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Olympic Wildflowers

Olympic Wildflowers

Olympic Wildflowers

Page Type: Album

Object Title: Olympic Wildflowers

Image Type(s): Flora


Page By: OlympicMtnBoy

Created/Edited: Sep 10, 2006 / Feb 20, 2013

Object ID: 224706

Hits: 12775 

Page Score: 93.3% - 42 Votes 

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Olympic Diversity

Clasping Arnica
Arnica growing along a nameless stream
Showy Jacob s Ladder



Olympic Geranium
Olympic Daisy
Subalpine Daisy
The Olympic Peninsula of Washington State is home to some of the greatest variety of flower and plant life in the Untited States. From ocean shores, to towering glaciated mountains, temperate rainforest, to dry mountain slopes, the Olympic Peninsula is home to seldom seen or heard of little beauties. Over the past summer I picked up an interest in capturing these amazing flowers with my camera. I've been high and low, covering hundreds of miles on trail, and off trail to capture these shots.

The Olympic ecosystem is a very unigue environment where plants co-exist between ocean and ice. The rainshadow effect is the dominating feature of the Olympic Peninsula. Starting at barely above sea-level, the mountains rise to nearly 8,000 vertical feet (Mt Olympus) and absorb the rainfall from the Pacific. While the western slopes tend to be luscious and wet (120 inches of rainfall annually) the eastern slopes recieve only 10-20 inches of precipitation. This creates a varying ecosystem for wildflowers.
Avalanche Beauty
Avalanche Lilies in full bloom

Pink Trillium
Pink Trillium

Among this varying level of precipitation is the balance of elevation. With more oxygen and warmer weather, the Olympic lowlands harbor a much more diverse array of wildflowers then the alpine, snow clad summits 6,000 plus feet above. I will now talk in some detail about these different zones and the Wildflowers commonly found there. This is by no means a perfect Biology study, but rather based upon my own experiences and observations over years of venturing into the Olympic ecosystem.

Avalanche lilies in full bloom


Zone 1-River Valleys (800-3,000 Ft)

Riverside Flowers
Flowers along the North Fork Skokomish River

Zone 1 has the greatest diversity of overall plant life, but not necessarily the greatest ammount of Wildflower species. Cloaked in heavy forests of Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Alder, the Olympic river valley's are often a dark place. However, the wildflowers found here, though rare, enjoy this moist darkness. Many flowers in this zone flourish along stream beds and river banks where more sunlight reaches through the overhead canopy. Other flowers, such as Indian Pipegrass, are only found in the darkest of forests. Bunchberry blooms can often be found growing amongst Sal Al and Huckleberry. Several varieties of Trillium exist here in the filtered sunshine. Wild Rose, Buttercups and Calypso Orchid also abound amongst thick forest and river banks.

This Zone is also unique because it has among the first flowers to bloom, usually in April. Since very little snow falls here, the chance for survival is greater much earlier.

Zone 2-High Forest & Low Meadows (3,000-4,500 Ft)

Avalanche Lilies
Avalanche Lilies
Glacier Lily
Glacier Lily

This Zone of transition takes place between the high forest and the edge of the tree line. Here, Pacific Silver Fir and Western Hemlock generally dominate the forest canopy. At the higher end of this zone Sub-Alpine Fir begins to appear, marking the edge of the tree line. Many Olympic Lakes are found in this zone, making for a lower meadow ecosystem that is different than those found at higher elevations.  

Marsh Marigold
Marsh Marigold blooming in snowmelt runoff

In the Olympics, snow can linger at these elevations until June. Late May through early July are peak bloom times for several Wildflower species found here. Violets, Lilies, Harebell (common in rainshadow areas), Lupine and Orchid's can all be found in this ecosystem. Ofcourse, each of these flowers can also be found at higher elevations, but depending on the time of year, they bloom here first before their fellow species do at higher elevations during the peak of summer. Marsh Marigold's bloom right as the snow is melting, and Avalanche Lilies and Glacier Lilies are often seen growing right up through the snow. Snow melt runoff provides a perfect moist environment for the flower to thrive, but a torrent of such water can easily destroy the fragile life of even the heartiest of wildflowers.

Zone 3-High Meadows & Tree line (4,500-5,500 Ft)

Bear Grass & Mt Cruiser
Bear Grass
Magenta Paintbrush Sunset

White Bog Orchid Elephants Head Avalanche Lily Leapard Lily Lupine Saxifrage
Welcome to Wildflower Heaven! Olympic National Park is famous for it's awesome wildflower and butterfly displays amongst the high mountain meadows beneath towering peaks. Exposed to harsher climates of wind, snow and sunshine these wildflowers are better suited to the environment and welcome the diverse ecosystem they dwell in. Magenta Paintbrush and Lupine intermix amongst grasses that grow on Olympic ridges and slopes. Among the high mountain streams and creeks Elephants Head and White Bog Orchid are found, as are Leatherleaf Saxifrage. The high mountain meadows of Olympic National Park contain hundereds of lakes and small tarns (large snow-melt pools). On the shores of these waters many a wildflower can be found. In the rainshadow area of the Cameron Basin the rare Blue Gentian thrives in high meadows beneath barren peaks of rock and ice.
Blue Gentian
Blue Gentian

The blooming season here is much shorter then at lower elevations. However, from late June through September there is almost constant sunlight, and the snow rapidly melts off, though snowfields and glaciers are always present. The landscape that these wildflowers inhabit is very remarkable indeed. Extremely steep slopes, avalanche slopes, rushing streams, boulder fields and snowfields; all provide the environment for flourishing wildflower species.

Zone 4-Alpine (5,500-6,500 Ft)

Butterfly and Phlox
Phlox and Butterly

These flowers are amongst the heartiest found in nature, surviving harsh winds, chances of yearly snowfall, frigid nights, scorching days and a rocky foothold on life, at best. Olympic rock is extremely frail and is usually composed of shale, sandstone and talus materials. Blooming usually occurs in August and September and is short lived. It's in this environment, high among the peaks, and sometimes on their very summits, that these Olympic Wildflowers make their homes. Although sometimes found at lower elevations, the American Bistort is adaptable to high, rocky terrain. The Larkspur, rarely seen in the Olympics, can inhabit elevations of 6,200 feet plus in the central part of the range. Phlox, one of the most amazing alpine flowers, can inhabit loose rock slopes with it's strong root system. Up here the butterflies occasionally grace it's beauty. Another common flower to grace these heights is Mountain Heather, which like Phlox, has a remarkable root system and grows up through the scree and loose rock on steep slopes.  
American Bistort Sunset
American Bistort at Sunset near Lost Pass



[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 1-9 of 9    

Nigel LewisNice pics

Nigel Lewis

Voted 9/10

I've just started taking pics a bit like this, they don't match yours yet though!!

Posted Sep 11, 2006 6:26 pm

OlympicMtnBoyRe: Nice pics


Hasn't voted

Thanks for the vote and kind words. I've recently taken up an interest in capturing flowers, but in unique ways. It's amazing what natural creativity nature provides a person with:)
Posted Sep 11, 2006 6:48 pm



Hasn't voted

Good goal! Superb pictures. What camera are you using? Are we suppose to add to your site here? I have one group of flowers I took on Mt Olympus on the 9/2/06.
Posted Sep 13, 2006 8:13 pm

OlympicMtnBoyRe: Flowers


Hasn't voted

Thanks for the comments. I'm actually kind of using this as a personal picture goal...but I've been considering opening it up if interest showed itself. So I'd say go for it! As far as the camera goes, I used a Nikon Coolpix, and then that fell off a climb when I was climbing and was lost. The rest I took with my sister's Olympus camera...not sure which kind.
Posted Sep 13, 2006 9:30 pm

SaintgrizzlyVery nice!


Voted 10/10

A thoroughly enjoyable time spent going through this page!
Posted Nov 5, 2006 3:48 pm

OlympicMtnBoyRe: Very nice!


Hasn't voted

I appreciate your comment and the vote:) Thanks for stopping by!
Posted Nov 5, 2006 11:50 pm

OlympicMtnBoyRe: Compliments


Hasn't voted

Hey thank, I really appreciate that. When I got out again this summer I hope to capture twice as many flowers. My real goal is to get a photo of every different kind of Olympic Wildflower. Thanks for stopping by!
Posted Jan 20, 2007 11:26 am

rdmcWildflowers .....


Voted 10/10

...are one of my many favorites of creation! Such wonderful photos, I know it takes a special eye and touch to capture creation at it's best. Thank you for sharing.
Posted Jul 29, 2007 8:08 pm

OlympicMtnBoyRe: Wildflowers .....


Hasn't voted

Thank you. I've really enjoyed taking these shots over the past two summers. People often miss the simple beauty of nature. Thanks for stopping by!
Posted Jul 29, 2007 8:23 pm

Viewing: 1-9 of 9