A Saturday Breakfast Walk/Run on Waterworks Hill


Several of us met at the Breakfast Run recently and headed to the North Hills to look at wildflowers.

The North Hills, including Water Works Hill (the one that used to have the large painted peace sign on it) are a great place to see wild flowers, common and uncommon, while also working out.

We made it into a run/walk combo so everyone could stay together and visit about flowers.

Albert's penstemon on Waterworks Hill.

Here’s some of the native Montana plants we saw:

  • Albert’s penstemon (Penstemon albertinus)
  • Arrow leaf balsam root (Balsamorhiza saggitatta)
  • Bitterroots (Lewisia rediviva) They weren’t blooming yet, but the flower buds were big. Soon they’ll be out!
  • Cut leaf daisy (Erigeron compositus)
  • Death camas (Zigadenus venosus)
  • Dog tooth groundsel (Senecio canus)
  • Fuzzy tongue penstemon (Penstemon eriantherus)
  • Golden aster (Heterotheca villosa)
  • Missoula phlox (Phlox missouliensis)
  • Oval leafed buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium)
  • Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida)
  • Scorpionweed (Phacelia hastata)
  • Silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus)
  • Spring chickweed (Cerastium arvense)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Native flowering shrubs included chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) and mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina).

Death camas on Waterworks Hill

We stopped to admire all the bird nests in a stand of decadent cottonwood trees, and saw a Peregrine falcon chase away a small group of starlings. Unfortunately, it looks like the starlings have a nest going in one of the cottonwoods; but fortunately the Peregrine falcon is on to them.

We watched this with a meadowlark singing in the background, and just a few dozen yards from an active bluebird box.

Of course we also saw most of the noxious weeds of the North Hills. These are non-native plants that were introduced by people and cause serious ecological damage by displacing native plant communities and the insects, birds, and mammals that depend on those native plant communities.

Fortunately, we saw evidence of management actions being taken by Missoula Parks and Rec over the past many years, and I can see that the mountain looks better each year.

Those noxious weeds are leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), and sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta).

Arrow leaf balsam root on Waterworks Hill.

Then we cruised down Cherry Gulch and back to the Runners Edge. The wind was pretty spectacular on top of the hill, so we were glad to be back on safe footing and out of the windchill zone. But I’m already thinking of heading back up there next Saturday!

So see you at the next Breakfast Run, every Saturday at 8 am at the Runners Edge.

And if you are looking for more opportunities to learn about native plants or local nature in general, check out mtnativeplants.org (the Missoula group is the Clark Fork Chapter), or the Montana Natural History Center, or Five Valleys Audubon Society.


Missoula botanist and marathoner, Marilyn MarlerMarilyn Marler is a botanist, City of Missoula Alderwoman, and marathon runner.