Schwabacher’s Landing

A flowing river and treeline beneath jagged mountains

Schwabacher’s Landing

Schwabacher’s Landing gives visitors easy access to the Snake River as well as a beautiful view of the Grand Teton. This is a popular destination for photographers at sunrise and during moments when the water is calm. This scenic space gives tourists a chance to capture amazing images of the mountains, as well as some popular wildlife in the area. Moose especially enjoy roaming around the aspen grove and the field nearby, but keep your eyes out for coyotes, bald eagles, and river otters!

Since the Snake River is easily accessible from Schwabacher’s Landing, where many outdoorsy and adventurous visitors enjoy fishing and river rafting. Schwabacher’s Landing also features a trail which is an easy, approximately two-mile out and back hike.

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman

Leigh Lake

Deep purple sky reflecting off of a flowing lake at early dawn

Leigh Lake

Leigh lake is a popular destination for those visiting Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). The entrance to the parking area is found at the North Jenny Lake Junction. The Leigh Lake trailhead offers an easy 1.8 mile hike with breathtaking views and different angles of the mountains. You can also get to the String Lake Loop trailhead by turning at the same junction, just keep your eye out for the String Lake parking lot! This hike is an easy 3.7 loop hike which will offer great views of the different peaks.

If you are a more avid hiker looking for some difficulty, Leigh Lake trailhead eventually meets the Paintbrush Canyon trail. On this out and back trail, you can hike to Holly Lake, which is approximately 13 miles, or you can do the even more strenuous Paintbrush-Cascade Loop trail, which is approximately 19.7 miles total. 

When hiking both short and long distances in GTNP, please always carry bear spray and water. For those looking to do a more advanced hike like the Paintbrush-Cascade loop, be sure to prepare yourself physically and mentally. Take note of the weather conditions and pack the necessities! If you ever need assistance, call ranger dispatch at (307-739-3399).

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman

Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa)

Closeup of small, pointed purple, slipper-shaped flowers

Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa)

The Calypso Orchid, also known as the Fairy Slipper, can be considered a rare orchid in certain states. In Grand Teton National Park (GRTE), this orchid can be found on the Blacktail Butte Trail as well as Grand View Point trail. Finding a patch of Calypso Orchids is uncommon; this orchid most often grows as a single, solitary flower – although, it is not impossible to see them in groups of twos or threes – found in bogs, forests, and swampy areas.

The foliage on the Calypso Orchid is a singular leaf with a crinkled texture that lays on the ground. The flower itself has eye-catching pinkish-purple petals, but it’s the orchid’s alluring scent that draws the attention of nearby pollinators. These flowers do not produce nectar. They use “pollination by deception” to cross-breed between other Calypso Orchids. In the spring, emerging queen bumblebees are drawn by their strong, attracting scent in search of a nectar reward.

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: YNP on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/SfG1Fi

Sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum)

Small white flower on dark green foliage

Sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum)

Sticky geranium is an early spring flower found all over Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). They inhabit many areas, including montane regions, open woodlands, and canyons (USDA). Because they are widespread in several different environments, they are easily accessible to all sorts of animals that help disperse their seeds, such as birds, ground squirrels, and other small mammals. Larger mammals, including bears, elk and deer, will forage on the foliage of this plant.

Not only is Sticky geranium an important food source to larger animals, even the smallest of insects enjoy the pollen and nectar offered. Flies, bees, beetles and butterflies help pollinate this flower, and are rewarded with a food prize. Humans also benefited from the roots of the plant. For example, the roots were said to help reduce soreness in eyes, cold remedies, and dermatological aid in Native American tribes (Native American Ethnobotany Database 2010; Parish et al 1996).

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

Small spotted orange, black, and white butterfly in tall grass

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

Painted lady butterflies belong to the family Nymphalidae, also known as brush-footed butterflies. As these insects grow through their life cycle, the butterfly itself only lives for two weeks. During this time, the female butterflies will mate and reproduce to start the cycle again. The caterpillars live from 12-18 days long, going through five stages of instars, or developmental periods. As adults, these butterflies can reach 5-6 cm wide.

These butterflies are widespread across the globe. They are found in every state of the U.S. and throughout Canada as well. They persist in a myriad of habitats, which helps during their long migration from North Africa to Asia and the Middle East all the way to Europe! In the U.S., these butterflies can be seen migrating from the deserts of Mexico and travelling northward in the spring. During their intense migration, these butterflies travel up to 100 miles a day and at 30 MPH! In addition to the boundless areas reached by the Painted lady, over 100 plants have been documented to be the host for Painted lady caterpillars. Families include Asteraceae and Fabaecea, with 23,600 and 18,000 described species respectively.

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman

Nevada bumblebee (Bombus nevadensis)

A bumblebee with a fuzzy orange back and big waxy wings rests on a weedy flower

Nevada bumblebee (Bombus nevadensis)

The Nevada bumblebee has a very wide geographic range in the Mountain West region. Like other species of bees, their coloration may differ depending on their location. For example, B. nevadensis has a darker coloration in females, with a black band that spans across the thorax from wing to wing, with a black tail which is typically confined to Vancouver Island. In other females found in Northern California, they have an orange coloring on the metasoma, or abdomen (Williams, Thorp, Richardson, & Colla, 2014, p. 152). In addition to their coloration, other characteristics are important to consider when identifying species. B. nevadensis is known for having a long proboscis, or tongue. Because of this adaptation, it can reach the nectar in long, tube-like flowers, such as Penstemon and Monarda.

But with climate change, are long tongued bees at risk? A study performed by Dr. Nicole Miller-Struttman and colleagues revealed shrinking tongue lengths in two species of bumblebees in the Rocky Mountains! They suggested that climate change has been affecting the floral resources, thus shifting the specialized diet that long tongued bees have. Because fewer long-tubed flowers are growing in the mountains, long-tongued bees were forced to supplement their diets with other available resources, minimizing the need for the long-tonged trait (Yong, 2015). Climate change may be causing mismatches between our plants and pollinators.

Check out this article for more information on long-tongued bees! https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/09/how-climate-change-shrank-the-tongues-of-long-tongued-bumblebees/407125/

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman

Golden-haired flower longhorn (Lepturobosca chrysocoma)

Small golden beetle crawls over a purple flower

Golden-haired flower longhorn (Lepturobosca chrysocoma)

Not much is known about the golden-haired flower longhorn beetle, but we do know they give off a shimmer when seen in the sunlight. The species chrysocoma translates to “gold-haired” in Greek. While viewing these insects in nature, you will notice the metallic shimmer their fine hairs give off. These hairs are also an important trait these beetles have for pollination. Even though they are as efficient as bees in pollination, some beetles still are important pollinators in our ecosystems. Another comparison between this beetle and other bees is that the adults share the same diet of pollen and nectar, but the larvae feed on decaying wood of several species of trees.

These beautiful beetles are found in forests all across North America. In Wyoming, there has been documentation of seeing them in June through August. From personal experience, I have viewed them on sticky geranium flowers (Geranium viscosissimum) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Logan Crees

Fuzzy horned bumblebee (Bombus mixtus)

Fuzzy bumblebee on a large purple flower, with bits of pollen on its legs

Fuzzy horned bumblebee (Bombus mixtus)

Grand Teton National Park is home to Bombus mixtus. They inhabit open grassy areas, chaparral and shrub locations, and mountain meadows. These bees have a medium tongue length and are considered generalists, meaning they do not specialize their diet. Their food sources range from Phacelia and Monardella to Rhododendron and Senecio species. These species of flowers take on different petal shapes, from long and tubular to flat and disc-like.

While it is possible to classify bumblebees based on their more obvious traits, microscopic characteristics — small notches on mandibles, lengths of antennal segments, hairs that may or may not be present on the tibia vary by species, etc. — are important in identifying bumblebee species (Williams, Thorp, Richardson, & Colla, 2014, p.78). B. mixtus may be confused with B. frigidus, B. balteatus and B. melanopygus when identifying because all of these bumblebees have a very similar coloration pattern, square cheeks, and a rounded angle on the midleg. These last two traits are better seen using a microscope.

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: USFWS – Pacific Region on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/BmYWCj

Two-form bumblebee (Bombus bifarius)

A bumblebee with his head stuffed into a yellow flower

Two-form bumblebee (Bombus bifarius)

The two-form bumblebee thankfully are of least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list, which includes the conservation status of all biological species. Two-form bumblebees are specifically found in the mountainous areas of western North America. They feed on a wide range of wildflowers found in GTNP such as blue bells (Mertensia), green gentian (Frasera speciosa), and cinquefoils (Potentilla). Queens emerge in early spring, search for a place to start a colony- typically in the ground- where begin laying eggs and gathering resources.

This bumblebee gets its name from the two dominant polymorphisms, meaning the two dominant phenotypes you may see with this species. On a bee’s abdomen, the segments are broken down into what are called metasomal tergite. In worker bumblebees, they have 6 segments, which are referred to as T1-6. In the two-form bumblebee, T2-3 can be either orangey-red or black, depending on the geographic location. 

A helpful PDF guide on bumblebees can be found here: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/BumbleBeeGuideWestern2012.pdf

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman

Parnassius clodius

Small white butterfly with a red spot on the center of its wing

Parnassius clodius 

Parnassians belong to the swallowtail family, and can be found in some parts of WY, MT, WA, CA, OR, ID, and UT, as well as some parts of British Columbia.  Parnassius smintheus, another species of Parnassian, also has a range found in Wyoming. At first glance, these two species are very similar in appearance, but take a closer look! An easy way to distinguish each species is by checking their antennae. On P. clodius, the antennae are entirely black, but P. smintheus have banded antennae that are alternating black and white (Brock & Kaufman, 2003, p.44). 

During the mating season for these butterflies, males patrol areas in search of females. Once they mate, males attach a sphragum, a plug to prevent a female from mating with other males. The larger the sphragum, the less likely a different male will attempt to mate with the female (Wedell, 2005). Females then lay their eggs on host plants that will become a resource for the larva. In the Grand Tetons, P. clodius eggs can be found on Dicentra uniflora. 

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Logan Crees