Idaho Mountain Wildflowers


An annotated bibliography




Earle, Scott with Jane Lundin. Consulting editor James Reveal Idaho Mountain Wildflowers: A Photographic Compendium, 2001; Boise, Larkspur Press (2d ed. 2008) Our own book. Greatly expanded, soft-cover 2d edition  includes revised classifications according to new Flora of North America North of Mexico
Spellenberg, Richard

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Western Region;1979; Alfred A. Knopf, NY

Good illustrations and descriptions. Although popular, it shares the faults of most books that cover a wide area; the flower you’re looking for is usually not there; nevertheless, it's a choice  if your interest is superficial, and oriented toward western wildflowers in general.
Strickler, Dee Alpine Wildflowers, 1990;  Forest Wildflowers, 1988; Wayside Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, 1993; Flower Press, Columbia Falls, MT;. A series of paperback books;  one must purchase several for full coverage.  Good descriptions, excellent illustrations.
Strickler, Dee & Ann Morley Northwest Penstemons, 1997; Flower Press, Columbia Falls, MT Illustrations, descriptions, maps showing all Northwest species of penstemons asa recognized at the time of publication
Dorward, Doreen Marsh and Sally Randall Swanson Along Mountain Trails (and in Boggy Meadows), A paperback available in many stores in Idaho; includes images and brief descriptions of common species.
Niehaus, Theodore F. &  Charles L. Ripper Peterson Field Guide  to Pacific State Wildflowers, 1987; Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., Just reaches our area. Nevertheless, it’s useful for its easy-to-use key that helps to identify the various species.
Craighead, John J. & Frank C. Craighead with Ray J. Davis A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, 1963; Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company Reprinted many times since 1963. A popular and useful guide, with small but adequate photographic illustrations and informative descriptions.
Schreier, Carl A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains, 1996; Homestead Publishing, Moose, WY, Handy soft cover guide. The photographs and the descriptions are good.
Duft, Joseph F. and Robert K. Moseley Alpine Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains ,1989; Missoula, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Paperback that focuses on the plants found at higher elevations. Good coverage of mountain flora.Useful if you’re heading for the high country.
Phillips, H. Wayne Central Rocky Mountain Wildflowers ,1999; Falcon Publishing Company, Helena, M There is much here that's useful, and the photographs of the various plants are excellent. Easily portable, in sturdy paperback format.
Phillips, H. Wayne   Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers 2001; Falcon Publishing Company, Helena, MT  Similar to above
Kershaw, Linda, Andy McKinnon, and Jim Pojar. Plants of the Rocky Mountains,1998; Lone Pine Publishing Published in Canada and generally available. Strong on the Northern Rockies although it attempts to cover all of the Rocky Mountains. Includes not only wild flowers, but trees, shrubs, mosses, lichens, etc. as well. The plant you're looking for may not be there, but the percentage of hits is high, and the near-misses are close enough to be helpful. Recommended.
Davis, Ray J. Flora of Idaho, 1952; Wm. C. Brown Company, Dubuque, Iowa  (subsequent reprints) By a Professor of Botany, Idaho State College, primarily for botanists. All Idaho plants are in it, although many identifications out of date. No illustrations and little attention to common names. Out of print but still useful. Obtain through on-line book services.
Hitchcock, C. Leo & Arthur Cronquist Flora of the Pacific Northwest, An Illustrated Manual, 1973; Seattle, University of Washington Press For dedicated amateur botanists and higher.  All plants illustrated with simple, but helpful line illustrations. Rife with abbreviations and written in botanical English, but the book has a good glossary, and with increasing familiarity one can find almost every species. An invaluable reference.
Hitchcock, C. Leo & al. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest Seattle, 1955; Seattle, University of Washington Press Five volumes; the absolute final word. Expanded descriptions of all of the plants of the Pacific Northwest. Reprinted with corrections several times since. Hitchcock and Cronquist's manual, listed above, is a condensed version of these five volumes, but these have much better illustrations.The classifications in this and the preceding volume have been superceded for many plants. (Update with USDA plant-list (

A  Note on the classification of plants

This website is based on our book, Idaho Mountain Wildflowers. We  have tried, both in the book and on these pages, to use proper botanical nomenclature for all plants. Proper classification--although confusing at first--is based on sound rules. First,  each plant has a scientific "binomial name" made up of two parts. These are: (1) the plant's generic name (2) the plant's species name. The latter may be modified further by adding a variety (var.) or a subspecies (ssp.). Next, many plants have common names. All of this is explained in greater detail below:

The first word in a scientific binomial  represents a plant's genus; for example Camassia represents the genus in which our common blue camas resides..The second part of the binomial represents the plant's species, for example quamash represents the common Idaho camas's species. The name Camassia quamash distinguishes it from all other camases; for example from Camassia scilloides, the Atlantic camas. Some plants come in different varieties or subspecies. These may be added to the binomial scientific name to further distinguish a given plant. Some botanists, for example, recognize a common camas that grows only in Washington as a separate variety. Its scientific name is Camassia quamash var. azurea (to designate our common camas from that one, we might designate ours as Camassia quamash var. quamash). The beauty of scientific names is that only one plant in the whole world can have a specific scientific binomial name.

Proper botanical nomenclature requires that the name of the individual who first published a description of a plant, be appended to that plant's scientific name. Thus, Frederick Pursh who classified the plants returned by the Lewis and Clark expedition, was the first to describe the common camas scientifically . He placed it in genus Phalangium, and gave it the species name quamash. At that time, therefore, the proper designation of  the plant would have been Phalangium quamash Pursh. Over the years the plant was reclassified several times until botanist Edward Lee Greene (1843-1915), a great one for reclassifying plants, gave it its present name, Camassia quamash. The plant is properly known today as Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene.

Abbreviations are sometimes used, especially for the names of botanists who have named many plants. Thus, the initial "L". after a plant's binomial means that Linnaeus, who devised the binomial system in the first place, classified that plant. Lists of botanists' names and their abbreviations my be found in many botanical books. In addition to L., other common ones include DC. for Augustin Pyramus DeCandolle (1778-1841), Michx. for André Michaux (1746-1803), and--often, on these pages--Nutt. for Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859).

Sometimes a person will discover a new plant and submit it to a botanist who will then publish its description. Thus, our mountain lady's-slipper was collected by David Douglas (1798-1834). Douglas sent the plant to England where the Professor of Botany at Glasgow, William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), named Douglas's plant. It now bears the name "Cypripedium montanum Douglas ex Hook." to show that Douglas had found the plant and Hooker described it (Hooker's son was also a noted botanist; his abbreviation is Hook. f. for Hooker fils).

Finally, there are common names. They help lay persons refer to plants, but common names often vary and the same name may refer to many different plants (there are many "bluebells," for example). Also, some widely distributed plants may have many regional common names. Our glacier lily, Erythronium grandiflorum, is commonly known as the avalanche lily, trout lily, dog-tooth violet, fawn lily, adder's tongue and probably other names as well. So, common names are fine and good, often quaint and folkloric, and sometimes picturesqe and imaginative, but whenever a precise description is required, one should use the  scientific binomial. With use, people become familiar with binomials, and it becomes second nature to use them.


This website has descriptions of, and reference to over 500 species of wildflowers that are native to Idaho's mountains.To have discovered, identified, photographed and then compiled two editions of a book, as well as this website, would have taken a lifetime if I had not had help.

Jane Lundin, Seattle librarian and frequent Idaho visitor, has been a perfect hiking companion whose sharp eyes have been of invaluable help in finding, and then helping to identify many of the plants listed here.  Her photographs are on many of this website's pages.

Jim Reveal, a distinguished botanist, has given generously of his time and knowledge. Botanical classifications are changing rapidly. Jim has helped me wade through the confusion of changing names as well as identify and properly place the plants shown on these pages (and in the book, Idaho Mountain Wildflowers).

Boise botanists Ann DeBolt, Roger Rosentretter and Mike Mancuso have given field trips on which I have learned much, and seen new plants to photograph and include on these pages.

Many thanks to you  all. / Scott Earle