(Editor's Note: Are you one of the many people who are itching for green in your garden and thinking about what to plant? There are many ideas out there for great gardens, beautiful flower beds - and watching for nature's spring plants. The Oldman recently disovered a nice selection of prairie plant seeds at the Galt museum - and here, thanks to botanist June Flanagan, some tips on what to look for on your spring walks. Remember to plant something for the butterflies - and enjoy!)
You're in for a treat if you head out wildflower hunting in the Oldman River Watershed this week, as warm weather is coaxing buds to break earlier and faster than usual.Prairie crocus enthusiasts will still find fuzzy flower buds (Anemone patens) emerging from cool, damp areas on north-facing hillsides. And for gardeners, the arrival of golden beans (Thermopsis rhombifolia) is a reminder that temperatures are now perfect for sowing lettuce seeds.
Keep your eyes close to the soil for cushion plants like plains milk-vetch (Astragalus gilviflorus) bearing white pea-shaped flowers tucked between soft silver leaves, or the very tiny tufted milk-vetch (Astragalus spatulatus) with lavender blossoms.
It's likely you'll see moss phlox (Phlox hoodii) plants pressed against dry ridges and south-facing slopes, smothered with white star-shaped flowers that resemble patches of receding snow, and you may spot the small white daisies of prairie townsendia (Townsendia hookeri) scattered among grassy flats.
Some sunny beauties you might discover are yellow prairie violets (Viola nuttallii), and the flat floral umbrellas of leafy wild parsley (Musineon divaricatum). A few yellow bells (Fritillaria pudica) continue to echo the buzz pollination of bees, but many are already setting seed.
To help you identify what's blooming, University of Lethbridge Library continues to host a free download of our local guide to native prairie plants called "Common Coulee Plants of Southern Alberta". The updated edition with photographs and searchable links by flower colour travels easily on your smartphone or tablet. Get your free copy in EPUB or PDF format at <https://www.uleth.ca/dspace/handle/10133/3376> or find more information on my web site.
June Flanagan is a Lethbridge botanist, environmental horticulturist and author. She has published five regional books, including the local plant guide Common Coulee Plants of Southern Alberta and gardening guides Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens and Native Plants for Prairie Gardens. See June's web site for details, and follow what's in bloom with her on Instagram or "like" her Facebook Author Page: