Each year it is the same thing over and over. Come spring I get all antsy about starting to head out with viewing wildflowers as the main objective. What a great way to see nature putting on a show as well as offering unlimited photographic opportunities! Once I’ve had my share of shrub steppe region visits (aka. “Washington’s desert”) my attention focuses immediately to the dry east slopes of the Cascades. The open pine-fir mix forests where warm sun, rocky well-drained soils exist are prime habitat for some of the most stunning and rare wildflowers in Washington and it is here where I annually roam special areas to enjoy my most favorite Washington wildflower: Tweedy’s lewisia!
The flowers are up to 3-inches across and are a beautiful salmon to yellowish-pink in color. I think it is by far the most showy lewisia, as well as most beautiful wildflower in the Pacific Northwest! A close relative flower, known as Bitterroot, is much more widespread and easier to locate. (Bitterroot too is a spectacular wildflower – it is smaller and more pink in color, so don’t miss looking for it as well!) Tweedy’s lewisia blooms from May to July depending on what elevation you can find it at, and it does have a very limited geographic range where it is typically found. It is essentially limited to the Wenatchee Mountains, Chelan and Kittitas Counties, and a few areas in the Methow Valley.
While I’m sure it is present in other similar areas, I have my own “guaranteed success” trails where I repeatedly return to in June to have my annual craving to see them satisfied. Lower elevation locations such as the Chiwaukum Creek Trail and Tumwater Botanical Area region, both west of Leavenworth, are on the list for earlier bloom times since they are barely at 2000’ elevation. The photos seen here were taken on June 12th of this year but most years they will be in bloom in late-May here. A contrast to this location is hiking the Tronson Ridge Trail on the northeast side of US-97 near Blewett Pass. Here hiking along a stunning ridge at 5000’ you can readily find clumps of Tweedy’s lewisia typically a few weeks later than lower elevations. What fun! If you ever wish to get more information about finding these locations I’m happy to share exact details with you. I hope you have a chance to get out and see some of nature’s wildflower performances this summer, even if it is just while sitting in a car in a parking lot at Mount Rainier or along a mountain stream!