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13 Types of Wildflowers in Alaska (Pictures)

Between May and September, wildflowers in Alaska bloom with vivacious enthusiasm, painting the diverse landscape with all the colors of the rainbow. Although Alaska’s wildflower season is short, the intensity of sunlight reaching the terrain and galvanizing wildflower growth is enough to make Alaska a popular tourist attraction for lovers of wildflowers.

Trees, native flowers, and other Alaskan flora enjoy over 17 hours of sunshine every day in June, July, and August, which is the main reason why over a thousand wildflower species flourish over the short Alaska summer.

13 Types of Wildflowers in Alaska

Here are some examples of common wildflowers found in the state of Alaska. 

1. Forget-Me-Not

Forget me not flowers
Forget me not flowers | image by David Prasad via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Myosotis

Featuring sky-blue petals and bright yellow centers, the forget-me-not is Alaska’s official state flower. Found all over Alaska in damp soil, underneath bushes, and rocky areas, the forget-me-knot has been memorialized in the poem “Forget Me Not”, written by Esther Darling. The poem talks about how the wildflower was chosen by Alaskans as their state flower so that their state would be “remembered forever”.

2. Hairy Cat’s Ear (False Dandelion)

Hairy cat’s ear flower
Hairy cat’s ear flower | image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Hypochaeris radicata

The difference between the hairy cat’s ear and the true dandelion is that the hairy cat’s ear has solid, forked flowering stems. True dandelions do not have forked stems.

Also, dandelion leaves are irregularly edged while the false dandelion exhibits lobe-shaped leaves that are lined with tiny hairs. Native Alaskans eat the roots and leaves of the hairy cat’s ear raw or include them in salad dishes.

Considered a “pest” weed, false dandelions thrive throughout Alaska during summer and even for a short time in early fall.

3. Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Yellow lady’s slipper flower
Yellow lady’s slipper flower | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Cypripedium parviflorum

Featuring a deep yellow pouch and reddish or greenish petals that resemble the shape of a lady’s shoe, the yellow lady’s slipper grows near lakes and rivers, and in scrublands and forests. Belonging to a subfamily of orchids, this popular Alaska wildflower attracts bees and other pollinators when fully grown.

Some people experience a skin rash when they touch the tiny hairs covering the yellow lady’s slipper petals, so handle the yellow lady’s slipper with extra care.

4. Bog Rosemary

Bog rosemary
Bog rosemary | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Andromeda polifolia

A small shrub with three-inch stems and narrow, leathery leaves, the bog rosemary blooms with pale pink to pinkish-white bell-shaped flowers that form small clusters when mature. Preferring tundra soil and sphagnum moss bogs, the bog rosemary is one of the few poisonous wildflowers in Alaska.

Animals or humans that consume any part of the flower may experience gastrointestinal and breathing problems due to andromedotoxin, a toxin found in the bog rosemary and other species of Rhododendrons.

5. Alaska Moss Heather

Scientific name: Harrimanella stelleriana

Petite, white flowers shaped like tiny bells tip the woody branch ends of this dwarf evergreen shrub. Look for Alaska moss heather forming mats of flowers on the edges of cliffs, mountain slopes, and alpine tundra terrain. Although classified as an evergreen, its needle-like leaves are not as narrow as traditional pine needles.

6. Monkey Flower

Monkey flower
Monkey flower

Scientific name: Mimulus ringens

A sprawling Alaska wildflower that thrives along the edges of lakes and streams, the monkey flower is recognizable by its nearly foot-long branches, dark green, serrated leaves, and vivid, yellow flowers. The monkey flower is shaped like the snap-dragon flower and has brownish-red dots on the lower lip of the flowers.

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You’ll find bees sitting on the lip as they gather nectar and pollinate. The leaves of the monkey flower can be eaten either raw or cooked.

7. Alaska Wild Rose

Alaska wild rose flower
Alaska wild rose flower | image by Dorian Wallender via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Rosa acicularis

Also called the prickly wild rose, this wildflower shrub sprouts delicate white or pink flowers between late spring and early to mid-summer. What’s unique about the Alaska wild rose is what develops on the shrub after the flowers have bloomed–small orange and/or red rosehips that are edible and rich in vitamin C.

Rosehips are pods filled with seeds that form underneath Alaska wild rose flower petals. Resembling berries in shape and size, birds and other animals pluck them from the bushes as soon as they mature.

8. Alaska (Nootka) Lupine

alaska nootka lupine
Alaska nootka lupine | image by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr

Scientific name: Lupinus nootkatensi

Growing about one to three feet tall along Alaska roadsides, gravel bars, meadows, and mountain slopes, the Alaska lupine has thick, bristly stems and leaves in compounds containing five to eight or nine leaflets. Purple, blue, or violet flowers about the size of a pea bloom in thick clusters at or near the top of the stem.

As the Alaska lupine matures, younger flowers bloom below older, top-of-the-stem flowers. Seed pods open suddenly when ready, bursting with tiny seeds to be carried by the wind. Wildflower enthusiasts should be aware that the Alaska lupine wildflower and its seed pods are toxic to humans and animals if consumed.

9. Indian Paintbrush

Indian paintbrush flower
Indian paintbrush flower | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Castilleja

The Indian paintbrush belongs to a genus of 200 species of herbaceous plants native to Alaska, most of the U.S., and parts of Asia. The location in which the Indian paintbrush grows dictates the color of its flowers.

In Alaska, the flowers are light green to yellow, growing vertically on stems so that they resemble a paintbrush. The Indian paintbrush is unique among other wildflowers in Alaska because it is a hemiparasitic plant whose roots entangle and feed off the roots of surrounding plants. The Indian paintbrush blooms between June and August.

10. Monkshood (Wolfbane)

Monkshood flower
Monkshood flower | image by Intermountain Forest Service, USDA Region 4 Photography via Flickr

Scientific name: Aconitum

The most toxic plant and wildflower that is native to Alaska is the monkshood, a gorgeous, hood-shaped plant sporting deep blue or violet flowers in spiky clusters. The leaves are toothed and lobed, and the fruit of the monkshood is an accumulation of follicles.

What makes all components of monkshood so poisonous? It’s an alkaloid called aconitine that causes numbing of the skin if touched or even possible death if just a small amount of monkshood is eaten.

11. Common Yarrow

Common yarrow flowers
Common yarrow flowers | image by Shiva Shenoy via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Achillea millefolium

Monkshood is Alaska’s most poisonous wildflower, but the common yarrow is its most aromatic wildflower. Crushing the leaves and stems of the common yarrow releases a rich, sweet, fragrance.

However, the natural aroma of the pretty, white flowers is not as strong. Reaching over three feet tall during the growing season in Alaska, the common yarrow blooms an impressive canopy of small flowers on long, narrow stems.

12. Dwarf Dogwood

Dwarf dogwood flower
Dwarf dogwood flower | image by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr

Scientific name: Cornus canadensis

Thriving in alpine, tundra, and woody environments, the dwarf dogwood reaches about four to eight inches tall and bears one pair of leaves at the base of the plant. The ornate leaves sprouting at the top of the dwarf dogwood are modified leaves that resemble petals.

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This evolutionary modification attracts pollinators to its miniature flowers. The red fruit of the dwarf dogwood is a valuable part of moose and deer diets.

13. Devil’s Club

Devil’s club flower
Devil’s club flower | image by CAJC: in the PNW via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Oplopanax horridus

Southcentral and southeastern Alaska is where you will find a prickly, flowering shrub called Devil’s Club. Maturing to a height of three to six feet tall and bearing whitish-green to pale green flowers, Devil’s Club sprouts large leaves that resemble maple tree leaves.

Be careful when handling its leaves because the undersides are covered in sharp, tiny spikes that can easily slide under the skin. In late summer, Devil’s Club flowers turn into tasty red berries that local bears devour.

Where to See Wildflowers in Alaska

Alaska is home to nearly 1500 different types of wildflowers that flourish during the state’s short but sun-drenched growing season. Many of Alaska’s parks, such as the Katmai National Park and Preserve located across from Kodiak Island on the Alaska Peninsula, have a variety of terrain conditions capable of sustaining a wide variety of wildflowers.

Anchorage offers several wildflower trails perfect for nature-loving hikers and campers, including  Rendezvous Peak Trail, Earthquake Park, and Flattop Mountain Trail.

Walk alongside Ohmer Creek in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and look for dwarf dogwood, devil’s club, and blueberry wildflowers. The Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage contains hundreds of wildflowers in Alaska, including most of the ones listed here, as well as less commonly seen wildflowers.