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Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge includes 22,995 acres of lush grassland, with an additional 2,182 acres of very sandy sagebrush grasslands. Beginning in May, a myriad of wildflowers begin to appear on the Refuge. The spring runoff and early summer rains encourage an impressive wildflower bloom. By July, the Centennial Valley becomes a wildflower paradise. Shooting stars, buttercups, sticky geranium, lupine, Indian paintbrush, and locoweed paint the grasslands in multicolor hues of reds, pinks, blues, and yellows. Red Rock Lakes NWR invites you to enjoy and study the native plants found here. However, the harvesting or picking, commercial or not, of wildflowers and other plants on the refuge is prohibited. Click here to download a list of plants found in the latest refuge inventory.

  • Grasses

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    Grasses and sedges form an important part of the ecology of the refuge by helping to minimize erosion of the wetlands, provide shelter for small mammals and birds, and provide food for grazing mammals. Grasses are also a large source for mulch that helps stabilize the soil and build up the top soil from years of growth and die-back.

  • Wildflowers

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    Wildflowers, also called forbs, are much more than just beautiful plants. They serve an important purpose in the refuge. They provide similar functions as the grasses in that they provide protection from erosion, and provide hiding places for small animals and birds. In addition, they provide nectar and seeds or berries that feed the birds and other small animals. Click on the link below to explore the Wildflower Photo Gallery.

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  • Wetlands

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    A large percentage of the refuge is considered wetlands. Wetlands play a number of roles in the refuge environment, principally water purification, flood control, and lake shoreline stability. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Wetlands in the refuge foster a set of flora and fauna that adapt to the seasonal water levels that occur naturally here due to the snow, rainfall and soil conditions.

  • Trees and Shrubs

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    Trees and shrubs provide shelter for birds, and mammals at the refuge. Most trees in the refuge border the south boundary and continue into the adjacent BLM managed wilderness study area. Quaking aspens, Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine along with subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, whitebark pine, limber pine and junipers can be found. There are many shrubs that provide further food and shelter, most notably the 13 species of willows and 6 species of sagebrush.

  • Aquatic Plants

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    Many aquatic plants find their home in the rich wetlands within the refuge. These include pondweek, knotweed, shortspike watermilfoil, water-starwort, coon's tail, common stonewort and much more. These plants are a primary food source for dabbling ducks, geese and fish.

  • Noxious Weeds

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    Noxious weeds are taken seriously in the refuge. They compete with native plants for vital resources and often have advantages over the native plants which allows them to take colonize areas. Many insects, birds and mammals depend on native vegetation, so these weeds can threaten an entire eco-system. Get to know the weeds we are striving to eliminate in the refuge. Click on LEARN MORE below.

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  • Native Plant Links

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    Click on links below for more information on local native plants.

    (These are off the US Fish and Wildlife Service website) 

     Botanical Society of America 

    Plant Conservation Alliance 

    USDA Plants Database 

    Montana Natural Heritage Program 

    The Natural Heritage Program maintains a computer-assisted inventory of Montana's biological resources, emphasizing rare or endangered plant and animal species and biological communities. This comprehensive site includes the Montana Rare Plant Field Guide, Geographic and Status Searches for plant species of special consern, and links to related sites.