Native Wildflower Species of Southeastern Idaho

By Sierra Reid

I’ve always had a thing for wildflowers, ever since I was six, went on a hike with the boy scouts, and got in trouble by a park ranger for picking a bouquet that included Indian Paintbrush. Unbeknownst to me and my poor mother, Indian Paintbrush is the state flower of Wyoming and very illegal to pick. (Special thanks to my mom for talking me out of trouble and letting me keep the bouquet even after the ranger told me I had to leave it on the trail.) One of my favorite things about wildflowers is that you can see these sweet and delicate blooms anywhere from a hiking trail to popping up alongside the highway.

Here are some of the top native wildflower species in Southeastern Idaho:

1) Penstemon payettensis

Also known as beardtongue, this beautiful species of Penstemon can only be found in Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. The deep blue/purple blossoms circle and grow up the stem, which can grow up to two feet tall. This species can have several stems, each containing many beautiful and showy blooms.

Penstemon payettensis Photo/Andi Wolfe

2) Aquilegia Formosa

Also known as the Sitka columbine, this columbine can grow anywhere from 1-3 feet tall. Characterized by it’s crimson sepals surrounding yellow petals and many long yellow anthers, this plant flowers from late spring-mid summer. Another way to identify this wildflower species is to look for the three-lobed leaves and 5 spurs on the backside of the flower.

Aquilegia Formosa Photo/The Evergreen State College

3) Rudbeckia occidentalis

With the common name of western coneflower, this wildflower looks just like it sounds. Upon first glance, it’s easy to see the overall cone shape of this flower, but what you might not notice until a closer glance is all of the tiny florets that make up the cone. As many as 200-500 florets make up the cone, and although yellow when mature, they soon wither and darken leaving the overall color of the cone a purplish brown. The cone is about 2 inches long, with the overall height of the plant reaching anywhere from 3-6 feet!

Rudbeckia occidentalis Photo/Ballyrobert Gardens

4) Castilleja angustifolia

Also known as Indian Paintbrush, this little guy is one of my favorites. This plant typically comes in shades of orange, yellow, or red and is commonly found in Idaho. It gets its name from the tube-like flowers that spider up from the stem and look like a paintbrush. The stem and leaves are a dusty green color and are covered in soft white hairs.

Castilleja angustifolia Photo/Mel Harte/Discover Life

These are just a few of the many wildflower species native to Southeastern Idaho. Located in the heart of this region, LaBelle Lake is surrounded by numerous beautiful hiking and outdoor recreational areas where these wildflowers grow naturally. If you’re ever in the area, keep a lookout for these and other native wildflower species and see how many you can identify!