Wildflowers in (Frosty) Early May

When you live in the mountains – elevation 4,000-5,000 feet – “spring” is a flexible term.

Spring can arrive in early March, for a few days anyway. It will be sunny and warm (in the 50s!), migrating birds start arriving with their beautiful songs, and one willingly – hopefully – believes spring has arrived. It has, after all, been a long winter and hope springs (pun intended) eternal.

But winter has a wicked sense of humor, and will throw some fresh snow and cold temperatures at you, making you admit spring has yet to truly arrive. Plants and animals revert to their slower, wintertime existence until the second – or third – spring arrives, in April, warming things up again.

Yet even in May, a hint of winter’s cold can arrive, briefly, reminding one to never be complacent, to expect the unexpected.

Mountain wildflowers are, I’ve learned, hardy. They handle whatever nature throws at them. Frost? A mere momentary inconvenience. Sub-freezing temperatures? No problem. Spring, and its warmth, will return. It always does. Just wait.

Greenhouse flowers – those I buy to put in pots on my deck, such as geraniums, pansies, and alyssum – aren’t so hardy. I moved the pots into the garage to ride out the overnight frosts for a few days.

These photos of forest wildflowers were taken on May 4th and 6th during early morning runs with my dogs in the forest, temperatures hovering around freezing. Other than the sunflowers, these wildflowers are tiny, making me focus on the ground more than usual, crouching low to take photos, often scrambling up banks to get closeups. The results are worth the effort, I think. My dogs are patient, waiting, used to me suddenly stopping to take a few photos before continuing on our way.

frost on wildflowers
Frosty newly-blooming sunflowers (arrowleaf balsomroot).
blue wildflowers
Ballhead waterleaf (larger flower) and…a type of short beardtongue? Not sure.
trees, sunflowers
Sunflowers (arrowleaf balsomroot), early bloomers that blanket open hillsides in early spring.
dogs, snow
Still plenty of snow in shady, north-facing areas. Conall likes to drink free-flowing water, while Finn prefers eating snow.
violet, wildflower
Goosefoot yellow violet.
springbeauty wildflower
The aptly-named springbeauty.
Sunflowers (arrowleaf balsomroot) nicely backlit by morning sun, growing next to a leafing shrub.
trillium, wildflower
A trillium emerges from a tangle of needles and branches.
arnica, wildflower
Heartleaf arnica.
avalanche lilies
Avalanche lilies. The pine cones and bit of fir branch provide scale for these low-growing beauties. This shot captures the lilies in two aspects – the more usual, downward-facing on the right, and a rare one facing upward, stamens visible on the left.

An unintended example of wildflower hardiness: when I returned from our forest run the morning of May 4th, I found some of my home garden wildflowers – lupine and flax – coated in thick ice, a sprinkler having watered them all night. (I have an artesian well so I run a hose from the well head to sprinklers for my lawn and garden and let it run 24/7.) They soon thawed in the day’s sun and were none the worse for wear.

ice-covered wildflowers
Lupine leaves and grass fronds covered in ice.

Featured image: early larkspur, covered in frost. One of my favorite wildflowers because of their deep blue color.

9 thoughts on “Wildflowers in (Frosty) Early May”

  1. Lovely pics. While I don’t mind the harsh snow covered winters in Maine, I despise late spring frosts that kill my carefully tended blooms. We had one the other day and are due for snow Saturday. Grrr!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s a dance, isn’t it, with our eagerness to welcome the false spring by planting flowers and watching perennials bloom and our horror at the weather forecasts predicting overnight temps below freezing, fearing those planted flowers and budding trees will suffer? It’s looking especially bad for the east coast this weekend; sorry Rivergirl, I feel your pain!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh; an ugly forecast for you this weekend. Be strong! Cover those plants or bring inside what you can, and hope for the best. At least these late-season snows melt away fast, so there’s that. I feel your pain! I’m keeping my potted flowers in the garage an extra few days, just to be safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. We don’t seem to be far ahead of you. On my hike yesterday, I saw a few wildflowers but little greenery. After an unseasonably warm February and March, it got much cooler and stayed there.

    Liked by 1 person

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