Saturday, March 14, 2009

A tiny harbinger of spring

It feels like spring has officially begun. The weather has been teasing us- below zero, snow, then mid 40’s, and back again. But Friday, this little fellow the sagebrush buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus) made its appearance and it looks like it might be time to get back to gardening.

In our front yard, where this picture was taken, we have over 70 species of plants native to the Missoula area, and, in total, we have many more species in our yard. If you look carefully you can see some little yarrow (Achillea millefolium), a young Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), the leaf of a Wilcox's penstemon (Penstemon wilcoxii), and the leaves of some obscure native annuals that only my wife knows.

By having this much diversity in our yard, there is always something going on that is both visually interesting and biologically inviting. Sagebrush buttercups are the first to flower, usually in early March, and rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) is the last in as late as October. Diversity also really helps to be inclusive to many insects and other animals- providing both food and habitats not only for individual species but it allows for interactions between species to occur and provides for the needs for multiple stages of the life cycle of an animal (for example, both larvae and adult).

Anyway, it is nice spring is on the way.


  1. David,

    Good post and huge variety of plants there! I have IDed something like 40 species of plants and trees that are native host plants for butterflies in my 3.75 acres.

  2. I'm very curious to hear about what's growing and blooming in your garden throughout the year...
    Yesterday, 17 native species were blooming in my garden (if I'm also counting the tiniest and most insignificant ones, like Stellaria media and Cardamina hirsuta).