Flowers of the Canadian Rockies
organized by colour and shape


This index includes all wildflowers in the Canadian Rockies, as I have been able to photograph and identify them. It is not an exhaustive list, and it is possible that you may not find the flower you seek to identify. I am adding flowers steadily as I find and identify new ones. I attempt to include good photographs, but may sometimes include low-quality photos if it is all I have to illustrate a flower.
Any wildflower will be included, as well as shrubs that have obvious flowers. Non-flowering shrubs are not included here.
The index is organized first by colour, into four pages. On each page, all flowers of the same colour are divided according to shape - number of petals, and arrangement.

You can start by choosing a page to see flowers of that colour, or scroll down this page for more information on the system I have used to organize, as well as tips for identifying flowers.


White/Greenish Flowers

Yellow/Orange Flowers

Red/Pink Flowers

Blue/ Purple Flowers

You can also view a list of all flowers so far indexed.


Organization
Flowers are
first divided by colour, into four pages: White (including greenish or drab), Yellow/Orange, Red/Pink, and Blue/Purple.
Colour is determined by petals, or what appear as petals - not by the centre or the leaves or berries.
Where a flower includes strong amounts of two different colours, can be more than one colour,
or appears to be in between two colours (commonly pinky-purple flowers), I have simply included it on both pages.
If you're not sure, just try one. The intent is to make it easy to find a flower - not set up a fine system.


On each page, the flowers are divided by shape into the following categories:
Three Petals Flowers with three petals
Four Petals Flowers with four petals
Five Petals Flowers with five petals
Six Petals Flowers with six petals
Many Petals Flowers with more than six petals, or flowers with varying numbers of petals/tepals
Bunches Flowers that grow in clusters of many smaller flowers, regardless of how many petals are on each flower. Most flowers in this category are also found under the correct number of petals on each flower, but this category is included for those on which it is difficult to tell how many tiny petals are present.
Composite Composite flowers which have both disk flowers and ray petals, regardless of the number of petals in each disk flower or in the ray.
Bell-Shaped Flowers shaped like a bell, whether nodding or upright, and regardless of the number of actual petals. Most flowers in this section are also found in with their correct number of petals, but this is included for those flowers where the petals are joined and do not make it easy to see the divisions and thus, the number of petals.
Irregular-Shaped Flowers that have irregular shapes, including violets, orchids, peas, and any others that just look a little odd, and don't comfortably fit into one of the above categories.

If a flower could be categorized into more than one of the 'shape' categories, then it will be in both. If you are not sure, just check one area and then the other. The idea is to make it easy to find by using logical categories visible to a typical hiker, rather than botanical groups or families.




How to Identify a Flower
Some flowers are obvious, and their shapes will make identification easy once you've learned their name. Others are trickier, and you'll need to look at less-obvious parts to be sure in your identification.
Here is a good set of steps to follow when trying to identify an unknown flower - especially if you have to take notes in the field and then refer to your notes or photos to identify it back in town. Noting these features will make it much easier when you find yourself needing to check minor differences between two flowers.

1. Look at the colour of the flower.
2. Look at the number of petals, and the shape of each (rounded? pointy tips? overlapping?)
3. Look at the shape of the plant. Is it a single flower on a short stalk? A long stem branching into many flowers?
4. Look at the leaves. Take note of their shape (narrow/broad, smooth or toothed, round/finely divided, etc) and their arrangement on the plant (alternating, paired, etc.).
5. Look at the underside of the flower. Note the existence, number, and shape of any sepals, and look for colour variation.




Terminology
While these pages use simple terms where possible, sometimes a proper scientific term is appropriate.
Here are some terms that might not be familiar to the casual flower enthusiast:
Petal A petal is usually the large colourful part of a flower - a modified leaf that surrounds the reproductive parts of the flower. The term 'petal' is used very generically here for anything that appears to be a petal, even if occasionally they are actually sepals or bracts. wikipedia
Sepal Sepals are usually a smaller green part that lies against the underside of the petals of a flower. Some sepals curl back, or extend between petals, while on other flowers the sepals are larger and more colourful than the petals, or identical to the petals. In this case, the sepals or petals and sepals together are usually called 'tepals'. wikipedia
Tepals Tepals are the outer parts of a flower, including the petals and sepals. When distinguishable, both parts are normally identified, but when atypical or undifferentiated, they are collectively known as tepals. Blue-Eyed Grass is a great example - the flower has three petals and three sepals, but they are identical to each other, and thus commonly termed six 'tepals'. I have used the term 'tepal' in the cases where a sepal or a collection of undifferentiated petals/sepals look as though they were the flower petals. wikipedia
Flower Parts The inside of a flower contains a pistil, surrounded by stamens. These range from a couple to a dense cluster of innumerable stamens. These are mostly used to distinguish betweeen flowers which may have similar petals but different centres. A great diagram of all the parts of a flower can be seen on wikipedia or in many places on the internet.
Leaf Arrangement The shape and placement of leaves can be very helpful in identifying plants early or late season, or when two have very similar flowers. Shapes are fairly self-explanatory, and clear by checking a few photos. Leaves can be attached to the plant in many different ways. A common one is opposite leaves, where a pair of leaves join at the same point, then another pair above them, and another pair above that. These can alternate planes, rotating 90 degrees, or less commonly remain all in the same plane to make a branch that looks two-dimensional. Another common arrangement is alternate leaves, in which the leaves on different sides take turns switching up the plant. Less common is whorled leaves, in which a group of three or more leaves attach at a certain point. A decent overview of shapes is available here.




Credits
I have primarily used the following sources to identify flowers and confirm details:
Ben Gadd's Handbook of the Canadian Rockies is a great all-in-one source for plants, animals, geology and more.
Mike Potter's Central Rockies Wildflowers is a small guide to the common plants with great photos and organization.
Kelly Eaton's The Flower Twitcher is a laminated sheet to take on the trail with minimal information, but quick ID for many species.
Neil Jennings' Uncommon Beauty, Alpine Beauty, and Prairie Beauty are nice books that include a number of species not seen in other guides, plus plenty of information on each plant and a general introduction to identification.
There is also a great wealth of information available online, but it usually requires you to already know what to look for. I have often felt a little lost with a photo of some white flower with lots of petals and nowhere to start looking. The two main parts I have included in this index is the categorization by colour and then shape which are simple and clear, and the 'similar flowers' heading within each flower listing, which links to other flowers that might get confused with the one in question, and the parts of the plant to check to confidently identify it as one or the other.
If there's something missing to my index, or a change that would make things easier, I would love to hear feedback.

Notes
I attempt to steadily update this index as I indentify and photograph more plants and parts thereof. I do this for my own interest and in the hopes of helping others by providing the guide I've always wished existed when I want to identify something. I would love for this to someday become an exhaustive index, but it is still a fair ways away from that.
I may never manage to photograph all of the rare plants, but some of the common ones are missing simply because I have not quite figured out some identification quirks. If you know an answer I'm missing, I'd love to hear from you.

Here are a few things I'm currently struggling with:
-The exact species of white Draba in the Rocky Mountains, or how to tell the multiple types apart.
-Stickseed/Blue-burr - Hackelia Floribunda, or Lappula Squarrosa?


Back to Identifying the Canadian Rockies

Back to Main Index