It’s that time of year again, and the Matanuska Valley is home to an incredible array of wildflowers, from tall stately fireweed and lupine blooms in the woods and meadows to the tiniest alpine flowers on high mountain slopes. A few favorites, all photos by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media:
The Lupine is known by many names, including Blue Bonnet, and is a legume, or a member of the pea family. Parts are toxic. Sitka roses, which produce delicious rose hips in the fall, but much of the plant is edible, the petals are popular for flavoring a sugar-based ‘honey.’ Wide-ranging, and known as the Rugosa rose outside of Alaska. The wild geranium, long known as a useful medicinal plant, derives its name from a Greek word meaning ‘crane.’ A poultice from the base or pounded roots of the plant was used to treat burns by pioneers. The entire plant is edible, with a flavor similar to parsley. Fireweed is common along roads and trails, especially where recent fires or clearing has taken place. Several parts of the plant are edible. Arctic or Dwarf Fireweed is much shorter than the standard variety. Siberian Iris are found in swampy lowlands in many parts of Alaska. Poisonous, native to north east Turkey, Russia, eastern and central Europe.Historically a laxative was made from the roots by the Aleut. Tiny Forget-me-nots, chosen as the Alaska State Flower in 1949, are actually native to England. They were popular with Alaska’s pioneers long before being named the official State Flower. Favors open, rocky places high in the mountains. Also known as wolfsbane, Aconitum, and other names, the monkshood flower gets its name from the shape of the posterior sepal of the blooms, which resembles the cowls worn by monks. WARNING: Toxic—extremely poisonous and must be handled very carefully! The neurotoxins, aconitine and mesaconitine can be absorbed through the skin and cause severe respiratory and cardiac problems. Do not pick or handle this plant without gloves, especially by the root .