First hike of the year - Forgetmenot Ridge, Kananaskis Country, Alberta

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Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27
First hike of the year - Forgetmenot Ridge, Kananaskis Country, Alberta

Our first hike of the year in this late spring was yesterday to Forgetmenot Ridge in Kananaskis Park, Alberta. The trailhead is a 45 minute drive west of here. Despite the VERY strong wind, I was surprised that a few of the pictures turned out reasonably in focus - the plants were always being blown around, and my camera hand often was too!
On the way up:

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

The last shot in the previous set showed the highlight of the hike at this time in the season... the spectacular potentillas!  I still haven't figured out exactly which of the 6 or so possiblities they might be, but I've decided to go with Potentilla uniflora.  ???  (If anyone knows what they are, please speak up!!)  Here are a few shots of the gorgeous plants, with flowers absolutely radiant in the brilliant light, and of their favoured scree slope habitat.
       

It's also the favoured habitat of Saussurea nuda var. densa, none of which were yet in bloom; some young plants and a close-up of the hairy foliage:
 

Delphinium glaucum, and Draba sp., showing seedheads, on the scree slope.
 

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

And up on the ridge...
     

The wind was howling but, surprisingly, not as cold as I expected.  Fleece jackets, gloves and Elmer Fudd hats (with ear flaps and chin straps) kept us  reasonably comfortable, not to mention stylish.   ;D   There was still a bank of snow behind the kruppelholz (a frequent lunch spot) and many of the willows there had not even leafed out yet...
       

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

And out on the scree flats, Oxytropis podocarpa, some already forming seedpods and many in bloom:
 

Hedysarum boreale var. mackenzii:
 

Minuartia austromontana is common - I always find it very interesting to see.
   

Campanula uniflora:
 

And one of my favourites, Silene uralensis ssp. attenuata:

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Lori,  I'm enamored with Silene uralensis ssp. attenuata, what an adorable little munchkin!  We've discussed this before ;)  Are you able to grow Oxytropis podocarpa; looks like one worth growing for the nice compact mats of foliage alone, although the near blue flowers are great too.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Yes, it's cute as a bug's ear!
I collected a tiny bit of seed last year of Oxytropis podocarpa, germinated it in the winter and have managed to keep the seedlings alive so far, and have planted a couple out in the tufa garden.  As the places I see them virtually all limestone, I think the tufa should be the right environment for them... time will tell, I guess.

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

The ubiquitous Dryas octopetala:

Physaria didymocarpa:
   

Eriogonum androsaceum:

Tiny Gentiana prostrata:

Myosotis asiatica (formerly M. alpestris):

Rhodiola integrifolia, a rather orange-y one in flower and one that is brilliantly red in seed:
 

Flowers on the ridge:

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

The scene:

Leptarrhena pyrolifolia  Correction: Saxifraga occidentalis (I'm always mixing these two up):

Beautiful Erigeron grandiflorus (I think - please correct me if I'm wrong):
 

Abundant Zigadenus elegans in the turf:

Androsace chamaejasme, in the turfy tundra and in the rock pavement:
 

Erigeron compositus:

Approaching the saddle area:
 

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Besides the plant life, I find the geology and plant communities equally interesting.  It seems like in the high mountains there, there are low growing meadows and trees, but no mid size (or any size) shrubs.  Is that true? 

When I see a block of seemingly densely populated trees in the distance but still at near the tree line, is it like a forest, or is it like trees growing in an open yard (without a closed canopy)?

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Down the warm, south-facing slope, out of the wind, Pulsatilla patens are still in bloom, and some gone to seed:
   

Dodecatheon conjugens, I think (as opposed to D. pulchellum) based on the pubescent leaves:
   

Anemone multifida:

Anaphalis margaritacea:
 

Penstemon procerus:
 

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

RickR wrote:

Besides the plant life, I find the geology and plant communities equally interesting.  It seems like in the high mountains there, there are low growing meadows and trees, but no mid size (or any size) shrubs.  Is that true?  

When I see a block of seemingly densely populated trees in the distance but still at near the tree line, is it like a forest, or is it like trees growing in an open yard (without a closed canopy)?

Rick, I am only familiar with some of the areas around here so I'll describe them...
The area pictured is at tree line and slightly higher; the trees in the distance are definitely forest, but as they are subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and lodgepole pines (all conical in shape, and not very tall), there is not really any canopy.   At lower elevations, the trees (same species) are taller and it is more shaded, and lower yet, there are deciduous trees - trembling aspen mainly - so there is more of a conventional canopy there.
Tree line in this dry area is marked by kruppelholz alpine firs that are short in stature but obviously old, as shown by the thick trunks - they are also usually pruned by the wind on the windward side.  (Kruppelholz refers to stunted growth due to the conditions - weather and wind in this case (as opposed to the term, krummholz, which is used often but usually incorrectly, as it refers to genetic stunting)).  The shrubs above tree line on this dry ridge are mainly Dasiphora fruticosa and dryads.   The willows in the moist areas (e.g. north slopes behind kruppelholz) are up to about knee-high, at most.
In wetter areas here, tree line is often marked by alpine larch which then also peters out to kruppelholz.
In the high mountains, above tree line, there are no trees but only very low-growing shrubs at best (e.g. willows in wet areas; ericaceous shrubs; dryads, etc.).  
Not a very complete picture - I know I'm missing all sorts of important points but I hope that helps!

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

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