Several weeks ago I posted a few photos here of wildflowers, including prairie crocuses and yellowbells. While they can still be seen at higher elevations, other flowers are starting to bloom in the mountains. Glacier lilies are one of my favorites. They are sometimes called yellow avalanche lilies because they like to grow at the edge of receding snowfields in spring.
The stalk on a glacier lily can grow to 30 centimetres (12 inches) in height and have one to three flowers. Each flower has three petals and three sepals (collectively called tepals), with yellow or white stamens. When fully open, the bright lemon-yellow tepals curve backward, sometimes until the tips almost touch each other. Two lance-shaped to broadly oval leaves emerge directly from its base. Although these flowers are common in Crowsnest Pass, it’s always an impressive sight when you find a large patch. The bulbs are a favorite food item for grizzly bears, and deer eat the foliage. In the past, our First Nations people harvested the bulbs as a food source.
At this time of year, glacier lilies can be found growing in damp subalpine meadows and woodlands, and in clearings or sparsely forested areas. I came across these lilies yesterday. They are in a ravine, alongside a rough and bumpy road, not far from the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. The surrounding poplar trees were quite drab in color, but it appeared as if the ground was carpeted in bright yellow and green. I was drawn to the strong contrast between the colors on the forest floor and the trees in the background. I didn’t have a lot of time to photograph but may return in a few days. We are receiving snow at higher elevations today, so I’ll have to wait for a break in the weather.