From early spring to late fall, nature puts on a spectacular show with public lands. Wildflowers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and grow in unusual places. You can see them in mountain meadows and along forest edges, but these colorful displays can surprise you in salt marshes and across desert plains.
To help you change your doomscrolling tobloomscrolling, here are a few of our favorite wildflowers and the public lands where you can find them.
Do you hear the buzzing of spring? The desert lily’s sweet fragrance attracts many types of bees and colorful butterflies. The flower can be found in southeastern California and western Arizona. It grows from a bulb deep within the ground, with a thick stem of one to four feet tall. The leaves have wavy edges and are greenish-gray in color. Its large flowers are cream-colored and funnel-shaped and appear in clusters that can be up to a foot long.
Arrowleaf balsamroot is found throughout the Rocky Mountain region, growing at elevations between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. Thick on hillsides or flatlands, this sunny blossom is sure to brighten your hike. The wedge-shaped leaves are greenish-silver in color and are covered with a sheen of felt-like hairs. The plant is like a sunflower, in that it springs from a single stalk with a many-petaled bloom at the tip.
Silky phacelia grows in western states above 7,000 feet where temperatures are cool enough to promote the seedlings’ germination. These delicate purple flowers are a joy to see when hiking or biking. The flowers stem from a woody base and the tiny blossoms are arranged in clusters that are often coiled like a scorpion’s tail. Silky phacelia has a sweet smell and is popular with bees.
Joe-pye weed has a bright pink, fuzzy blossom. It's a flower that has become popular in gardens across the United States. It grows natively in most states except the Deep South and dry Southwest. Its flowers are pinkish and grow in domed or flat clusters at the top of a tall woody stem. The plant is quite hardy, blooming when many other plants are finished and vibrantly lasting until the first hard frost of the season. The plant was named after a Native American healer who was said to use it to cure illnesses.
Dollarjoint prickly pear
These sunny flowers are nice to look at but don’t touch the spines! Dollarjoint prickly pear cacti grow in paddle-like formations with long, sharp spikes pointing out. You can see them while hiking in the desert or near-desert regions of the United States on public lands like Joshua Tree National Park in California and Saguaro National Park in Arizona . They thrive in rocky crevasses and sandy soil. The plants can conserve precious water inside of their thickly husked paddles, enabling them to survive on very little moisture.
Like most lilies, the gumbo lily — also called evening primrose — is a fragrant flower. It can be found in the western United States, growing low to the ground in dry or sandy soils on buttes or exposed hillsides at places like Badlands National Park in South Dakota and Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Each large, white flower has four heart-shaped petals and eight yellow stamens. The plant rises from lateral roots, which makes it easy for it to spread over chalky hillsides. The blossoms appear throughout the hot summer months, opening in the late afternoon and closing the next morning. So, enjoy the show while it lasts.