide range of brush colors, ranging from red, pink, orange, and almost white. One of the most common paintbrush species in Alta is the Wyoming paintbrush, which is most often scarlet or reddish-orange in color. Linear leaves underlie torch-like spikes of showy bright red bracts. These bracts hide small green floral tubes. – Alta Environmental Center

SEEN GOLDEN EYE

HELIOMERIS MULTIFLORA

Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: July-September

This species is common in mid to high elevation grasslands. It often forms large communities on sunny slopes, painting the mountain gold. – Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

“Almost every person, since childhood, has been touched by the wild beauty of wildflowers.”

–Lady Bird Johnson

PURCHASED COMMON

ACHILLEA MILLEFOLIUM

White yarrow from Alta
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June and July

Yarrow is arranged in large clusters on top with delicate fern-like leaflets. This wildflower is common throughout the northern hemisphere. – Alta Environmental Center

EPILON

CHAMERION ANGUSTIFOLIUM VAR. CIRCUMVAGUM

Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: July-September

The name “Fireweed” comes from its rapid ability to colonize areas following a fire. It was one of the first plants to recover after Mount Saint Helens erupted, turning the arid landscape into pink fields. – Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

SILVER LUPINE

SILVER LUPINE

Lupine flowers at Alta ski area
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June-August

Lupines, although poisonous, are beneficial nitrogen fixers, meaning they take nitrogen from the atmosphere and deposit it in the soil. – Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

ASPEN VERSE

ERIGERON SPECIOSUS

Wandering Daisy sunbathes in the Alta ski area
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: July-October

This species has a showy flower head that lends credence to its species name “species”, which means beautiful, beautiful or handsome in Latin. – Cottonwoods Canyon Foundation

“Flowers are a proud affirmation that a ray of beauty surpasses all usefulness in the world.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

STICKY PURPLE GERANIUM

GERANIUM VISCOSISSIMUM

Sticky Purple Geranium on the slopes of the Alta ski area on a sunny summer day
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June-August

The name, viscosissimum, comes from the sticky hairs that cover the plant. The petals are pink with distinctive stripes. The stripes are thought to have evolved as “airstrips” to guide pollinators. – Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

RICHARDSON’S GERANIUM

GERANIUM RICHARDSONII

Richardson's Geranium at Alta Ski Area
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June-August

Geraniums, or Crane’s Bill, are named for their curved seed pods that resemble the beak of a crane. This particular species is named after Sir John Richardson (1787–1865), an Arctic explorer and naturalist. – Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

ELEPHANT HEAD

GREENLANDICA PEDICULAR

Elephant Head near the Albion base area of ​​the Alta ski area
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June-August

The delicate, magenta-pink or purple flowers distinctly resemble the shape of an elephant’s face and trunk. Stems are singular although often clustered, varying in height. The leaves resemble those of a fern with teeth. Elephant’s Head blooms from late June to early August. You will find this specimen growing in moist, marshy areas, around beaver ponds, grasslands, or along streams and lake shores. This unique flower occurs at higher elevations ranging from 7,400 feet above treeline. The name Pendicularis derives from the Latin word for louse. There was an old superstition that eating these plants increased lice on livestock. – Utah Skiing

“One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower.”

– Susan Wittig Albert

WASATCH PENSTEMON

PENSTEMON CYANANTHUS

Larkspur sits opposite Mount Superior
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June

It is one of the largest Penstemon species. Its showy inflorescences make it a commercial landscaping species. Also known as Wasatch Beardtongue. – Cottonwood Canyons Foundation

ROCKY MOUNTAIN DOVE

AQUILEGIA COERULEA

Columbine in Alta
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June and July

Look for this attractive, delicate bloom in cool, moist areas in July and early August. The flowers can vary from white, blue to coral red and yellow as their color is determined by the acidity of the soil. Pale blue or yellow hues indicate a basic PH while darker colors indicate more acidic soils. The flower hangs above the fern-like foliage below. Look for 5 wing-shaped sepals and 5 tube-shaped petals. Butterflies and hummingbirds are often found near these flowers. Look for them in open woods and valleys as well as wet alpine and subalpine meadows. – Utah Skiing

ALPINE JACOB LADDER

POLEMONIUM FOLIOSISSIMUM VAR. ALPINUM

Alpine Jacob's Ladder |  Photo: Rocko Menzyk
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: June-August

The white flowers and height of this species make it very distinctive among other members of this genus. – Cottonwoods Canyon Foundation

COW PARSNIP

MAXIMUM HERACLEUM

Cow Parsnip at Alta Ski Area |  Photo: Rocko Menzyk
Photo courtesy of photographer Alta Rocko Menzyk

High season: July-August

It is the largest member of the carrot family native to North America. – Cottonwoods Canyon Foundation

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