By Michael Howell -
Stevensville resident John Stroud, aka “Johnny Bitterroot Seed,” is a homegrown, self educated expert on the Bitterroot Flower (Latin name: Lewisia rediviva), the valley’s namesake blossom, and he wants to see it survive and prosper for the benefit of future generations. He wants to spread the seeds. He’s even made a business of it. He just picked about 100 seeds and will be selling them on the sidewalk outside of Valley Drug in Stevensville this week, whenever he feels like going down there, he said. He has planted Bitterroots on the grounds of the St. Mary’s Mission and elsewhere around the valley.
As much as he is involved in spreading the seeds, he’s also interested in spreading the word about the Bitterroot Flower. That is, he is interested in propagating some more propagators. So he has planned a series of free tours during the blossoming time, the first three Saturdays in June.
“I’m mainly interested in teaching people how to plant the seeds,” said Stroud. “If you plant them now, the ants will get them.” He said the best time to plant them is in November. He said they grow well on sandy, clay soil and do especially well in companionship with sagebrush.
Stroud believes that the flower is threatened with extinction in the valley. He said the main threat is from development.
“Developers are often looking at the same sort of dry land to build on,” says Stroud. “They take in the bull dozers and scrape the land clean.” He said if developers don’t pay attention the flower could be eliminated from the landscape in 100 years.
Stroud recently returned from a trip to Helena where he gave a talk on the Bitterroot Flower at the State Historical Museum. He also made a donation to the museum. All the money he makes selling seeds is donated to museums, he said.
Anyone interested in a Saturday tour can meet Stroud around noon at Valley Drug on the 4th, 11th and 18th of June. Information on the Bitterroot Flower will be provided including information on how to pick the seeds and how to plant them, as well as how to prepare the root for eating. Transportation will be provided for a tour to view Bitterroot Flowers near his home on Illinois Bench and at Dorothy Staggs’ place, also on the bench. Stroud asks that anyone interested RSVP by calling him at 777-5054 so he can have enough transportation available.
Stroud is the author of “Twice a Mail Order Bride,” a book about his mother and the homesteading days in the Bitterroot Valley. Proceeds from the sale of that book are being placed in a special account to fund his next book, “Through the Love of the Bitterroot,” a book about the Bitterroot Flower and life in the Bitterroot Valley.