For convenience, this guide divides wildflower species into two main categories, forest and subalpine, based on the environment the flower species commonly grows in. The categories are further subdivided by flower color to aid in easy identification.
Though some overlap occurs, forest and subalpine areas of the park host distinct groups of wildflower species:
Dense old growth forest creates cool, shady conditions suitable to wildflower species different from the ones found in the sunnier subalpine meadows. Dense forest covers the low-to-mid elevations of the park from approximately 2,000 to 4,500 feet (610-1372 meters).
Subalpine meadows or "parkland" wreath the higher elevations of Mount Rainier, from about 4,500 to 6,500 feet (1372-1981 meters). This region is sometimes called subalpine parkland because at those elevations trees start thin out and grow in patches interspersed among meadow instead of continuous forest. Eventually trees disappear completely in the alpine zone (approx. 6,500 feet/1981 meters to the summit). Subalpine regions often have the most impressive wildflower displays because those regions have a very short growing season. Snow can linger in the subalpine meadows well into June or July, and the flowers bloom profusely in order to reproduce as quickly as possible before the winter snows return.
For a guide to the wildflowers, visit The Wildflowers Guide!