Explore Kananaskis, Summer/Fall 1997—Tiny pink elephants. Flesh-eating plants. Thieving flowers. They sound like characters in a fantastical Arabian Nights story, but in Kananaskis Country, these characters act out these roles under our noses every summer. The wildflowers of Kananaskis have no 1,001 nights in which to bloom and fade: if they’re lucky, they’ll get a mere 60 to 90 frost-free days in which to tell their stories.

Only the hardy and the strong survive this rugged environment. The plants and flowers found in Kananaskis Country have spent many generations adapting to harsh temperatures and poor soil conditions. No shrinking violets, here, if you please.

Cool nights mean flowers last longer and shine brighter. A chemical reaction within the colour molecules of a flower occurs during warm nights, when the plant isn’t photosynthesizing. The reaction breaks down the pigments, causing the flowers to fade.

An abbreviated growing season also means a riot of wildflowers blooming in a very short period. For flowering plants, a short summer is a frantic flurry. A plant must accomplish a year’s worth of activity in just two or three months. Not only must it flower, produce nectar and pollen to attract pollinators, be pollinated, and produce seeds, it must grow enough green stuff to make sufficient food to supply the energy for all of that flowering, pollination, and seed production—and store enough food to survive the winter and early days of the following spring.

As hard as life may be for a plant in Kananaskis Country, they aren’t passive victims. Each species possesses its own mechanisms for survival, honed and passed down through generations. Click on the gallery images for a glimpse at the lives of some of Kananaskis Country’s summer beauties.

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