Favorite Balsamroot on Badger Mountain

I’m in the Tri-Cities area for a few days to photograph gardens and to teach a workshop on photographing wildflowers for the Columbia Basin chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society and Richand City Parks. The workshop includes an all-day field session on Saturday where I’ll work with my dozen students on techniques. There are several possible locations not too far from town, including Badger Mountain which is immediately south of Richland and Kennewick. I’d never been up there until this afternoon.

Rosy Balsamroot and Lupines

The trail begins at the end of the road in a new housing development, then climbs 800 feet in about 1.3 miles. A “friends” group has been working on the trail so it’s in good shape. The vegetation is predominately grasses with flowering plants mixed in here and there. The trail passes through a lithosol area (thin, rocky soils) which has the endemic Rosy Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza rosea) pictured here. The soil must not be quite as thin as some lithosols, because there were lupines and bluebunch wheatgrass growing nearby — both species that usually want a little more soil to be happy.

The really showy plant among the grasses was longleaf phlox (Phlox longifolia) which came close to carpeting the ground in some areas. I can’t recall ever seeing that much of that particular phlox anywhere else, but that probably has much to do with my timing. This spring has been cool, and many plants are a little slower to come into bloom than in some previous years. There were also nice clumps of Carey’s balsamroot (Balsamorhiza carreyana), cushion fleabane (Erigeron poliospermus), Columbia milkvetch (Astragalus succumbens), puccoon (Lithospermum ruderale), and a single clump of Thompson’s paintbrush (Castilleja thompsonii). Toward the top were a few delphiniums

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