Learning about the flowers makes hiking so much more enjoyable. I have provided a sampler here. Learn a little about the families and enjoy some of my better attempts at photography. I do welcome your shots and have included several "donations" in my gallery.
Wildflowers by "Family"
Knowing which Family a flower belongs to is a tremendous advantage when trying to identify and learn. Many of the best books are arranged by family so some knowledge is most helpful in finding the information you need. This section takes you through some of the more important families found in the Tahoe area and shows a sample of flowers. If your want to learn more, sign up for one of my hikes or take a class at the Lake Tahoe Community College.
Lily Family The Lily family lays claim to many of the most gorgeous as well as useful flowers found in the Tahoe area. The flower parts are “three numerous”, that is, found in multiples of three and the leaves are grass like with parallel veins. The largest and boldest include the Tiger, Leopard, and Washington Lilies. Then there are the onions which not only taste and smell wonderful, and have small but exquisite flowers. Also edible, but with care, are the Camas Lilies whose bulbs formed the staple food for the Washoe Indians. Growing in the same areas are the Death Camas and the Sand Corn which, as you might already have guessed, are not edible in the extreme.
Gentians The Gentians have only a few species in Tahoe but they are all very elegant and you cannot help but be attracted to them late in the season. Their late appearance almost seems to be calculated to “show off” after most other flowers have withered and died. Three of the four species are almost impossible to miss: the Explorer, Alpine, and Green Gentians. One hides in the grass and is difficult to spot, the Hikers Gentian. The Gentian family is also unusual having either four or five petals.
Iris family The Iris family is a limited to two totally different species here in the Tahoe Basin. The best known is the big and bold Western Blue Flag. This eye catching and rather uniquely formed flower is usually found in large numbers in open meadows near mid season. But you will have to search hard to find the other family member, Blue Eyed Grass. The Iris family, like the Lily family, has parts in threes and leaves that are grass like.
Evening Primrose Every bold color of the rainbow seems to be displayed by this showy family with the classy name, which refers to the European relatives which use night pollination. Many of the members bloom late in the flower season which seems to be the time to show bold colors. Fireweed announces the end of the flower season as does the California Fuchsia. Also late, Rock Fringe fills the seeps between Round Top and Winemucca Lakes and is the most difficult color to photograph accurately. The Evening Primrose family is one of only a few families with "parts" in multiples of four.
Violets Violets announce the opening of flower season! Members of this family have many varied bright colors with very distinct nectar guides which are like landing lights guiding the pollinators to the sweet spot on the lower petal. Flower parts are in fives, the most common arrangement here in Tahoe. You need to keep you eyes low to find these beauties, but it is worth it! Look for the little “kink” in the flower stem to confirm a violet.
Buttercups Buttercups can be “strange” looking flower. Monkshood, Larkspur, and Columbine are examples of the “strange” look with shapes that defy description. But this makes them fun! Even the “normal” looking Buttercups are a bit strange since the number of petals will vary one plant to another. Members of this family are generally poisonous so don’t nibble
Composite family The Composite family is the most successful around Lake Tahoe comprising about 20% of all the plant life. They are unique in that the “flower” is in fact an aggregation of many small flowers. Daisies and Asters are common examples. Each “petal” has its own reproductive part and the “button” in the middle is also made up of many small flowers, with their own reproductive parts. Some of the species have only the “petals” (pictured at right) while others have only the “button”. Identifying the individual species is quite a challenge, leading many to use such generalizations as DYC’s or damn yellow Composites
Phlox family The Phlox family has many stunningly beautiful flowers. Most of the species have a trumpet like shape i.e. a long narrow tube ending in five petals. However a few are more open like a bowl. Consider the following. Grand Collomia (pictured at right) has one of the truly unique colors in the flower world. Scarlet Gilia is one of the brightest red/orange flowers to be found. The tiny Bridges Gilia makes the ground look pink, but up close you see a gorgeous palate of color.
Snapdragon family The Snapdragon family normal design is two petals up and three down. But things get complicated after that. Following the general design are the Monkeyflowers and the Penstemons. The well known Indian Paintbrush has flowers that use leaves as petals allowing the flower itself to be hardly noticeable. The Elephants head is truly strange. And the Speedwells (or Veronicas) have the two petals merged and therefore, appear to have only four petals.
Rose family We all know what a Rose looks like – a bundle of brightly colored petals. But those are man made Roses, not Mother Nature’s. A natural Rose has just five separate petals which surround many reproductive parts such as this Sticky Cinquefoil to the right.
Primrose family The Primrose family has but two bright pink flowers in the Tahoe Basin. The flowers generally stand upon a leafless stem so you can't miss them.
Saxifrage family The Saxifrage family is well represented in Tahoe and the flowers are generally atop leafless stems. Most are quite small but fascinating when see up close with a magnifying lens. One, the Grass of Parnassus is large needing no magnification at all.
Only some of my flower photos make it out of the computer and onto the walls of my home. Roger's Best are usually larger flowers that enable me to produce a nice 8X10 print. Of course the other criteria is a good "shot". Enjoy.
Unless you have a trained eye, you are more likely to step on these flowers as see them :(. They are low to the ground and small, generally less than a quarter of an inch. Getting a good photograph requires getting close to the ground - that's right - on your belly. Along with my elbows this makes for a perfect natural tripod :). I expect you will be surprised at the beauty and detail of these little wonders. I carry a 25X's magnifier called a Discovery Scope to get a close look. Everyone marvels at the new world they see when they use the Scope. Buy a Discovery Scope online by clicking here.
I have many flower pictures that just do not fit into any category. I just like them. Sometimes its the composition of the flower. Other times it is just a "shot" that hits me. So feel free to browse and enjoy.