I am not great at growing plants and shrubs. Over the years I have been partially successful at growing some things, but eventually I tend to be a rather neglectful gardener, particularly when it involves working out in 90-plus degree weather.
That said, I love flowers and most growing things (weeds being an obvious exception). I have always loved roaming the countryside looking at wildflowers, and smelling my grandmother’s prize roses is one of my fondest memories. To this day, the scent of an iris takes me back decades to the years my family occupied an old Victorian house with hardwood floors and decorative brickwork.
Flowers make life more beautiful. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, poet, nature lover and leader of the Transcendentalist movement, claimed that the “earth laughs in flowers.” I would have to agree wholeheartedly.
If the earth truly laughs in flowers, it must reserve a unique chuckle for a particular flower that grows only in Logan Canyon, right here in Cache County. Called the Maguire primrose (Primula cusickiana maguirei), it truly ONLY grows in Logan Canyon.
When I read this fact recently on Stokes Nature Center’s website (www.logannature.org), I had my doubts about it. Really? Only grows in Logan Canyon, of all the places on Earth? This fact seemed pretty far fetched and bore a small semblance to other wild claims one can generally find on the internet. As such, I couldn’t resist researching it rather extensively. As it turns out, I owe an apology to Stokes Nature Center for doubting their claim, because according to the United States Department of Agriculture, and numerous other credible sources, it is indeed a genuine, threatened species which is indigenous only to Logan Canyon, Utah. In fact, efforts to propagate it outside Logan Canyon have not been successful. That’s a shame, because despite my less than stellar track record for growing things, I was ready to purchase seeds and attempt to contribute to the endangered population.
The Maguire Primrose likes to grow in shallow dolomitic soils and can be found in north-facing exposures in cracks and crevices of cliffs and boulders ranging from 4,800 to 6,000 feet in elevation. It can also grow in well-shaded south-facing, moss-covered sites on damp ledges, overhanging rocks and canyon bottoms. It needs a cool, moist microclimate, which explains why it thrives in Logan Canyon.
What does it look like? After all, if you’re going somewhere up Logan Canyon, you don’t want to miss seeing one, and you CERTAINLY don’t want to accidentally pluck it or damage it any way. It is a small forb, with leaves clustered at the base. The leaves can be anywhere from 1-3 inches long, and they may have smooth edges, or toothed sides. The best part of the plant, the bloom, grows in clusters of 1-3 flowers on a smooth stem (remember, the leaves are at the bottom). The flowers are generally in shades of rose to lavender in color, with a yellow center. There may be several stems to one plant, each with blooms in varying stages. It flowers from mid-April to mid-May.
Yes, this is just a little piece of trivia, maybe, but it is also something incredibly unique to Cache County! Next time you’re hiking in Logan Canyon, keep an eye out for these little gems, and take care that you don’t harm them. They are rare and are federally listed as a threatened species, mainly due to damage caused by highway construction, campers, rock climbers, and horticultural plant collectors. When they’re gone, they’re gone — and probably won’t be coming back. If you’re lucky enough to find one, please take only photos, and leave the beauty for others to enjoy for generations to come.
Jennifer Hooton is a resident of Hyde Park.