More than 4,000 kinds of smaller plants are represented in the State. In most sections many species grow together, but in certain areas a few varieties, or sometimes plants of a single species, usurp extensive tracts. This monopolizing characteristic is particularly noticeable during the flowering season when the blooms of certain plants form a blanket of color: the yellow of docks and dandelions, the blue of mertensia and lupine, or the pink of sweet-williams and wild roses.
Utah's floral emblem, the sego-lily, is common throughout the State. This plant, known also as Spanish mariposa (butterfly), is a west American bulbous herb with long-leaved, grayish green, grasslike foliage. It blooms in May and June, and has a flower consisting of three dainty white petals, delicately tinted with yellow, brown, and purple around the golden nectar glands. In southern Utah, possibly on account of some ingredient in the soil, the flower is frequently orchidlike in color. During periods of food shortage in early pioneer days, the bulb of the sego-lily was an important item of food. Friendly Indians explained that the sego roots were good to eat, and thereafter entire families were often busy digging on the hillsides, returning at night with buckets and sacks filled with bulbs.
In the blooming season, ranging from April to September, Utah's wild flowers offer a constantly changing display. Most of them grow in canyons and mountains. Indian paintbrush, however, grows in sagebrush country, where its spikes of bloom, in various shades of bright red or orange, are conspicuous against the background of gray vegetation. The dogtooth violet, with its bright yellow flowers, grows in rich mountain soil, and is one of the first to appear after the snow melts. Then come the trumpet-shaped blossoms of blue or red pentstemon, the grapelike purple clusters of monkshood, the delicate pink bells of mallow, the five-petaled flowers of pink or white geranium, the inverted blue blossoms of the shootingstar, the waxy red flowers of the prickly pear, the tiny white flowers of false Solomon's-seal, yellow clusters of Senecio and Oregon grape, pink sweetpeas and sweetwilliams, small purple iris, blue and yellow violets, pale pink hollyhocks, scarlet monkeyflowers, and innumerable others. In autumn, dry pigweeds and Russian thistles break away from their roots and become "tumbleweeds," rolled by the wind until they pile up against fences or other obstructions.