Monday, November 11, 2013

A walk through Paradise

Lupines, Indian paintbrush, and white daisies cover
the meadows of Paradise in mid-summer.
My second home has always been in Washington State.  My Dad first took me up there from our home in California when I was about 6 or 7, and I have returned many times since.  They only things I remember were sleeping under a makeshift tent under a giant fallen tree trunk, and buying a small figurine of a black bear as a souvenir.  After I became a plant geek at the ripe old age of 12, our family trips to Washington were exciting times of botanical discovery.  Washington is indeed a botanical paradise, and nestled on the side of Mt. Rainier, at about 5400 feet elevation, is the actual, real Paradise - it says so on the sign at the end of the road!  The explorer who named this complex of alpine meadows must also have been a lover of wildflowers, for nowhere else can one see such a lavish display.

Paradise is covered with up to 20 feet of snow from October through May, but through the brief summer there is a constantly shifting display as different species put forth their blossoms to attract their time-share of local pollinators.  Similar displays, but varying in the species composition, can be found in the alpine zones throughout the state, grading into the floras of Oregon and California to the south and British Columbia and Alaska to the north.  In future installments, I will get to some of these other places, but I begin with the epicenter of Paradise.  And there's no need for further chatter - I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
In late May, the wildflower season is still weeks away.
The national park staff who stay through the winter might
be able to enter and exit buildings through the
upstairs windows.
The columbia or tiger lily, Lilium columbianum,
is one of the treasures to spot in sunny
spots in the forest along the road to
My favorite wildflower of all, Aquilegia
, can be seen along roadsides and
in sheltered spots among the alpine

Glacier lilies, Erythronium pallidum, are typically the first
flowers to appear as the snow melts.

Avalanche lilies, Erythronium montanum,  are close relatives
of the glacier lilies.

Anemone occidentalis emerges with
the glacier and avalanche lilies as the
snow melts.

Ranunculus eschscholtzii brightens up a spot
of bare ground.

Sedum oreganum grows on rocky
outcrops, and is common along the
road to Paradise.

Indian paintbrush, Castilleja miniata, brings color to many
parts of Washington.
Dense leafy shoots of Veratrum
arise in the spring.

The small, green, lily-like flowers of
Veratrum viride appear in massive
inflorescences in mid-summer.
Veronica cusickii provides blue accents
in the meadows of Paradise.
A shooting star, of the genus Dodecatheon,
appear to be diving toward the ground.
The yellow monkey flower, Mimulus caespitosus, pokes out
from among rocks.
An alpine willow is one of the few shrubs to be found at

Pedicularis bracteosa, the bracted

Penstemon menziesii is found in rocky,
exposed parts of the meadow.
Streams dissect the Paradise meadows, forming
cascades and small waterfalls as they descend.
In the 1960's there were some accessible ice caves under the
glaciers around Paradise.
At Sunrise, on the opposite side of Mt. Rainier from Paradise, the meadows are a bit drier.