The state flower of Montana
Meet the Original Bitterroot
The Bitterroot Valley, the Bitterroot River and the Bitterroot Mountains were all named after the beautiful Bitterroot Flower.
This delicate but hardy perennial herb grows in the Bitterroot Valley and throughout western Montana, as well as locations in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and British Columbia.
The Bitterroot Flower grows in dry, gravely, and sandy soils at low and moderate elevations.
They prefer sparsely vegetated grasslands, bushlands, forests and valley locations.
Flowers bloom from April to July and blooms can take on a variety of colors from white, to light pink, to lavender.
History of the Bitterroot Flower
As with much of the history of the Bitterroot Valley, the history of the flower changed with the arrival of white explorers and settlers.
While Lewis & Clark are largely credited with discovering and naming the flower, the flower’s history pre-dates the Corps of Discovery’s journeys in 1805 & 1806.
Long before Lewis & Clark discovered the plant as a food source while exploring the area, the flower was culturally significant for Native American tribes throughout the region.
Seasonal migrations were timed in conjunction with the annual bloom, and the flower and its roots were gathered and dried, and used for food and trade.
The Missoula Valley, to the north of the Bitterroot Valley, was a gathering place for harvesting the flower and it’s edible roots for numerous tribes including the Salish, Flathead, Nez Perce, Pend d’Oreille, and Kalispell.
As settlers arrived in the area, the Native Americans traded and bartered with bags of dried, processed roots that were highly sought after as a nutritious supplement to diets largely based on wild game.
On February 27th, 1895, the flower was adopted as the Montana State Flower.
Today, the natural habitat of the Bitterroot Flower continues to shrink as development of western Montana valleys continue to expand.
Bitterroot Flower Facts
The Latin name for the flower is Lewisia rediviva, a name given by Frederick Pursh after the Lewis & Clark expedition.
The Bitterroot Flower is classified as follows:
Kingdom – Plants – Plantae
Division – Flowering Plants – Anthophyta
Class – Dicots – Dicotyledoneae
Order – Caryophyllales – Caryophyllales
Family – Purslane Family – Portulacaceae
Species – Bitterroot – Lewisia rediviva
Flower stems are 1cm – 5cm long, with a single flower on each stem.
12 – 18 petals grow from each flower, with petals 15mm – 35mm in length.
Up to 20 seeds are produced when the flower reaches maturity.
That’s a Good Question
Where does the Bitterroot Flower grow?
The flower prefers dry, gravelly, sandy soil in moderate elevations of grasslands and forests in western Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and British Columbia.
Blooming occurs from April to July.