Spring is here in all its glory, bringing bright greens, purples and yellows to our sagebrush desert! One of the best ways to soak in the colors of the season is to explore the diverse world of Central Oregon wildflowers. May and June bring peak wildflower season in the high desert and Cascade foothills, and here are 10 to watch for.
- Courtesy Deschutes Land Trust
- Single sunlit mariposa lily bloom at the Whychus Canyon Preserve.
Arrowleaf balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata. One of our showiest wildflowers lighting up hillsides with sunny, disk-like faces. Grows in clumps with large, widely triangular leaves that have heart-shaped bases. Yellow flowers are 2½ -4 inches wide on 1-3-foot stems.
Columbia puccoon, Lithospermum ruderale. Pale yellow flower that blooms on the end of multiple, erect stems with narrow linear leaves. Overall 8-20 inches tall and widespread in grasslands, forests and rocky areas.
- Joan Amero
- Yellow puccoon flowers in bloom along the Metolius River.
Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium. Dense spike of flowers facing outward. Deep pink to magenta petals are ¾ to 1 inch wide on 2-5-foot stems. Stems are usually reddish with stiff hairs on the upper section. Grows in open and disturbed areas, especially recently burned lands.
Foothill death camas, Toxicoscordion paniculatum. Delicate, white flowers at the top of a 8-20-inch tall stem. Poisonous! Found in open grasslands and meadows and is often confused (especially when not blooming) with blue camas, whose bulbs are edible.
Mariposa lily, Calochortus macrocarpus. A sagebrush jewel that blooms intensely lavender on tall 8-23-inch stems. Mariposa is "butterfly" in Spanish, and kalo and chortos are Greek for "beautiful," and "grass."
Red columbine, Aquilegia formosa. A stunningly delicate native that grows in moist, partly shaded areas. Drooping bright red and yellow flowers grow on stalks up to 4 feet tall. Hummingbirds and butterflies love columbine nectar.
- M. A. Willson
- Red columbine at the Metolius Preserve.
Scarlet gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata. Trumpet-shaped, bright red flowers on stem up to 3 feet tall. Flower color may vary from scarlet, speckled with white, to pale pink speckled with red. Grows in dry soils in woodland openings and meadows.
Related Counting Life's Flowering Treasures: The ebb and flow of local populations of the mariposa lily
Spotted mountain bells, Fritillaria atropurpurea. A beautifully delicate native lily, found in forests near openings. Brownish, bell-shaped flowers have yellow-red spots and grow 5-25 inches tall. This uncommon lily takes a keen eye to find!
Threadleaf phacelia, Phacelia linearis. Dense cluster of small purple flowers that grow on a stem up to 20 inches tall. Found in dry sandy soils in our sagebrush meadows. Flowers are ½-¾ inches across with five petals. Leaves are alternate and linear.
Washington lily, Lilium washingtonianum. This native lily seems like it came straight from the flower shop with its classic shape, smell, and size! Large white to pink flowers on tall, 2-8 foot stems. Grows in dry forests and is named for Martha Washington.
- Courtesy Deschutes Land Trust
- Washington Lily at the Metolius Preserve.
Help others explore the nature of Central Oregon by sharing this list and leaving the flowers as you found them. Wildflower photography is a great way to relive your experience months after the flowers are gone. Learn more about the wildflowers of Central Oregon at deschuteslandtrust.org/explore/nature-of-central-oregon.
Note: common names for wildflowers vary from person to person. Many of the species above have multiple common names, which is why we included the scientific name.
-Sarah Mowry is the Deschutes Land Trust's Outreach Director. She has worked for the Land Trust since 2005 and leads its communications and community engagement efforts.