"When the book of life falls open at the page of spring," the snow-crowned mountains rule over an enchanting land of foliage, ferns and fungi, and the alpine meadows are ablaze with bright-hued flowers that grow luxuriantly beneath the broad blue tent of the sky.
Held close in the curved arms of the cliff's, the patches of verdure, starred with these wondrous-tinted blossoms, are a revelation to the traveller. From the mountains of the Yukon and Alaska to the hills of Nova Scotia and New England, in the Rockies, the Selkirks and the mountain ranges of Montana, Dakota, Washington, Oregon, California and other States, you will find that the same miracle has been wrought. On the lower levels white-flowered, scarlet-fruited shrubs mingle with the Wintergreens, Larkspurs, Violets and Columbines; flaming Indian Paint Brushes, Gentians, Queen-cups and purple Vetches cover many a slope; here a valley is carpeted with yellow Lilies, Gaillardias, Arnicas and Golden-rods - a glorious Field-of-the-Cloth-of-Gold - and there some mossy plateau is gay with arctic-alpine Androsaces, Stonecrops, Everlastings and the trailing vines of the sweet-scented Northern Twin-flowers; while in the crannies among the rocks Moss Campions, Romanzofnas and Saxifrages find a foothold; and down beside the ice-born streams grow beds of Wild Parsley, Water Willow Herb, Musk Flower, Lobelia and Ladies' Tresses.
As the traveller climbs upward the scene changes among the barren rocks and frowning precipices, for here Nature stands revealed in majestic mood, and the lines of the landscape are sketched out rugged and severe. Then comes the sudden turn round the corner of some cliff, the o'ertopping of some steep stone ledge, and behold! before one, in a high alpine meadow, lies a garden such as kings might envy. But how describe the ecstasy of standing knee-deep in the fragrance of a thousand flowers? After crossing the bare bleak rocks it is like a triumphal entry into Paradise. Here are Pink Garlics, Harebells swaying in wild waywardness, Veronicas and Forget-me-nots looking up with wide-open eyes, Heathers red, rose and white, amethyst Asters, White Geraniums and Moccasin Flowers, all mingling with the shining green leaves and waxen petals of the Rhododendrons and the snowy chalices of the Globe-flowers and Anemones.
It matters not at what hour one goes to the mountains, Whether in the amethyst dawn, when the golden gates of sunrise fall ajar and the first faint rustle of the leaves stirs the dreaming world to consciousness, dispersing mists and dew; in the brilliant noontide, when life marches on with all her banners unfurled, and every plant is budding and blowing as the sap runs freely, and the sun's rays gild hill and vale; or in the amber evening when purple shadows steal with phantom feet from cliff to cliff, and down in the dusk of the forest dewdrops spangle leaf and bloom, as God lights the star-lamps of His high heaven and puts out the day.
Even when we listen to the rhythm of the rain all is beautiful, for the flowers that greeted the dawn with opal hearts wide-blown; that at noontide were found with "Each affluent petal outstretched and uncurled To the glory and gladness and shine of the world." and that at evening offered up sweetest fragrance in their chalice-cups, are given a new charm by the cool showers from above. " The paths, the woods, the fields, the hills, Are not a world to-day, But just a place God made for us In which to play."
So we may wander in search of the mountain wild flowers, following the trails which lead to the alpine meadows, and wrapt in the perfect peace of the hills remember that we are walking "In the freedom of the garden wild" with "God of the open air."
As this book is intended for the use of the general public rather than for that of botanists, the flowers herein described are classified according to colour, and without special reference to their scientific relationship; for the first attribute of a plant which attracts the traveller's eye is invariably its colour, his first question usually being: "What is that red flower?" - or "blue flower," or "yellow flower," as the case may be. Of Order, Genus and Species he probably knows little, and therefore the descriptions given in this guide to mountain wild flowers are so simply and clearly worded, that any plants indexed may be readily located in one or other of the Colour Sections, together with its name and chief characteristics. The general Key at the beginning of the book will be of use to botanists.
The nomenclature followed throughout this work is strictly in accordance with the Vienna Rules, in so far as these have been worked out in Canada.
Plants will be found to vary greatly in size and appearance at various altitudes, becoming smaller and shorter as the summit of the mountain is approached, until at 7,000 or 8,000 feet one will find the tiny leaves of the Moss Campion and Mountain Saxifrage growing flat upon the ground, their starry blossoms having no perceptible stalks, but being set close down into the moss-like plants. The Speedwell, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Alpine Azalea, Whitlow Grass, Eriogonum, Androsace, Saxifrage, Gentian and Stonecrop are all in evidence at very high elevations, growing in dwarfed alpine forms, and, together with the Heath, Heather and Anemone, are amongst the last flowers found at the edge of perpetual snow.
For his valuable assistance in preparing this book I offer my sincere thanks to Professor John Macoun, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, beyond all repayment, for years of kindly help and encouragement. To Mr. James M. Macoun I also offer my hearty thanks for his expert advice given at all times with kindest courtesy.
To Sir Thomas G. Shaughnessy I am very deeply indebted for the interest he has always taken in my work among the mountains, which has led to the writing of this book.
Julia W. Henshaw.
January, 1915. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Sidney, British Columbia, Canada, January 30th, 1915. Dear Mrs. Henshaw:
When you first told me of your intention to write a popular mountain flora, I assured you that such a work would not only serve a splendid purpose in attracting attention to the mountains, but that until the traveller had in his hands some such book that would enable him to identify the many flowers that grow there in profusion, he must feel lost among the unnamed beauties which would surround him. It was the one book needed.
That the work should have been done as you have done it, is more than I could have hoped. The beauty of the photographs, the correct grouping of the flowers, the concise and yet complete descriptions make it easy for even the visitor of a day to identify all the plants he is likely to see.
Your choice of English names, when such had not before been given to our alpine flowers, is excellent. They are themselves often sufficiently descriptive to enable one to idntify the species.
I am glad to note, too, that the generic names you have used are strictly in accordance with the Vienna Rules, as -are also the specific names so far as these have been worked out in Canada.