Category Archives: wildflowers

Springtime in the canyon


The rangers at Cottonwood Canyon State Park are sharing a little secret: the early spring is one of the best times to visit. The weather is mild between rain showers—daytime temperatures can vary from 50 to 70. The infamous ticks and rattlesnakes are still in hiding until mid-April, and some of the wildflowers are in full-blown bloom. In fact, March and April are the only time you will see the vast burnished brown landscape transformed to a brilliant, fresh green.

Where to go

Park at the northeast end of Lone Tree Campground for  a 4.3-mile, one-way hike or mountain bike along the Pinnacles Trail. Or turn southwest at the park entrance and park at the Hard Stone Trail. Hike 1.5 miles one-way, or even farther, as the trail continues on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Both trails follow the John Day River. In addition to tiny tufts of yellow, white and purple wildflowers, these mostly flat trails also treat you to views of the dramatic vertical cliffs and rocky expanses of sagebrush. You may even spot some of the wildlife that live here, including Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes and raptors.

Plan your trip

Stay in one of the park’s 21 primitive sites for small RVs and tents (keeping in mind temperatures drop to the 30s at night), or book a room in one of the nearby towns of Wasco or Condon. The Dalles, 60 miles away, is also a good base for exploring the park.

Be prepared

Have a plan for your day, and tell somebody about it. There’s no cell phone coverage in the park. Carry plenty of water; don’t be deceived by the cooler temperatures. And watch for ticks and rattlesnakes starting in mid-April.


Oregon wildflower identification at your fingertips (2015)

We spotted this flower durina a recent hike to the paddlers camp at Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area. Using the search by characteristics feature in the Oregon Wildflower app, we decided it's a small flowered fringecup.

We spotted this flower during a recent hike to the paddlers camp at Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area. Using the search by characteristics feature in the Oregon Wildflower app, we decided it’s a small flowered fringecup.

Do you know the difference between a purple-eyed grasswidow and a clasping Venus’ looking glass? I download the Oregon Wildflowers app to find images, descriptions and range maps for these two beauties, as well as for nearly 1,000 additional wildflowers, shrubs and vines common in Oregon.

Available for download on iOS and Android devices, it works without an Internet connection once downloaded. The majority of species featured are native to the region, with some introduced species that have become established. You can find plants by browsing a list organized by common name, scientific name, scientific family name or common family name—you choose. The list also includes high-resolution photographs of each plant.

The shapes and colors of wildflowers have always intrigued me, so the Search by Characteristics feature is my favorite way to identify a plant. Watch this short video for a quick look at searching by characteristics.


We also found this wildflower at Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area. We think it’s a western bluebell, but it could be a northern bluebell. The leaf placement is the main difference between the two.

The app is available at Amazon, Apple and Google app stores for $7.99 and is compatible with all Android devices, Kindle Fire, iPhones and iPads.  The Oregon Flora Project at Oregon State University and High Country Apps developed the app, and a portion of revenues supports conservation and botanical exploration in the region.


If you don’t have time to identify the plant on the trail, take a photo with your phone. Other than needing to switch views between the photo and the app, it’s a simple way to identify the plant later.