Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Cuddly Purple Cuties at Logan Pass

Anthers decorate the surface of its flowerheads. The "spikes" are the awns of each spikelet

We hiked the famous Hidden Lake trail in Glacier National Park's Logan Pass (in Montana, USA) a few days back, and the path to the lake  was through absolutely gorgeous and vast meadows.

Wildflowers were in bloom, and the land was covered in a riot of colors. The trail itself was a combination of raised boardwalks and packed earth, and along the sides I noticed grass flowerheads that I at first thought were from Phleum pratense (Timothy grass).

Meadows to Hidden Lake

But these were much smaller and shorter, and some had a dark color as they matured that I had not seen in the more common species.

When I started taking macro shots I discovered that the flowerheads were a beautiful purplish color under magnification. I typed it as Phleum alpinum, a circumboreal species that normally inhabits alpine and subalpine wetland environments. 

Phleum alpinum

This small cutie is a perennial that has awned glumes with one floret per spikelet. It loves less sandy soil, and seemed to form a healthy population up in the meadows of Logan Pass (elev 2000 m). Like many grasses, it seems unassuming at first glance. But a careful examination reveals a hidden beauty, which is made all the more precious by the work needed to uncover their allure.

If you ever visit the park (and I have to say it is one of the more majestic mountain destinations I have ever visited), then be sure to say hi to this cuddly purple blooming grass.

Peeking up from beside the boardwalk 

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