First Flowers of Spring in Central Oregon

Have you seen your first spring blooms yet? If you live in Portland or other warmer climes, the answer is undoubtedly yes. But in the Bend area, we’re still waiting for the native wildflower season to begin.

Except … I did see my first bloom recently. Local botanist Ron Halvorson helped me figure out that this monster I spotted near Tumalo Reservoir is likely Lomatium novadense.

The plant (and the similar L. piperi and L. gormanii) has white petals with red or purplish anthers, which you can see if you look closely at the photo.

 Salt and pepper, aka  Lomatium piperi  

Salt and pepper, aka Lomatium piperi 

Okay, actually the blooms I saw were not monsters (as you can see below). Lomatiums, or biscuitroots, are in the carrot family, so you won't be surprised to hear that the thick roots of the larger varieties were eaten by Native Americans. They would’ve starved if they’d tried to make a meal of the tiny plants I saw.

 The "giant" biscuitroot. 

The "giant" biscuitroot. 

What other early blooms should you be on the lookout for this April?

Gorgeous yellow bells (Fritillaria pudica) should be popping up (and drooping down) in lots of places like Whychus Canyon Preserve and Chimney Rock.

 Yellow bells. Photo by M.A. Willson

Yellow bells. Photo by M.A. Willson

Don’t miss the alien-like seed heads of yellow bells, either. Fascinating!

 Yellow bell seed head. Photo by Ron Halvorson

Yellow bell seed head. Photo by Ron Halvorson

Prairie stars (Lithophragma parviflorum) are another early bloomer that you can spy in dry, open areas, such as along much of the Crooked River.

 A prairie star at Chimney Rock. Photo by Ron Halvorson

A prairie star at Chimney Rock. Photo by Ron Halvorson

And one more favorite is blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora), a tiny wildflower that famously tends to bloom sometime near Easter. Take a hike along the Deschutes River Trail or in the Badlands Wilderness in mid-April, and you should come across these little beauties. Be sure to take a hand lens to get an up-close look at the differently colored upper and lower petals.

 Blue-eyed Mary. Photo by Ron Halvorson

Blue-eyed Mary. Photo by Ron Halvorson

There are many, many more early bloomers: bluebells, sand lilies, and gold stars to name just a few. Now that most of the snow has melted, get out there and report back on which one you spot first this spring!