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Common Wildflowers of the Central Cascades

Updated on August 23, 2012
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest
This book is small and has everything you would ever need to know about the PNW

I snapped these photos the other day on a hike in the Central Cascades region of Washington State. The hike started in the lowlands and meandered through some of the most productive low elevation forests in the country. The trail eventually opened up to wide open ridges and traversed a ridge line for a mile or so. The area that we were in was stuffed to the gills with wildflowers and amazing scenery including a pristine view of Glacier Peak.

Anyway, these are some of the pictures of the local flora that I managed to snap.

Avalanche Lily

Avalanche Lilies can be found in high alpine meadows and open sunny spaces across the Cascades and the Olympics. Its corms were a consistent source of food for indigenous Northwest peoples.


Tiger Lily

Tiger lillies are one of the more common wildflowers across Washington and Oregon and in my opinion one of the most striking in appearance. They can range in color from dark orange to yellow and can be identified by the dark red to brown spots near the center. Its bulbs can be eaten and have a bitter-peppery taste.

A tiger lily in full bloom
A tiger lily in full bloom | Source

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush comes in several different varieties that can range in color from yellow, orange, violet, red or white. Pretty much they can come in all of the colors that are present in the sunset. It can be hard to tell but the color actually resides in the bracts that surround the flower. Because there is no where to perch on this flower, in order to be pollinated, it needs hovering birds and insects such as hummingbirds.

The paintbrush is my favorite flower because of the Native American legend that surrounds it. It goes as such: One night a Native American brave was so awed with the colors of the setting sun, he sat down and attempted to paint it with his war paints. Unfortunately, he just didn't have the colors necessary to capture the intense beauty of nature. In frustruation, he turned to the great spirit for help.

The great spirit was moved by his plea and in turn gave him many paintbrushes leaden with the colors that he needed. After painting his picture the young brave discarded his paintbrushes in the meadows of the landscape he was painting. These sprouted into the flowers that we can see now.


Glacier Lilly

Glacier lilies grow in areas that are open, sunny and moist. Most often they are seen near snow melt and small streams or wetlands. As with other lilies of the same species, their corms were eaten by native peoples of the area. In areas with grizzly bears, their bulbs are one of their preferred foods.



Lupine or Lupin, is native to many areas of the globe including North America, New Zealand and Australia. It is a member of the legume family. The seeds of the lupin are large bean shaped things about the size and shape of a lima bean. Its is a fairly common food Mediterranean cultures, especially Portuguese and Brazilian food. Lupine makes a good counter crop for plants that take a significant amount of nitrogen such as cucumbers, squash, broccoli and spinach.

Sitka Valerian

Sitka Valerian is a fairly common plant and they are usually fairly dominant among a field of wildflowers. The flower consists of one long stem that is usually around 70 cm in height but can be much more at times. At the top of the stem, the flower is composed of many petals that can range from white to pink. Valerian is a rhizomatous herb (such as ginger or lilly of the valley) herb meaning that much of stem tuber is found underground. However, as with many similar plants, I have never heard anything either way regarding the edibility of this plant.


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