Unassuming Beauty

Leslie Rego, “Field Sketchbook: Leopard Lily with Notes from My Hike,” watercolor, pen and ink.


Leslie Rego, “Field Sketchbook: Leopard Lily with Notes from My Hike,” watercolor, pen and ink.

Arrowleaf balsamroot is a flower that can be identified from a great distance. The brilliant yellow of the flower glistens on the mountain slopes. We have to be close to pick up the arrow-like shape of the plant’s leaves, but the yellow color is unmistakably balsamroot.

The more gentle yellows of the antelope bitter brush is another plant that thrives locally and can be detected from far away. The white flowers of both chokecherry and serviceberry glitter in the sun and are recognizable from a fair distance. Conversely, there are the flowers that one has to scour the ground to find. They blend into their natural surroundings. They are not vivid colors, nor do they have big stems and leaves. They do not burst forth with energy, taking over a hillside but, rather, are a handful of flowers spread over a small area. One has to bend over and study the ground. I think of them as the unassuming beauties of the national forest. Leopard lily is one of these beauties.

The bell-shaped head of the leopard lily is a dull greenish taupe on the outside and a slightly more lively greenish yellow on the inside, with burgundy spots covering the surfaces. The head hangs downward and hides the more brightly colored stamens as well as the luminous inner section of the sepals and petals. The stem is thin. The leaves are linear. Both are grayish-green and do not call out for attention.

Leopard lily is found on rocky slopes and open woodland areas. I have many times found it amongst lupine and also hiding in the sagebrush where it is well camouflaged.

Leopard lily is not flashy. I have to get close to the flower to appreciate its delicacy and quiet beauty. I need to kneel down and peer into the inside of the “bell” to see all of the intricacies that reside within. It is the inner world of the flower that is intriguing. The burgundy spots deepen in color. The gentle yellows of the sepals and petals glow with the light streaming through the flower head. The pistils are wondrously curved. I think of the leopard lily as a shy flower. The nodding head protects its treasures. It is a local unassuming beauty.

Leslie Rego is an Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist, artist and Blaine County resident. To view more of Rego’s art, visit leslierego.com.