And it was all yellow.

Yep, the unusual dry spell we had in April and early May is officially over.  It’s wet in Calgary – we’re sodden, really.  On a positive note, it’s making the job of pulling quackgrass from the flowerbeds quite a bit easier….  😉

There are still rays of sunshine in the gloom, however – and I’m not talking about these (although they are lovely to look at):


No – my favourite “yellow” at this time of year belongs to Thermopsis rhombifolia (buffalo beans, syn. golden peas, buffalo flowers, golden banner), which are everywhere in southern Alberta right now!  They’re radiant and cheerful, and stand out like bolts of light against our moody grey skyline.  Apparently the Blackfoot Indians once used dye made from their flowers to colour textiles, and they called the plant “buffalo beans” because the flowers appeared around the same time that the buffalo (bison) returned to their grazing grounds each year.  Not sure if bison have the stomachs to eat the plants, however – there are reports that both cattle and humans have died from ingesting parts of the plant (in particular, the seed pods that appear in late summer).


Look, don’t munch. 


Last year in a local garden centre, I came across a single T. lanceolata (syn. T. lupinoides?, lanceleaf thermopsis, false lupin, golden banner) and I couldn’t allow it to simply languish on the racks, so it came home with me.  Winter seemed to hit it hard, but while tiny, it’s coming along.  I believe it will take three years or so to reach maturity, so I will simply have to wait and see.  I know that these guys will spread a little (you know…rhizomes) and while I have a fair bit of room to spare, I hope my plant doesn’t eventually turn into a monster.  Are any of you growing Thermopsis and can offer your thoughts?

I hope you’re having a bright, cheerful weekend even if the weather isn’t ideal!  What are your plans (gardening or otherwise)? 

Photo #1 – R. Normandeau

Excerpt from Sunshine and Buffalo Beans.

And, because I know I’ve put that song in your head…click over here for a listen.  🙂

Related posts:  Acres of Sunflowers (Portraits of Wildflowers)


  1. That’s a very pretty plant Sheryl. Hope you’re enjoying the weekend. We’re extremely wet here too. Will probably do some baking again as gardening is out of the question! 😉

    • We caught a bit of a break in the weather today – the sun actually shone for a few hours – but we’re right back into cloud and gloom again. I think your idea of baking is a wonderful one! Have a fabulous weekend! 🙂

    • Oh, that kind of weather makes it hard to work for long stretches – be sure to take it easy! I have to get out and do some weeding tomorrow, despite the rainy forecast – the quackgrass is killing me this year!

      Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  2. Yes, I have the Thermopsis lanceolata in my garden and it is flowering at the moment. I think this is rather funny because I live in the Netherlands, Europe. It is already there for about 10 or more years, sometimes I think they are gone, but they always come back again. When you want to be sure to keep it, you collect the lupin-like seeds and sow them again,
    so you will never be without. Like the story of the Blackfoot Indians with their buffalo beans.

    • Oh, thanks so much for the tip about saving the seeds – I’m happy for that! I’m glad to hear from someone who is growing T. lanceolata – it’s nice to know that the plants will survive a decade or more, at least in the Netherlands, anyway! 🙂

  3. We’re sodden here as well. Never heard of Buffalo Beans, from the looks of the flower, seems like Buffalo Sweet Peas would be a better name. Very pretty!

  4. We have lupines that grow wild around here. They don’t seem to spread too much. Maybe the winter is too cold for them.

    • We have wild lupines here as well, they seem to fare a lot better than any cultivated ones I’ve ever tried to grow in my garden. I can’t seem to successfully overwinter them for some reason. It’s too bad, because they are very pretty! I do wonder about their cold hardiness….

  5. I’ve never had any luck at all with Lupines, they seem to be annuals round here. In my experience, most wildflowers do tend to self so a little too much for my garden style but they are very sunny to have round. Good luck with them. Lets hope for some sunshine, we’re getting endless showers too. Nice and green though and it helps nature so I shouldn’t complain.

    • A little sunshine this week would be glorious! 🙂

      I agree with you about lupines, I’ve never been fortunate enough to keep them going more than a couple of years running, although I know people who say they’re the easiest plants in the world to grow. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

      You’re so right about wildflowers and their propensity to re-seed themselves! I expect my Thermopsis will spread a bit, but I’ll try to keep the self-sowing under control. I do let a few things go to seed in the garden; blue flax is one plant I can’t get enough of and it doesn’t live exceptionally long anyway so I don’t mind if it grows all over. I just rip out the ones that aren’t where I want them to be.

      Have a wonderful week!

  6. I’ve had to look up Thermopsis – not come across it here before. But we do have lots of dandelions, I love the flowers which bring a little sunshine into the garden.

  7. I have lots of that yellow stuff too! With all of the rain, at least it is very green now. I also agree, it is easier to pull the unwanted stuff out in the garden. I have even been getting out there in the rain just to get some gardening done with the time I have available. Oh well. Who said gardening was only a fair weather activity? ~Thea

  8. This post on Buffalo Beans was very timely. I thoroughly enjoy natural spring flowers while hiking in the wilderness but over many years I have neglected to learn their names. For me, it is sufficient to enjoy their natural beauty as a complement to the magnificence of surrounding forest and mountains. I would appreciate it very much if you could anticipate the flowers and plants I am going to see on subsequent hikes so I can incorporate your helpful information and appear much more intelligent than I am 😉 Your writing is easy to read and I am learning a new level of appreciation for the wilderness. Thank you for sharing your work.

    • Thanks so much for the wonderful comment, Barry – I’m really glad you enjoyed my post! Part of the enjoyment of hiking for me is searching for as many wildflowers as I can…they do indeed enhance the experience! (And add considerable time to my trek – but, oh well!). 🙂

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