Bitterroot in flower and bud on a ridge near Sweathouse Creek in the Bitterroot Mountains, Montana USA.
The color of the Bitterroot flower ranges from white to pink, even a deep rose. It often has four or more branches and only one flower to each leafless stem. Each flower is about two inches across with 6 to 9 oval sepals; 10 to 19 oblong petals, and 30 to 70 stamens.
The low growing perennial has fleshy, one to two inch leaves that appear in early spring, soon after the snow melts and before it blooms. The narrow, red-green leaves form a basal rosette. The leaves may be present when it flowers but usually they are not. During flowering the leaves are withering and drying and by the end of June, the leaves are gone.
When mature the Bitterroot flower produces egg-shaped capsules which contain 6-20 nearly round seeds that mice love to eat.
It is common in western Montana.
The bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), one of the most beautiful wildflowers, is the state flower of Montana. Lewis and Clark are credited with discovering the bitterroot but Native Americans, who knew it as spetlum, were using its roots for food and trade long before Lewis and Clark appeared. As an important part of their diet, they timed their spring migrations with the emergence of the Bitterroots leaves. Tribes dug up the roots before the plant flowered and dried them so they could be kept and used for months. Unless cooked, the root was too bitter to eat. When boiled, it was mixed with berries or meat and could be made into patties that kept and carried well.
Canon EOS 40D, 1/800s, f/8.0, ISO: 400 300 mm
Cannon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens