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In Thermopolis, Wyoming’s wildflower society meets as flowers bloom earlier

This is a pedicularis groenlandica or elephant head a relative of the Indian Paintbrush, Wyoming's state flower.
Wyoming Native Plant Society
This is a pedicularis groenlandica or elephant head a relative of the Indian Paintbrush, Wyoming's state flower.

The Wyoming Native Plant Society is having its annual meeting this weekend in Thermopolis and the group hopes to promote interest for Wyoming’s native plants. This is especially important as studies show that climate change is causing wildflowers to bloom earlier in the spring potentially causing issues in local ecosystems.

Dorothy Tuthill is with Wyoming Native Plant Society and she’s also with the Biodiversity Institute.

“There have been several studies that have shown that flowers are blooming earlier in the spring now, as much as three weeks sooner than they were, say 50 years ago. This is a concern because of course, wildflowers rely on insects to move their pollen around. And the insects likewise rely on these flowers,” she said.

Tuthill will be collecting flowers in the Thermopolis area to contribute to the University of Wyoming’s herbarium.

“The herbarium is a natural science collection of plants. So yeah, you should come visit the herbarium sometime, we have the largest collection of Rocky Mountain plants in the entire world,” she said. 

Tuthill said the event in Thermopolis will also have speakers from the Restoring Shoshone Ancestral Foods group from the Wind River Reservation to talk about how to restore and use ancestral plants.

The group has around 160 members, and around 60 people participating in the yearly meeting in Thermopolis. The Wyoming Native Plant Society has been around for 40 years.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.