7 Tips to Identify Wildflowers

These 7 tips to identify wildflowers will help everyone the next time they are out in the Rocky Mountains be able to identify wildflowers easier, including the most common wildflowers.

identify wildflowers

Beautiful wildflowers in Utah.

There are thousands of different kinds of wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains.  It can be overwhelming to look at a beautiful meadow covered in wildflowers and try to identify some of the individual ones if you don’t know where to start or what to focus on.  These few tips will not make you an expert, but they will help your learn what to look for so that you can either identify the flower or at least make an educated guess.

7 Tips to Identify Wildflowers

Leaf shape – look at the shape of the leaf on the plant.  Is the leaf simple, pinnately compound, palmately compound, or doubly pinnately compound?  Here is a nice explanation with images of leaf shape and leaf arrangement.

Leaf arrangement – how are the leaves arranged on the stem of the plant?  In other words, in what kind of pattern do the leaves grow off of the stem?  Do they come off the stem opposite each other or do they alternate?  Or do they come off in a circle (whorled)?

identifying wildflowers

Phlox is a regular shaped flower that grows as a low ground cover.

Flower shape and arrangement – what does the flower look like?  Is it several petals around a central disk or circle?  Does it look irregular shaped?  How are the flowers arranged on the plant – is there one flower at the top of a stalk?  Are there many flowers clustered either along one tall spike or bunched together?

identify wildflowers

Lupine grows as a shrub.

Flower color – what is the main color of the flower?  Is the flower more than one color?  If yes, are certain parts one color and other parts another color?

Size and growing habit of plant – is the plant the flower is on tall, short?  Does it grow as a shrub?  Does it grow as a creeping plant low along the ground?  Is it a vine?

Habitat – where is the plant growing?  Is it in an open meadow?  Or is it located in a forest where it is shaded out by all of the tall trees?  Does it grow along or near water such as a creek or lake?

Time of year – what time of year is the flower blooming?  Many flowers tend to bloom at certain times of the year, but this can vary.  Some are early season bloomers and others bloom later in the year.

How to Start to Identify Wildflowers

identify wildflowers

This junior ranger is ready to identify wildflowers.

Take your time and don’g rush to learn a lot of new wildflowers at once.

I would suggest that each time you explore the Rocky Mountains you should make it your goal to learn one new wildflower.

One way to do this is to study one wildflower, such as lupine, before you go.  Then when you are out exploring you can look for lupine using what you read about it beforehand.