Boise Foothills ideal for checking out wildflowers in spring

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comApril 17, 2014 


    What: Free Wildflower Walks by the Idaho Botanical Garden. Guides will lead participants on a 90-minute to 2-hour leisurely walk on trails behind the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

    Native and not-so native species will be identified and discussed during the session. Participants can attend one or both walks.

    When: Thursday, May 8, and Thursday, May 15; 6:30 p.m. both nights.

    Cost: Free.

    Notes: Pre-registration required by calling 343-8649; going online at; or in person at the Idaho Botanical Garden office, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise.


    Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

    Admission: Adults $7; seniors $5; youth (5-12) $5; children under 5 free.

    Tips on wildflower photography

    • Shoot in the morning or evening, not at high noon, for best lighting. Cloudy days are best because shadows are eliminated and there are no harsh light spots.

    • Don't shoot on windy days - too much movement. Or, if it is breezy, shoot at a higher shutter speed around 1/250 second.

    • Make sure your camera is focusing where you want it, like right on the flower. Auto cameras sometimes focus on the flower and surroundings, so you don't get a really sharp photo of the flower.

    • Look at the background. What's behind the flower? Flowers with gray and black cliffs and rocks or a dark, shadowy forest floor in back of them produce more dramatic photos. Use a telephoto lens with a short focus distance to blur out the background. Nothing but the flower will be dominating the photo. Busy backgrounds ruin wildflower photos.

    • Get as close to the flower as possible and frame it. If there's a bee on the flower, better yet.

    • A tripod can be handy to keep the camera perfectly still while shooting.

The Boise Front is a wildflower classroom in the spring.

Wildflowers start blooming in late March and early April in the lower Foothills at about 3,000 feet in elevation, and continue to bloom throughout summer, all the way up to Bogus Basin and Mores Mountain at around 7,000 feet.

Wildflowers afficionados and photographers can follow wildflowers up in elevation as the seasons progress, the temperatures warm and the snow recedes.

"Spring is a beautiful time to be in the Foothills," said David Gordon, coordinator of Ridge to Rivers. "Green grass and wildflowers abound."

Foothills trails, which are recommended for spotting wildflowers, are even named after some species. How about the Wild Phlox Trail No.112 in Seaman Gulch?

Gordon wrote this month about his trail picks for the best wildflower watching in the Ada County's newsletter, the "Current."

Other trails Gordon suggested include: Central Ridge No. 22 in Military Reserve, Doe Ridge No. 82 in the Polecat Reserve, Watchman No. 3 in Rocky Canyon and Chickadee Ridge No. 36A in the Lower Hulls Gulch Reserve.

If hiking on Foothills trails isn't your thing, there's always a quick and easy stroll in the Idaho Botanical Garden to see native plants and flowers.

"If folks are interested in learning a few wildflowers, and would enjoy easy access, the Idaho Botanical Garden at 2355 Old Penitentiary Road in Boise. It has several gardens that feature flowers and shrubs native to the Boise Front," said botanist Ann DeBolt.

She said the Idaho Native Plant Garden and Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden feature biscuitroot, arrowleaf balsamroot, serviceberry, mock-orange or syringa, which is the Idaho state flower, elderberry, yellowbells, buckwheat, woodland star, globemallow, and even a few sego lilies.

Although there is a lot more variety in the Boise Foothills, Debolt likes the garden because it offers a snippet of what people will find in the Foothills, and the plants are labeled.


Here's a look at what types of wildflowers you will find in the lower Boise Foothills and when you're likely to see them.

Spring: Phlox, lupine, biscuitroot, serviceberry, milkvetch, bitterbrush, death camas, arrowleaf balsamroot and yellow bells.

Summer: Depending on the location, different types of milkvetch, fleabane, sulfur buckwheat and monkey flower (in wet sites).

Late summer: Hoary aster, buckwheat and blazing star.


As flower seekers go up in elevation, one of the best places for wildflowers is around Mores Mountain and Bogus Basin.

Spring: Dwarf onion, turkey peas and currants.

Summer: Kittentails, scarlet gilia, several different penstemons, Indian paintbrush and a lot more. It's definitely the best time.

Late summer: Cinquefoil, aster, lupine and buckwheat.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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