Friday, June 25, 2010

Sun Valley is wild with flowers

Sawtooth Botanical Garden leads weekly wildflower walks

Express Staff Writer

Flowering lupines are a common sight along Wood River Valley trails. Photo by Mountain Express

The Sun Valley area's beauty is not just in its majestic mountain skyline, but also on the ground through a vast array of native wildflowers. As the summer season takes hold in the valley, many varieties of wildflowers will begin to sprout and make hiking a colorful experience.

The Sawtooth Botanical Garden, south of Ketchum off state Highway 75, leads Thursday wildflower walks from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The walks cost $10 for garden members and $25 for nonmembers. Participants should meet at the garden and bring a packed lunch and water and wear hiking shoes. The next walk is Thursday, July 1.

"We have seen 30 different species of wildflowers already," said Alison Kennedy, the garden's education director. "People enjoy learning about their backyard and knowing what they are seeing. Lots of tourists and lots of locals go on the walks."

One of the flowers in bloom is wild peonies, a low native flower with dark orange and red petals, though Kennedy said they are not as showy as the ones in our backyards. The peony head drops down so it's not easy to see, but it will bloom for several weeks and many are seen in the Greenhorn area, south of Ketchum.

Other wildflowers to look for are larkspur and Oregon grape, a low-growing yellow flower that has medicinal uses for fungus and bacteria. Some smaller flowers that are easily missed include blue-eyed Mary and rockcress.

"Sometimes we'll see leopard lilies," Kennedy said. "They hang down. People will also call them chocolate lilies, but they are smaller with their heads nodding down, and if you're not looking you might pass by them."

Kennedy said another common flower to note is the prairie star or woodlawn star, which are small and can also be easily passed by.

The walks are scheduled until the second week of July, but Kennedy said they will most likely be extended because summer arrived late this year.

"The walks are a fun way for people to learn about their surroundings, especially for tourists who don't know," Kennedy said. "It's also fun to learn about trails."

The Sawtooth Botanical Garden also has a walk around its own grounds, which feature sculptures by Joe Castle. They are for sale with 30 percent of the proceeds going to the garden.

"It's a real pleasant experience to walk in the garden," Kennedy said. "It makes the garden look very nice."

A reception and art opening for Castle's sculptures will take place Wednesday, June 30, from 5-8 p.m.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

Wildflower information

· "Idaho Mountain Wildflowers: A Photographic Compendium 2nd edition" by A. Scott Earle with Jane Lundin.

· "Sagebrush Country A Wildflower Sanctuary" by Ronald J. Taylor.

· The Sawtooth Botanical Garden has many resources to identify wildflowers. Call 726-9358.

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