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Idaho Wildflower Identification

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium (alternative names Common Yarrow, G image by Tamara Kulikova from

Wildflowers adorn many of the settings in Idaho, from the mountain meadows to the forested regions of the state. Idaho’s wildflower species are numerous, so identifying them correctly will require a calculated approach. Identifying Idaho’s wildflowers is much easier when you consider various facets of the entire plant and the flower that it produces.


The height of the entire plant upon which the wildflower blooms in Idaho can be a first step toward deciphering the species. For example, a common Idaho wildflower called yarrow stays in the 1- to 3-foot-tall range. The wood anemone is a much smaller plant, rarely more than 8 inches high. After you establish how tall the plant is, you can eliminate those that grow much higher or shorter, narrowing your focus.


When trying to identify a wildflower in Idaho, it is prudent to examine the leaves. Each species will have leaves that develop in different manners. For instance, the leaves of an Idaho wildflower called daisy fleabane grow alternately up and down the stem. According to the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers,” the leaves will be from 2 to 5 inches long, as wide as 2 inches and have a lanceolate shape, which means that they look like small spear points.


Color is always an important factor in identifying flowers. The native wildflowers of Idaho come in a wide range, with whites represented by bride’s bonnet and mountain trumpet. The hot-rock penstemon is just one of many pink flowers in the state, while tower larkspur is blue and fireweed is lavender. The hummingbird trumpet’s red blossoms are helpful when trying to decide what wildflower it is; the yellow shades of yellow bells and species such as the California poppy also make identifying the flower much easier.


Certain species of Idaho wildflowers will have a fixed and specific number of petals on their blossoms. This makes the positive identification of such flowers possible when the flower’s other features fall under consideration. The plantain leaved buttercup is an Idaho wildflower that always has five small petals; the same is true of gooseberryleaf globe mallow.


The scent that certain wildflowers native to Idaho give off are useful keys in recognizing the species. The Larkspur Books website notes that Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame found pineapple weed’s aroma to be “agreeable.” Indeed, this flower smells like a pineapple. Tansy has flowers that give off an odor similar to camphor. Such distinct scents can make identifying the wildflower less problematic.

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