|3" tall Douglasia in flower|
Pictured is Douglasia (Douglasia montana), a cushion plant of the Phlox family. It blooms early in the spring season. "Cushion" plants usually grow in alpine sites where wind and poor soil challenges plants; natural selection response is short structure. In this case, there's no need to scale a mountain to see this in action, simply go to Missoula Waterworks Hill (http://goo.gl/tN6bcj). Accessed by foot up an initial somewhat steep slope. Because of this foothill orientation it is exposed to sunshine early in spring; so it is also great spot for other early wildflowers. I finally had blooming plants on my third try (March 22).
Below is a short mp4 (shot with Nexus 7 tablet) of this site on March 2 (note windy wintry conditions :-) The plants grow on the left side of the trail...looks very barren for this video: