Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chocolate or Checkered?

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

Identifying wildflowers can be a tricky business.  The above beauty is a case in point.  Many people on the Memaloose Hills trail were calling it a "chocolate lily" and we were all excited about it, but when I got home and looked it up my Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest field guide, I started to have doubts.  It looked more like a Checkered Lily (aka Mission Bell) than the darker chocolate one.  It was more mottled than solid brown.  The range wasn't quite right either.  Turner and Gustafson had the chocolate one growing further north in Washington and British Columbia.

And yet?  It did have a putrid odor like the chocolate lily.  And that's what everyone was calling it. So which one was it?

My travel buddy walked right by this clump of chocolate-colored lilies because their blah color didn't stand out among the brighter yellow, orange and purple flowers surrounding them.  I pointed them out and he was astounded.

To us, they were gorgeous.  And rare.  We met other hikers later on who were equally ecstatic.  "Did you see the chocolate lilies back there?"  they all asked.

And really . . . it is that excitement such beautiful flowers create that is important.  We could all agree they were lilies.  But were they Fritillaria affinis or Fritillaria camschatcensis?  I'm poking fun at myself as I write this.  I'm not a botanist.  And I suspect, neither were they.  I can't remember scientific names no matter how hard I try, so why bother?

The chocolate lily is more of a common name for this lovely flower, no matter what it is.  A mission bell?  A spotted mountain bell?  Or the real deal?  I shouldn't get too picky about the appropriate genus and species.

The chocolate lily is a name I can remember.

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