Mountain Marsh Marigold in Beartooth Mountains

The Mountain Marsh Marigold is mis-named because it’s a closer relative of the buttercup than of a true marigold. It has only sepals, and no petals, but failing to examine it closely will cause your brain to lie to you and trick you into thinking it’s an aster, or daisy – so get down on your knees.

The defining feature, some will argue, are its leaves, but it’s simpler than that.

You find them in marshy areas. Duh!

Most commonly in Montana, they grow in subalpine meadows where melting snow and little streams provide plenty of moisture for it. The one in the photo was found blooming in mid-July in Montana’s Beartooth Range at 9,400 feet in a meadow that was really squishy when you walked through it. I photographed a bunch of ’em up here but this one was my favorite because its little blooming family was isolated on a tiny little grass island in the middle of a flowing creek.

It’s more commonly called the “White” Marsh Marigold, although Montana (and probably parts of Idaho) have a “Sulphur” subspecies as well, that has pale yellow sepals.

The edibility of the Mountain Marsh Marigold is questionable.

Rumor has it that local native Americans dried the leaves and used them as herbs, but most of the ones I know now buy things like Spike in grocery stores so I can’t confirm this rumor first hand.

In addition, I know a guy that boils its roots and eats them.

I stay away from it because it has sister species that have reportedly kills cows, and usually, where there are Mountain Marsh Marigolds growing, there are other edible foods, like wild onions, and well, trout in the lakes fed by the streams along which the Mountain Marsh Marigold grow.


Arrowleaf Balsamroot: Rocky Mountain Tough Guy (Leica M9)


Tough Guy of the Rockies: Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Leica M9, Zeiss 35/2.8C

The Arrowleaf Balsamroot is the first wildflower that shows itself on drier and rockier slopes in the Northern Rockies. It starts to appear in May and really gets going in June.

I think it’s the toughest flower in the West. Here’s a photo of a posse that dealt with their fair share of Stuff by the time July rolled around.

The flower above is being crowded by thorny things and has already seen its fair share of hail and frost. I know because those veins in its big leaves tell these kinds of stories.

This is another exceptionally edible plant, with a caveat.

Any part of it that you see is nasty and sappy and tastes bitter, like pine-sol, but it won’t make you sick at least.

The rest of the parts you can’t see – the fleshy roots – are nutritious and tasty, and are quite good when sliced thin and fried in olive oil and black pepper over a Bushbuddy stove.

Pointedtip Mariposa Lily, Bob Marshall Wilderness (Photo, Sigma DP2)


Pointedtip Mariposa Lily (Calochortus apiculatus), Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana

Sigma DP2, ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/160 sec.

This post is dedicated to my wife Stephanie because her favorite types of photos that I bring back from my trips are those of wildflowers, and the lily is unique because of its ability to retain its beauty in spite of having to grow in the harsh conditions of an arid, rocky forest. The Mariposa Lily is also known as the Madonna of the Rocks, after da Vinci’s famous painting depicting the maternal care of the human race in the midst of earthly turmoil.

The Pointedtip Mariposa (some lazier flower guys call them “Pointed Mariposas” and Patterson may even classify this one as a Cat’s Ear) is one of the most beautiful flowers in Montana because the season in which they look really good is pretty short, only a couple of weeks in late June and early July (no relationship here to my wife, FYI, her growing/beauty season is longer). They’re mostly found in drier, forested valleys that see a bit of sunshine to the forest floor. I’ve seen them only in NW Montana – in the Bob Marshall Complex and the Swan Range, along with the Sawtooths in Idaho and the Pasayten in Washington.

Don’t let those little dark spots scare you off – they’re not bugs, but the nectar glands.

The bulbs are edible, meaty, and probably pretty nutritious. They’re OK raw, and taste like a potato. They’re awfully good when they are briefly boiled, and exceptional stuffed into the belly cavity of a cutthroat trout caught in the same stream that flows below the higher banks where you’ll find the flowers in partial shade of conifers. They’re even better soaked in salt, then roasted in tin foil in the coals of a wilderness cookfire. The petals are less flavorful but make for pretty salads, and the flowerbuds are sweet, and wonderful, like an avalanche lily but more filling. Eat them in mid-June, before the flowers open up.