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Wildflowers seal the deal: Spring has sprung

Tue., April 17, 2007

Tubbs Hill Natural Area is known for jaw-dropping vistas of steep cliffs, sparkling waves and views of the Coeur d’Alene skyline typically only enjoyed by those with a boat.

Hill hikers this time of year, though, seem to be spending a lot of time staring at the ground.

The park, like many other patches of Idaho Panhandle forest, is blooming into spring with glacier lilies, shooting stars, spring beauties, arrowleaf balsamroot, prairie smoke, nine-leaf biscuit root, buttercups, strawberry blossoms and countless other native wildflowers.

Not including trees, Tubbs Hill is home to some 62 species of native plants, said Janet Benoit, president of the Idaho Native Plant Society.

“We’re very fortunate to have Tubbs Hill. It’s a terrific natural area,” said Benoit, of Careywood, Idaho.

In the springtime rush to reproduce, many of these species advertise for pollination help by sprouting colorful and scented blooms. The scents aren’t always pleasing to the human nose, though.

The rare purple trillium, for instance, has a fetid odor, Benoit said. “Flies fertilize it,” she explained.

It might take a careful eye to find a purple trillium, but it would be nearly impossible to miss the yellow carpets of glacier lilies. The droopy-headed flowers seem to be unusually dramatic this year – that could be a function of the mild spring, Benoit suggested. Or their abundance might just be an illusion after what seemed to be a particularly long winter.

“They are the show stoppers,” Benoit said.

The flowers are easy to spot from the park’s trails. Benoit urged people to stick to established paths – flowers and feet don’t mix.

“There is a major problem with people not sticking to the trails,” she said. “People take shortcuts. Pretty soon their shortcuts turn into trampled areas. These flowers don’t take trampling.”

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