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Rain on leaf, Dells of the Big Sioux.
Rain on leaf, Dells of the Big Sioux.
Raindrops on honeysuckle, Dells of the Big Sioux.
Raindrops on honeysuckle, Dells of the Big Sioux.
Spreading phlox blossom, Buffalo Gap National Grassland.
Spreading phlox blossom, Buffalo Gap National Grassland.
Star lily, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Star lily, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Western wallflower, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Western wallflower, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Western wallflower, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Western wallflower, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Stemless four-nerve daisy or bitterweed, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Stemless four-nerve daisy or bitterweed, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Stemless four-nerve daisy or bitterweed, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Stemless four-nerve daisy or bitterweed, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Ballhead gilia, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Ballhead gilia, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Downy paintbrush, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Downy paintbrush, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Gumbo lily, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Gumbo lily, Sage Creek Wilderness.
Shooting star, Custer State Park.
Shooting star, Custer State Park.
Pasqueflower going to seed, Custer State Park.
Pasqueflower going to seed, Custer State Park.
Mountain bluebells, Custer State Park.
Mountain bluebells, Custer State Park.
Pasqueflower bloom, Hell Canyon (near Jewel Cave National Monument).
Pasqueflower bloom, Hell Canyon (near Jewel Cave National Monument).
Mountain bluebells in the rain, Slim Buttes.
Mountain bluebells in the rain, Slim Buttes.
Raindrops on sage, Slim Buttes.
Raindrops on sage, Slim Buttes.
Rain droplets on prairie smoke, Slim Buttes.
Rain droplets on prairie smoke, Slim Buttes.
Spotted mission bells, Slim Buttes.
Spotted mission bells, Slim Buttes.
Stemless Easter daisies, Slim Buttes.
Stemless Easter daisies, Slim Buttes.
Raindrops on stemless Easter daisies, Slim Buttes.
Raindrops on stemless Easter daisies, Slim Buttes.
Raindrops on prairie smoke, Slim Buttes.
Raindrops on prairie smoke, Slim Buttes.
Nuttall’s violet, Slim Buttes.
Nuttall’s violet, Slim Buttes.
Prairie smoke in full bloom, Coteau Hills of Deuel County.
Prairie smoke in full bloom, Coteau Hills of Deuel County.

Up Close

Jun 12, 2019

Memorial Day morning was downright cold and damp. I was traveling to see friends and family from Spearfish to Bison to Mobridge. A thick morning fog bade me farewell as I left Spearfish and headed north. My first destination was the Slim Buttes of Harding County. By the time I got there the fog was gone, and a light, chilly drizzle was just dissipating. I took a short detour along the graveled portion of JB Road. Soon, I was in wildflower heaven.

A few days before, I had stopped at Buffalo Gap National Grasslands east of Badlands National Park and spent some time along the rim of Sage Creek Wilderness looking for spring wildflowers. It seems that every time I do this, I find something I’ve never seen — or at least never noticed. Wildflower season was delayed with our cool and late spring, but the blossoms seemed abundant. In the Badlands, I found large patches of white spreading phlox, good stands of star lilies and something called ballhead gilia that was new to me.

Earlier in May, I was at the Dells of the Big Sioux south of Dell Rapids looking for migrating birds in a light rain. While there, I grabbed my macro lens to take a few photos of raindrops on the new spring leaves and honeysuckle just beginning to bloom. The intricate detail bejewelled by water droplets reminded me of how amazing it can be to get up close and personal with spring’s new growth. Which brings me back to JB Road in the Slim Buttes.

After I turned off Highway 79 and headed west, I spotted pasqueflowers going to seed. I made a note to stop on my way back (hopefully after the rain stopped) to get a photo or two. A little further down the trail — in a little clearing surrounded by sage, hardpan and the beginning of a draw — I spotted prairie smoke. This little beauty made me stop. Until last year, I’d only seen prairie smoke flowers in a tended garden, so I get excited seeing them in the wild. Soon I came across mountain bluebells, spotted mission bells and stemless Easter daisies, all coated with raindrops. My pants and shoes became soaked and muddied, but it was pure joy. It reminded me of a Dakota tribal story called, “The Song of the Twin-Flower.” It tells of an old Dakota man who finds the first pasqueflower of the year. It reminds him of his childhood, when he wandered over the prairie hills, carefree and happy. After smoking a pipe of meditation and memory, he picks that first flower and takes it home to his grandchildren.

In the Dakota tradition, every species has its own song. Since pasqueflowers are first to bloom, their song calls out to other wildflowers and plants to awaken from their winter slumber and grow. Stories like this strike a chord with me, because now I know what it is to kneel among the wildflowers, study their beauty and meditate on the beauty of our native prairies. In this column, I’ve gathered 24 of my favorite spring wildflower photos from the last month. Every photograph was taken with a macro lens so you can get up close and see the wonder just as I did.

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midco he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

Comments

02:11 pm - Thu, June 13 2019
Linda Armstrong said:
Beautiful. Have been away from SD for so long, i'd forgotten about Prairie Smoke. Thank you for this.

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