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Weather Wise: Rare plant in bloom

Weather Wise: Rare plant in bloom
Posted at 6:44 PM, Apr 24, 2023

HELENA — If you are not familiar with the Gates of the Mountains on the Missouri River, this should peak your interest. If you are familiar, then you may remember Kelseya moss. Right now the extremely rare uniflora is in an extremely rare state: in bloom.

Not much has bloomed this cold and snowy spring, which is why I was somewhat surprised to see a pinkish, purple color on the limestone walls of Trout Creek Canyon near York. I knew immediately what it was from the Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour.

The educational tour guides show their tourists the moss on the canyon walls, but never in bloom. That's because the boat tours begin only after the rare plant blooms in mid to late April. Tiny flowers are produced very early in spring typically as the snow melts.

Kelseya moss is not even a moss. It's a rare flower, related to the rose family that grows in cracks of volcanic and limestone outcrops at about 3000 to 8000 feet elevation. It is native in only three states: Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

So if you want a real, rare treat, an easy hike up Trout Creek Canyon will bring you to some of the only plants blooming right now or take a boat ride through the Gates of the Mountains on the Missouri River.