Beauty of It All

Photo banner: aspen colors in Colorado mountains, Colorado blue columbine, serpentines in the Trinity Alps, lichen, aspens, iris, Darlingtonia bog, and American cancer-root

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars…"

From "Leaves of Grass", Walt Whitman

Let's take a closer look at the beautiful wildflowers of our national forests and grasslands and their remarkable adaptations to the environment. Wildflowers have adapted to diverse environments and specialized habitats, including rainforest, bogs, deserts, grasslands, vernal pools, serpentines, high-elevations, and many others. They have developed remarkable strategies and unique adaptations to survive in harsh environments.

The story of wildflowers is one of complexity, mystery, and splendor. You will find yourself astounded and delighted by the beauty of it all!

Aquilegia Express: Columbines

Four columbines.

One of the most exquisite and most beloved wildflowers is the columbine. The magnificent rock-loving columbine brightens our hearts in cool, hidden forest grottos, and lifts our spirit high to alpine meadows and glacial mountain lakes.

Riding the Aquilegia Express!

All aboard, as we learn about columbines and view their beautiful colors along the way!

Read about Columbines…

Fading Gold: The Decline of Aspen in the West

golden autumn aspens fading out from left to right.

Fading Gold explores the aspen community in the western United States. It describes how aspen grows, the decline of aspen from in the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the challenges for aspen in the western landscape. We feature aspen's beautiful fall colors, wildflowers in the aspen community, and the traces left in the aspen groves by past visitors.

Read about Fading Gold…

Wildflowers, Part of the Pageantry of Fall Colors

Aspen forest shifts from green to many shades of yellow and orange as fall arrives near McClure Pass.

For many wildflowers, fall is the time of the year when they flower, adding to the great array of colors. The U.S. Forest Service has many stories to share with you about our fall wildflowers.

Read about Wildflowers, Part of the Pageantry of Fall Colors…

Follow the Rainbow: Our Native Irises

Three picture montage of irises: dwarf lake iris, copper iris, and Douglas iris.
Graphic of an iris with a circular rainbow background.

Irises greet us in springtime with spectacular, large, beautiful, eye-catching flowers. Like a rainbow, they exhibit a variety of colorful patterns and shades of blue to violet, pale delicate white or yellow, earthy tans and browns, to a flaunting copper-red, a stately deep maroon, and a brilliant yellow.

Read about Our Native Irises…


Three overlain lichen images (foreground to background): Cladonia cristatella, Acarospora species, and Sticta species

Let's take a look at the group of organisms called lichens. They are not plants in the classification of life forms, but rather they belong to the Fungi kingdom. Forest Service botanists and plant ecologists are the primary resource specialists who deal with the conservation and management of these beautiful and fascinating organisms.

Read about Lichens…

Thieves from the Heath - Mycotrophic Wildflowers

Sarcodes sanginea. Photo by Mark Skinner, courtesy USDA PLANTS Database.

Sometimes referred to as “fungus flowers,” mycotrophic wildflowers have no chlorophyll and spend most of their lives underground, but they are not fungi. Since they cannot make their own “food,” mycotrophic wildflowers parasitize mycorhizal fungus, which absorbs its nutrients from trees. The unlucky fungus “feeds” the parasitic wildflower and receives nothing in return.

These “thieves” come in a variety of colors—reds, yellows, white, pinks, and browns—most often found under thick layers of leaf litter in deep-shaded forests.

Read about Thieves from the Heath…

Stark Beauty: Klamath-Siskiyou Serpentines

golden autumn aspens fading out from left to right.

Formed deep within the earth's mantle, serpentine rocks found their way to the surface over millennia. Unique flora have evolved on serpentine soils, especially adapted to survive severe hardships of drought, heavy metals, and nutrient stress. The Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains of northwest California and southwest Oregon are the largest serpentine area in North America.

Read about Klamath-Siskiyou Serpentines…

Meet The Ladies: The Slipper Orchids

Three pictures of slipper orchid species: ram's head lady slipper, yellow lady's slipper, and mountain lady's slipper.

Did you know that in addition to the tall trees for which we are best known, a beautiful and sometimes hidden treasure of wondrous native orchids are on our National Forests and Grasslands?

Meet The Ladies!…