The Last of the Lot…

It’s only fitting that we virtually travel to Wyoming as our last visit to the fifty states. Wyoming is the least populous of all the states with only half the people that tiny Rhode Island holds. I lived here for two years in the “metropolis” of Sundance and had the pleasure of traveling to wild, unspoiled areas of the Big Horn Mountains, Green River, the Bear Lodge Mountains, and Thunder Basin National Grassland. Springtime was wet; Summer hot and dry; Fall was spectacular; and Winter? Let’s just say that ice fishing, skiing, and lounging indoors next to a roaring fireplace were the state pastimes.

The state wildflower of Wyoming is the Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja linariaefolia).

Blue skies complement the Wyoming state flower.

The common name says it all as the blossom petals with a base green are tipped with red, orange, or yellow and sometimes all three. The Paintbrush is a member of the Figwort family and comprises over 200 varieties from British Columbia all the way through the Andes Mountains in South America. Surprisingly, the Paintbrush is partially parasitic and gains its nutrients and moisture from other plants near its spreading rhizomes in semi-arid open areas. That makes it difficult to sustain garden populations in the Eastern US and the plant remains relatively unknown outside of its western mountainous environments. Our soils are too acidic, too wet, and too rich.

My absolute favorite area on earth is the Bighorn Mountains in north central Wyoming.

Cloud Peak rises majestically in the Big Horns.

Not far from here lies Custer’s Last Stand where the Sioux Nation dealt General Custer and the US Cavalry a decisive defeat. The Cloud Peak Wilderness Area rises above the rolling grasslands and can be seen for a hundred miles in all directions. Here elk, bear, deer, bobcat, badger, mountain lion, bighorn sheep, and beaver roam unmolested amidst the dark green Ponderosa Pine Forests. Patches of golden Aspen cover the mountain sides every fall and welcome a few intrepid trout fisherman to unspoiled glacier fed lakes and rippling streams.

Quaking Aspen liven Fall and warn of the coming Winter.

My last week long adventure in the Bighorns was in November and my group of half-frozen campers would wake to bugling elk and a few of the more adventuresome would make their way to the nearest creek with ax in hand to chop ice for morning coffee. The Indian Paintbrush were long gone in that season but during the short summer they bloomed prolifically at the drier forest edge.

An Indian Paintbrush surveying distant mountains.
The paint brush effect.
Did I mention that there are 200 varieties?
Rancher and nature – side by side – in Wyoming.

The end is here. We have met and marveled at all fifty state wildflowers. Do I have a favorite? If I were forced to choose, you would in all probability say I favored Rhododendrons, and you would be correct. Then I would look back on Iris, Paintbrush, Bluebonnets, Columbines, and the list goes on and I could say each one is a favorite. When I am one on one with a delicate mini-blossom or an overpowering, fanciful super bloom, I feel excited yet at peace and dozens of other emotions. Such is the wonder of wildflowers. Thank you for joining me on these virtual adventures and I hope you get the opportunities to travel and see each one for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

1 thought on “The Last of the Lot…

  1. Thank you for all of the great articles!!! I loved learning about them all!

    Like

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