I’d heard for years that glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) will bloom through the snow, but I’d never caught one in the act until this past weekend. This fine example was at the edge of the receding snow pack in the meadow below Copper Pass in the Okanogan National Forest. Many more of the lilies were pushing their way up through the snow and showing their bright yellow buds.
Apparently glacier lilies, and other members of the species, generate enough heat as they sprout from their corms to melt the surrounding snow. This extends their growing season by a few days, which can be critically important in the high altitude meadows where they are prolific in the summer. In just a few short days these beautiful lilies will push up at the edge of the melting snow, flower, and set seed.
Not far from where I photographed this flower were other glacier lily plants that had already set seed and their leaves nearly withered away to nothingness.
I spent the weekend in the Copper Pass area with a dozen like-minded passionate wildflower lovers and backpackers. Among our group we saw at least 209 species over the course of three days.
Our base camp for the weekend was in the meadow just below the tail of this snowbank surrounded by glacier lilies. We camped in the middle of what must have been a monster avalanche last winter, judging from the size of the trees that had been ripped from the ground and carried along for hundreds of yards.
I tried to go light with the camera equipment, carrying my Canon 5D and only two lenses. With tripod, diffuser, spare batteries and memory cards, and a filter or two it still added up to a bit of weight. But what’s the point of hiking to some great place and not having the tools to create great images from what I find there? I’ll gladly carry the weight although my body may complain a bit.