Like silent sentinels, riverside blossoms announce the emergence of spring and the beginning of paddle season! After a long winter indoors, seeing the colorful unfolding of riparian wildflowers is the best part of many kayakers’ paddle calendar. With spring just around the corner, use this list of water-loving flowers as a season opener scavenger hunt during your first paddle trip of the spring…
Wild Iris - Pacific Northwest and Southeast
Wild Iris is perhaps the most ubiquitous and recognizable water-loving wildflower. Prolific with over 28 species in the United States, the iris is classical and well known in wild territory as well as horticulture circles. Internationally, the iris is a symbol of royalty, the Greek goddess’s name for the rainbow and the inspiration for the French Fleur-de-lys. Look for the iris in meadows adjacent to water and wetlands, although the iris is common in many environments.
Pacific Bleeding Heart -Pacific Northwest and Eastern seaboard
Bleeding heart appears at the end of a tall leafless stalk in a bushy cluster closer to the ground. On each stalk, a cluster of drooping, heart shaped, blush-pink flowers burst forth. Bleeding heart loves cliffs, rock outcrops, and rocky slopes. In the Appalachian region, it has the fun common name, Turkey Corn.
Bog Laurel- Pacific Northwest and Northeast
Hearty and strong, the bog laurel is a perennial evergreen woody shrub with pink or purple bell-shaped flowers. It grows lakeside in bogs and in heath ground cover. The bog laurel is found in sub-alpine environments, from meadow lakes to wetlands and beyond. Pictured here with a backdrop of Mount Bachelor in the Cascade Range.
Wild Bog Orchid - Pacific Northwest and Northeast
Though most often occurring in tropical latitudes, there are some uncommon sub-alpine orchids and evergreen forest species native to North America. In the northeast it appears on shores of rivers, lakes, swamps, and wetland margins. The bog orchid's tiny white flowers will bloom up the stem as the season progresses.
Wild Foxglove - Pacific Northwest and prolific throughout the US
Well known amongst wildflower hunters and horticulturalists, the foxglove is iconic for its over weighted extending stem, chock full of innumerable bell-shaped blooms ranging from purple to pink and sometimes white. Rarely witnessed in real life, individual blooms are imagined to fit the paw of a fox. It prefers sea cliffs, rocky hillsides, heath ground cover, well drained soils, woodland clearings, hedgerows and riverbanks.
Bonneville Shooting Star -Pacific Northwest
Shooting star is known for its long, leafless maroon stem crowning with inside-out clusters of flowers. It is less common overall and blooms at high elevations in constellations adjacent to lakes, streams, and creeks. Flowers are magenta turning to white then yellow near the base. If you see a shooting star, make a wish!
Elephanthead Lousewort - Pacific Northwest
A thick stock with a density of blooms characterizes the elephanthead lousewort. Look closely to see hundreds of little pink elephant heads with protruding trunks, all on a leafy stem. Look for this unique wildflower circus sideshow performing riverside all spring. Pink elephants on parade!