One thing that makes Maryhill Museum of Art so special is its stunning location, high on a bluff above the Columbia River Gorge. To find a rarefied Beaux Arts mansion in such a remote and wild location is both unexpected and beguiling. And while Maryhill’s charms are ever-present, one of the most spectacular times of year to visit is during the spring wildflower bloom. On the museum grounds and nearby, you can find hundreds of varieties of wildflowers standing in stark contrast to the emerald green hills, still lush from winter and spring rains.
We invited Marty Hudson, chair of Maryhill Museum of Art‘s Ranchlands Committee to tell us a bit more about the many wildflower varieties found on and around Maryhill’s grounds, from spring to fall.
Maryhill’s properties cover a wide range of habitats in a relatively short distance. Down near the Columbia River and all the way to near the top of the Columbia Hills several different soil types and many different plant species occupy these lands.
There are several species of wildflowers of particular interest, many native and several non-native flowering plants. Flowering begins in late winter and continues to early fall, with many pollinators utilizing them throughout the seasons.
The earliest flowers include grass widows, shooting stars, Prairie stars, yellow bells, Plectritus, saxifrage, biscuit root, and miners lettuce.
Mid-spring brings on a more vibrant show with arrow leaf balsam root, lupine, desert parsley’s, buckwheat, milkvetch, ballhead waterleaf, monkey flower and some shrubs like mock orange, choke cherry, service berry, wild plum, golden currant, antelope bitter brush and hawthorn. There are many weedy annual plants that flower this time as well.
With summer comes more lupine and hawksbeard, blanket flower, stone seed, owl clover, more buckwheats, yarrow, hoary false yarrow, and Oregon sunshine. Blackberry, yellow starthistle and rush skeletonweed, which are invasive species, also bloom during this time.
Late summer into the early fall, strict buckwheat, gray rabbitbrush and big sagebrush bloom. There are several more plants that I haven’t mentioned to be discovered on the museum lands. Hopefully you can get out and see how many you can find.
Feeling adventurous? There are many wildflower hikes close to Maryhill Museum of Art, making it easy to spend the morning hiking the Gorge and the afternoon perusing the museum. The Dalles Mountain Ranch State Park has spectacular views of the Columbia Gorge, with hillsides carpeted in spring wildflowers. It is located just off SR14 at milepost 84, about 13 miles west of Maryhill Museum of Art. Or visit the Friends of the Columbia Gorge online Find-A-Hike feature to sort and search for Gorge hikes with wildflowers galore!