Friday, August 12, 2011

Mt. Rainier - Lupine, Paintbrush, and Avalanche Lilies

For all you non-Northwesterners out there, Mt. Rainier is the great big, glacier covered volcano you see behind Seattle. Here is a view from the Paradise Visitor center up on Mt Rainier:

Paradise normally receives an average of 680 inches of snow a year. This 2011 year, they received 907 inches of snow! One of the top 5 snowfalls on record. There was more snow at Paradise than ever recorded since 1916. As a result of this large snowpack and the unusually cool spring and summer this year (one of the coolest on record), when we arrived at Paradise in very late July, there was still a very heavy snowpack where one would normally find large wildflower meadows at this time of year:

When Summer arrives and most of the snow has melted, the subalpine wildflowers begin to bloom. The first to appear are the Avalanche lilies. They can be found poking out of the snow as it finishes melting away:


There were many of these poking through the snow between the still leafless shrubbery at the base of the visitor center:

Large swathes of these lilies will cover the ground as the snow melts. They were just beginning to bloom when we arrived as the snow was just beginning to clear away. Doubles:

In the few places the snow had completely melted these wildflowers were smothering the ground:

What is that you say? Paintbrush and Lupine? Isn't that the Texas Hill country?!? No! It's the Alpine Lupine(Lupinus arcticus )and Scarlet Paintbrush(Castilleja miniata) of the subalpine meadows. Paradise up on Mt. Rainier is at an elevation of 5400 feet and its wildflower meadows rival any that you will see in the Texas hillcountry. As a matter of fact, the meadows appear strikingly similiar even though the environments could not be more different!:

Scarlet paintbrush and Alpine Lupine:

When the snow finally melts from the slopes above Paradise, likely at the very end of August this year, they will be blanketed with these wildflowers:


Many other wildflowers bloom amongst the lupine and paintbrush. Here are some asters and buttercups:

The buttercups seemed to be a favorite of the black-tailed deer. They were very focused on browsing the little yellow flowers and didn't seem to mind me taking their photo:


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