Yellowstone National Park is home to a variety of habitats, and typically the elevation determines when it's wildflowers will bloom. Areas at lower elevation start to bloom in early June, while higher elevations may not catch up until mid-July— making peak wildflower season early June to mid- to late-July.
Some park biologists say that the best place to see wildflowers in Yellowstone is in the Northern Range, including Mammoth and Lamar Valley, and even towards Dunraven Pass. The dry landscape is surprisingly hospitable to a variety of wildflowers.
Of course, at Nomadic By Nature, we think the best way to see wildflowers and experience their joy is on foot. Breathing in the same air as them, being able to look at them up close and personal, and seeing the expansive ground that they cover— that is where the real essence of the wildflower is experienced!
The following is a condensed list of some of the wildflowers you may encounter while visiting Yellowstone National Park:
Characterized by it's long, thin pale purple petals, the aster can be found parkwide, and is one of the longest lasting wildflowers in Yellowstone, in bloom from May to September.
This common wildflower grows in moist meadows, subalpine and alpine. Characterized by its' small, five-petaled and bowl-shaped yellow flowers, the alpine buttercup is a common wildflower to see in Yellowstone, blooming from June to August.
This small and bright yellow-colored wildflower grows in close clusters, and is typically found in the Northern Range, from June to July.
As the state flower of Montana, the bitterroot is pink and grows in clusters low to the ground, can can be
seen in the Northern Range, from May to June.
Seen as a noxious weed in most areas, the bull thistle is characterized by its large purple, rounded flower heads protruding from spiny bulbs. They are seen flowering from July to September, in every area of Yellowstone.
This unique wildflower is pink flowered and pink stalked, with spurs coming off in the shape of an elephant's trunk. They grows most concentrated in meadows, but can be found in a variety of habitats in the park, and is most likely to be seen from June to July.
As their name suggests, the fireweed is typically one of the first wildflowers to return after a wildfire. They are distinguished by their flashy pink flowers that grow upright on a tall stalk. Fireweed is found parkwide, and blooms from July to August.
Blue and purple in color, the fringed gentian opens it's flowers on sunny days and typically closes them on cloudy days. They can be found in geyser basins, meadows and near Lake Yellowstone, typically from May to August.
Similar to a snapdragon, the fuzzy-tongue penstemon is commonly found in Yellowstone and the surrounding area from May to July. It is lavender in color and has five stamens, two lobes on it's upper lip and three on it's lower lip.
The petals of this bright yellow wildflower seem to grow upside down, as if they are reaching up to the sky. You can find glacier lily around Lake Yellowstone and Dunraven Pass, from May to June.
This pale purple bellflower grows from July to August and can be seen all over the park. Although it has slender foot-long and delicate inch-long flowers, the harebell is much hardier than it appears.
Commonly found in all areas of Yellowstone, indian paintbrush can be distinguished by its bright red, and sometimes yellow or orange bracts (which are a type of modified leaf, not petal). They are hemiparasitic, meaning they have the ability to leach nutrients from neighboring plants. They can be seen June through August.
Although the ladies tresses is part of the orchid family, it stands apart with its "geometric, braid-like design of tightly-spaced single white flowers ascending spirally along a single flowering stalk". You can find these amazing flowers near geyser basins and in meadows, from July to August.
Primarily found in meadows, the larkspur is bright purple in color and is notable for the long "spur" sticking out behind the flower. In Yellowstone, larkspur blooms from May to August.
This greenish/ yellow flower looks like miniature cups and grows in clusters. They are a nonnative, invasive species introduced in the 1800s, and are very common to see in a variety of habitats. You can find the leafy spurge May through June.
Named after the Latin word lupus, meaning "wolf", the lupine were originally thought to spread quickly and rob the soil, when in fact, the opposite is true. Lupine add nitrogen to soil making it healthier and richer. They are known by their purple petals that grow upright on its stalk, and bloom June through August.
There are many different species of milkvetches that are found in Yellowstone, and are widespread through the American West. They are characterized by tight, symmetrical clusters of upward-pointing flowers. As a member of the pea family, most have a pod that is helpful in identification. Milkvetches are found in a variety of habitats and can typically be seen throughout the summer, from May to August or September.
The bluebell is a very common wildflower in Yellowstone and the surrounding area. They often grow in large patches and are identified by many brightly-colored, bell-shaped flowers growing downward in clusters along its stem. They are often seen along stream banks from June to August.
This yellow, clustering flower blooms in a wide variety of habitats, from dry to moist soil, and foothills to montane. The oregon grape has stiff, holly-like leaves and grows low to the ground. You can typically see this wildflower from April to July in Yellowstone.
The pasqueflower is a silky-haired, cup-shaped purple flower with yellow stamens, commonly seen in the meadows of northern Yellowstone. They are in bloom from April to May. In late spring and summer, once they have finished blooming, they will be seen as just feathery plumes.
Prairie smoke is found in open areas and sagebrush flats, and is characterized by it's pink, downward facing bell-shaped flowers. When the flowers go to seed, they become wispy, and a field of them looks like low-lying smoke. The feathery wisps act as sails in the wind to scatter their seeds. These wildflowers can be found May to August.
This vibrant purple flower is typically found in sagebrush meadows, as well as valleys to lower montane. It is characterized by it's dense, pea-like flowers, colored brightly purple. You can see rabbitfoot crazyweed from May to June in Yellowstone.
Rocky Mountain beeplant:
The Rocky Mountain beeplant can grow up to 3 feet tall. Most recognizable by its bright pink flowers that grow in clusters at the top of tall branches, it's seed pods are long and linear, turning reddish brown as the season progresses. And, true to their name and are excellent pollinators for native bees. They can be seen in Yellowstone from May to August.
Rocky Mountain iris:
Seeing a Rocky Mountain iris is truly a delight. These lavender/blue flowers growing tall on their stalk resemble an iris that you may have at home. They are often found in meadows and near stream banks from May to July.
These wildflowers get their name because they resemble fluffy cat toes, this particular species is named for their rosy pink flowers. Typically they grow in a sprawling mat and each stem produces 3-20 flower heads. They can be seen from May to July in open meadows and woods.
This extremely unique looking wildflower is characterized by its pink flowers that seem to defy gravity and look like a shuttlecock. They are primarily found in meadows, but can be seen throughout the park, and bloom from May to June.
As one of the first signs of spring beauty, the spring beauty is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in Yellowstone. It grows small white flowers, striped with pale pink lines down the center of its petal. These are commonly found April through June.
The sticky geranium is true to its name: small hairs on the flower and stem produce a sticky substance that traps insects. Its flowers are a bright pink with reddish veins, and are typically seen May through July in dry open areas.
These are one of the earliest bloomers in spring. They are characterized by the dark and hairy, blue/purple bell-like flower, and once they have finished blooming, they are seen as feathery seed plumes. Sugarbowl bloom from April to June, in forest-openings and foothills.
These vibrant purple/ blue wildflowers are a sight to see in Yellowstone! The waxleaf penstemon is characterized by many brightly-colored, tubular flowers growing in clusters along its stem. They are found in open grasslands and sloping foothills from May to July.
The head of a wild bergamot looks like a "lavender firework display". This is the same bergamot that is often found in earl gray tea, and has been used medicinally by Native Americans for centuries. It's common name is "beebalm", which is true to its name as it is an excellent pollinator for native bees. This wildflower can be found wherever there is moist soil, from open meadows to forested woods, and can be seen June through August.
This wildflower is one of the first to show up in the Rockies. It's characterized by a cluster of rounded flower heads, topped with fuzzy purple hairs; making it easy to see why it is called a kittentail. These are likely to bloom from valleys to alpine, and can be seen from April to July.
Another sign of spring, the yellowbell is one of the first wildflowers to emerge after the snow melts, blooming from April to May. They are found in grassy/ sagebrush meadows as well as wooded areas.
Make sure you plan your Yellowstone vacation for a time when the wildflowers are blooming, because they truly are a sight to behold! You do not want to miss out on the spectacular colors and patterns that Yellowstone's wildflowers display in the spring!
(For a more extensive list and greater details, check out Flora of the Yellowstone, by Whitney Hilt. It is a fantastic guide.)
Join Nomadic By Nature on a guided day hike or backpacking trip through Yellowstone.
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Featured Trip: Black Canyon of the Yellowstone
This is Nomadic By Nature’s earliest backpacking trip in Yellowstone — while most trails lie under a blanket of snow, Black Canyon of the Yellowstone remains mostly snow-free because of its low elevation. As we hike along the Yellowstone River, you will gain perspective of how wild the canyon really is.
This region is home to big wildlife — big horn sheep, elk, deer, bison, birds of prey, and the possibility of grizzly bear, to name a few. Highlights include a raging and untouched river, amazing geology, waterfalls, wildflowers and ever-present wildlife — all combine for a powerful experience in the World’s First National Park.
Use the comment box below to tell us what your favorite #wildflower is; in Yellowstone or in your area!