May to June
In 1805, Bitterroot was first discovered by Meriwether Lewis of the historical Lewis and Clark expedition; thus, the genus name of the flower, “Lewisia”
Also called “the resurrection flower” for its ability to survive a year without water.
In 1893, after the famous World’s Fair in Chicago, Montana was one of many states that adopted an official flower. With a strong Indian heritage and a name derived from the leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Bitterroot was chosen as a state symbol.
Every spring and summer you can find the Bitterroot growing around the base and valleys of mountains of western Montana. The foliage is succulent and rubbery textured with an exquisite pink blossom that grows close to the ground. The low-growing perennial plant has a fleshy taproot and a branched base.
The flower stems are leafless, bearing at the tip a whorl of 5-6 linear bracts which are 5–10 mm long. A single flower appears on each stem with 6-9 beautiful oval-shaped sepals. They range in color from whitish to deep pink or rose and the petals are oblong in shape. The plant grows on gravelly to heavy, usually dry soil, in scablands or foothills areas.
Long before noted explorers Lewis and Clark wrote about the striking, multi-petaled, rich pink flowers they saw, Native Americans were using the roots as a vital part of their diets. Tribes dug up roots and dried them to use for later months. Tribes timed spring migrations around the blooming of the Bitterroots. At major Indian posts and trading centers, the root was a valuable item of trade and barter. A full sack commanded a generous price – usually equal to that of a whole horse.
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