Wildflowers of Yellow Point

A wildflower may be defined as a flower that grows in the wild, not intentionally planted by humans. Included on this page are native, introduced, and invasive species of wildflowers that are found throughout the Yellow Point area. Please note that this is an ongoing project. Many (!) more ‘Wildflowers of Yellow Point’ will be added as time allows.

Also please note that although information regarding food and medicinal uses of plants is included for interest’s sake, the Yellow Point Ecological Society advises you to not ingest or otherwise use plants or their components without expert identification.

Fawn Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Erythronium oregonum

Status: Native plant

Description: The appearance of pairs of oblong, mottled leaves of the fawn lily is one of the first signs of spring in Yellow Point. The elegant white flowers, almost luminescent at night, arrive a short time later, usually in mid-late March. The white to pale yellow tepals (a term used when petals and sepals cannot be differentiated) curve upwards like the roof of a pagoda, exposing yellow anthers. Blossoms form in clusters of 1-3 per stem, with each flower measuring 2.5-5 cm across, on leafless stems up to 30 cm in height.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring fairly low elevations, the fawn lily naturally occurs in moist to dry grasslands and woodlands. It can be found in deep shade, but is generally found in sunny or partly shaded areas. Although it thrives in well-drained acidic soil rich in organic matter, it has been found in less favourable environments, including rocky areas. Its pollinators include bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. Erythronium species can be grown in containers from seeds, which can be sown immediately if conditions are dry, or in late summer. They take up to five years to flower, so planting for a native flower garden is considered a long term project. Bulb division is possible but not recommended.

Did you know? Pink fawn lilies are a separate species (Erythronium revolutum), and are occasionally seen in Yellow Point.

Erythronium revolutum

Shooting Star – Primrose Family (Primulaceae)

Dodecatheon hendersonii

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the first flowers to emerge in the spring, these intensely purple-pink (and occasionally white) flowers resemble a thrown dart. Clusters of petals arching out from a bright yellow base and a brown flower tube give the shooting star its appropriate moniker. February-March brings the soft green, thick, spoon-shaped leaves first on the forest floor, followed by the intriguing flowers on long thin, leafless stalks in April-May. Height at maturity is up to approximately 30cm, but usually less in Yellow Point.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid-elevations, these delicate plants can be found in grasslands and woodlands, and at forest edges. They prefer dry soil, and can be found in full sun and partial shade. Shooting stars evolved to attract certain species of solitary bees as well as bumblebees, who collect their pollen for their young. As shooting stars are a native species, they can be cultivated in native plant gardens, but it can take years to form a colony. Collect seeds in late spring, and plant in fall or early spring. Alternatively, bulblets can be divided very carefully and transplanted after flowering.

Did You Know? Successful pollination of shooting stars requires insects who are able to hang from below the flower and vibrate their wing muscles without moving their wings.  This mode of pollination, called sonication or buzz pollination, vibrates the flower, thereby shaking the pollen loose .  Here’s more on buzz pollination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZrTndD1H10

Common Camas – Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae)

Camassia quamash

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as small camas or blue camas, this gorgeous native perennial with edible bulbs is characterized by dark blue or violet star-shaped flowers, adorned with six slender tepals, a green centre, and bright yellow stamens. Arising from grass-like leaves and found on stout stems, multiple flowers open sequentially from bottom to top, and can reach heights of 60cm. Blooms begin in late spring and can last into early summer.

Habitat/Uses: Camas plants are relatively common in fragile Garry oak meadows. The meadow in Yellow Point Park that faces Yellow Point Road is a typical Garry oak meadow; camas flowers are found there in abundance in the spring. Camas are also found growing on rocky outcrops, in coastal mountain forests, and in marshy meadows inland. They grow in full sun to part shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soils, tolerating drier conditions as the plants become dormant in the summer. Plants are easy to grow from seed, and are deer- and rodent-resistant.

Historically, camas bulbs were an important carbohydrate food source for First Nations. According to “The camas harvest and pit cook” on http://www.camosun.ca, First Nations family groups traditionally ‘owned’ their own camas harvesting areas. Larger bulbs, which are similar in taste to potatoes, “were encouraged by using a pointed digging stick to loosen the soil and the use of selective harvesting.” According to the above website, only five percent of First Nations’ traditional camas harvesting lands are in the same state now as they were before European contact.

Death Camas – Bunchflower Family (Melanthiaceae)

Zigadenus venenosus

Status: Native plant

Description: Similar in morphological appearance to the common camas but yellow or white in colour, death camas bloom at the same time as common camas but are generally easy to distinguish from them when in bloom due to stark colour differences. Numerous 6-tepalled flowers arise from a single, unbranched stem, which can reach up to 70cm, but is generally much shorter in the Yellow Point area. Leaves are grass-like and V-shaped, 10-30cm long and 2-10mm wide. Bulbs, 1-4 cm in diameter, are similar to both edible common camas bulbs and wild onion bulbs, but contain several toxic alkaloids, including zygacine, a compound toxic to the nervous system. Because the entire plant contains toxins, it should not be handled. According to the US Forest Service, bulbs can remain toxic for at least 20 years.

Habitat/Cautions: Death camas can be found in a variety of habitats, including dry meadows, hillsides, forest edges, and open forests. It is found in terrains where common camas grow, including Garry oak meadows, and it is commonly found amongst patches of common camas. Interestingly, soil moisture appears to affect zygacine levels: in one study, at 2 of 5 study sites, a 45% decrease in soil moisture was associated with a 40% increase in zygacine levels. Because of its toxicity, the only known bee that can tolerate its toxins is the specialist mining bee, Andrena astragali. It is extremely toxic to animals, especially sheep, with consumption of 2-6% of the body weight of the animal likely to be fatal. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting bulbs, and children have been poisoned after ingesting flowers and flower buds.

Monkey Flower – Lopseed Family (Phrymaceae)

Mimulus guttatus

Status: Native plant

Description: The dainty, intensely yellow monkey flower is an herbaceous perennial that blooms in Yellow Point in early to late spring, and continues into early summer. Blossoms, 1-4 cm in length, form clusters at the tops of stems, which can reach 10cm. Each flower is a bright yellow funnel of five fused petals – two at the top, three at the bottom. The throat of the flower has bright maroon spots and can be quite hairy. Oppositely arranged oval leaves, 1-10cm in length, are generally yellowish-green. Margins are marked with large irregular teeth.

Habitat/Uses: Found from sea level to mid-elevations and preferring average to moist conditions, the monkey flower is found in wet open sites, including seepage areas, meadows, streambanks, springs, and ditches. Its preference is sun to part shade; it is not particular as to soil or pH. A good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, it can be used in native gardens as border edging, ground cover, mass planting, and in wet rocky/alpine terrain. It is self-seeding, and can also be propagated by division.

Did you know? The maroon markings in the throat of the flower are a dominant trait, controlled by a single gene. The expression of the gene is temperature dependent.

Seablush – Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae)

Plectritis congesta

Status: Native plant

Description: A self-seeding annual herb appearing in early spring and lasting into early July, seablush flowers appear as swaths of small pink pom-poms that brighten often overcast and rainy spring days. Slender stems bear widely oval leaves, with rounded or pointed tips. Plants can reach a height of 60cm in some locales, but in Yellow Point the tallest plant would likely be in the range of 15-20cm. The flower head bears many tubular flowers, each with an upper and lower lobed lip. Three stamens tipped with purple anthers carry yellow pollen.

Habitat/Uses: A hardy plant, sea blush is found in various habitats, from damp grassy meadows near the ocean to dry rocky soils inland. Preferring sun (but tolerating shade), and often found in Garry oak meadows, it can be found from sea level to mid-elevation. Although seablush releases an odour that might be considered by us to be unpleasant (and certainly not consistent with its pretty appearance), sea blush is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bee species and butterflies.

Calypso Orchid/Fairy Slipper – Orchid Family (Orchidaceae)

Calypso bulbosa

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the early flowers to grace Yellow Point in the spring, the fragrant perennial Calypso orchid consists of three pointed, usually pink sepals, and two usually pink petals, found above a large hanging slipper-like lip, usually white or light pink with rusty or maroon streaks and spots. A yellow area is found near the opening of the ‘slipper’, and is decorated with three ridges bearing yellow hairs. The single stem, 5-21 cm in height, emerges from a single dark green, oval basal leaf, 2.5-6 cm in width, which develops in the fall and lasts through the winter . Both the leaf and stem grow from a thick, short underground stem, called a corm. If the corm becomes detached, as can happen from picking or trampling the flower, the whole plant usually dies.

Habitat/Uses: Calypso orchids are commonly found in dry to moist mossy forest habitats, at low to mid elevations. They grow well on decaying vegetation, such as on rotting logs and stumps, and tend to favour sheltered areas. They prefer light to heavy shade, but can also grow in direct sun. They do not transplant well, as they likely rely on specific soil fungi to survive. Individual plants generally live a short time in nature, approximately five years, with vigor generally waning after the first few years. Corms were used as a food source by First Nations.

Did you know? The genus name is derived from the sea nymph Calypso (meaning ‘to conceal’), daughter of Atlas, of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. Fairy slippers do not produce nectar. Instead, the similarity of the flower shape and smell to other nectar-producing flowers lures pollinators, resulting in collection and distribution of their pollen.

California Poppy – Poppy Family (Papaveraceae)

Eschscholzia californica

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Not native to BC (its native range only officially as far north as Oregon) but impossible to miss, this intensely orange fast-growing annual or delicate perennial poppy grows 15-45cm tall, often in bunches. Flowers, solitary on long stems, consist of four silky petals, 2-6cm long and wide. Petals close at night and in cold weather, and open in the morning, although they can remain closed in overcast conditions. Generally, blooms can be found from late May into autumn. The lacy blue-green leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments.

Habitat/Uses: Drought-tolerant and easy to grow in sandy, poor-to-average, well-drained soil, seeds germinate with rain and warmth in the spring. They can be found at low to mid-elevations. In our climate, poppies can survive several years via a fleshy taproot. Alternatively, when happy in their habitat, self-seeding is a common phenomenon. In landscaping, they can be used in container gardens, mixed beds, rock gardens, and xeriscapes. Deadheading spent flowers can encourage new blooms, but collecting seeds from seed pods affords spread of more beautiful colour in the garden. After the risk of frost is past, press the seeds lightly into the soil and water gently. Blue-green foliage appears after approximately two weeks, followed by the spectacular orange flowers. Deer and rabbit resistant (possibly because all parts of the plant are poisonous to mammals), these poppies attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Did you know? The California poppy became California’s official state flower in 1903.

Yarrow – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Achillea millefolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Appearing in June in Yellow Point, fragrant clusters of this flat-topped, perennial flower continue into late summer or early fall. Many white (and occasionally pinkish flowers) crowd into small flower heads; each small flower head in the cluster consists of three to eight tiny ray flowers with a strap-shaped petal. Feathery fern-like foliage is soft grey-green in colour, and aromatic. Plants can grow up to three feet wide, and three feet tall, but are generally much shorter and narrower in this area. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes.

Habitat/Uses: Yarrow’s highly adaptable nature allows it to grow in wet to dry soil; in meadows, forests, rocky hillsides, and disturbed areas; and at all elevations. Found across the northern hemisphere, yarrow has been used in various medical remedies: its genus name Achillea comes from the mythical Greek hero Achilles, who reportedly carried it with his army to treat battle wounds. According to the Royal BC Museum, First Nations peoples value yarrow as a medicine to treat sores, aching muscles, and toothaches, and as a mosquito repellent. Yarrow’s bountiful floral display offers excellent forage for pollinators, and the foliage is a source of food and habitat to many species of butterfly and moth caterpillars. Yarrow is an excellent choice for xeriscapes, and can be grown from seed or transplanted from rhizome divisions.

Chocolate Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Fritillaria affinis

Status: Native plant

Description: A relatively rare flower to encounter in Yellow Point, the perennial chocolate lily can be difficult to find as its purple-brown flowers, speckled with green or yellow, can easily blend into the landscape. Blooms can be seen in March-April, and are broadly bell-shaped, with six similar, distinct oblong tepals, 2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. A long, yellowish-green nectar gland is found on the inner surface, near the base, along with six stamens and one pistil. Flowers can be single or multiple (up to eight) at the end of a sturdy stalk which can grow to 60 cm, but usually much shorter in Yellow Point. Lance-like or egg-shaped leaves are found in one or two whorls of 3-5, measuring 5-10 cm long, 0.5-3 cm wide. Also called rice-root, the plant grows from white bulbs that produce bulblets that resemble grains of rice. These break off when the plant is disturbed, allowing propagation.

Habitat/Uses: Often found in Garry oak ecosystems, chocolate lilies prefer open woodlands, meadows, and coastal grasslands, but can be found in forests at low to subalpine elevations. They prefer sun but tolerate partial shade. Flowers are pollinated by flies, which are attracted by their somewhat offensive odour. These lilies are fairly easy to cultivate from bulb or seed for use in ornamental gardens, doing well in well-drained, humus-rich soil. They are deer and rabbit resistant. An important food source for centuries for Coast Salish communities (www.camosun.ca/sustainability/garden/plant-id.html), TSALIQW, as it is called, was boiled or steamed for immediate consumption, or dried and stored for use through the winter months. Bulbs were also traded with other communities.

Broadleaf Stonecrop – Stonecrop Family (Crassulaceae)

Sedum spathulifolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Found on cliffs and sunny rock faces throughout Yellow Point, this perennial plant is rumoured to have been the source of Yellow Point’s name. Flowering from May to July, the plant appears typically succulent, with grey-green to dark-red plump rosettes (2-4 cm in diameter) consisting of approximately 15 spoon-shaped leaves. Rosettes give rise to a short (8-10 cm), erect inflorescence composed of many small, bright yellow, starry flowers containing 10 stamens and 5 pistils.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid elevations, stonecrop prefers light, sandy, and loamy well-drained soils, and full sun; it will tolerate light shade. It is frequently found growing on rocks amid clumps of various species of mosses and liverworts. Since the plant needs very little care, it is an ideal plant for beginner gardeners. It is easily transplanted: simply remove a piece from an established plant and place on soil in the desired area, watering lightly to help establish roots. The plant is drought-tolerant, and deer- and rabbit-resistant. Medicinal uses of the leaves include treatment of constipation, gingivitis, and hemorrhoids. Juice from the leaves reportedly can staunch bleeding. First Nations people had several uses for the plant, from treating hemorrhoids and constipation to soothing infants.

Common Woolly Sunflower – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Eriophyllum lanatum

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as Oregon Sunshine, the woolly sunflower is not a ‘real’ sunflower, but a fibrous-rooted perennial herb. The intensely yellow, daisy-like flowers, up to 5 cm in diameter, bloom from May to August. The flower is actually a flower head of numerous florets. Looking closely, one sees that the outside flowers have 1-2 cm oval petals, framing numerous inner florets. The silver-grey stems, bearing multiple silvery leaves, shoot upward from the ‘woolly’ base foliage. A mature, robust plant can reach 60 cm in height, but wild plants most often only reach a maximum height of far less.

Habitat/Uses: The woolly sunflower thrives in sunny and dry areas, and grows well in poor, rocky soils. It can be found in dry open areas, such as on bluffs and rocky slopes. Its preference is sun, but it is also found blooming in partial shade. The plant spreads gradually, and is very attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. It is used as an ornamental in native gardens, but can also be grown in pots. An added bonus is its resistance to deer.

Tapertip Onion/Hooker’s Onion – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Allium acuminatum

Status: Native plant

Description: This striking, bulbous perennial is uncommon, but occasionally found in Yellow Point. Almost-white to deep pink flowers bloom, in groups of five to 40, on a firm, rounded stalk, 10-30 cm in height. This head of flowers, called an umbel, can reach up to 7.5cm in diameter. Each flower sits on a stalklet (‘pedicel’), with three sepals and three petals; anthers are yellow. Flowers can be found in June and July in Yellow Point. Leaves are long, with narrow, tapered tips which wither before the flowers appear.

Habitat/Uses: Preferential to sunny locations and sandy or loamy well-drained soil, this onion can be found on hills, and in grassy and rocky meadows, at low to mid elevations. It is extremely drought tolerant, making it a good choice for xeriscaping or rock gardens. First Nations valued this plant as a food source, along with other native onions found in the Pacific northwest, harvesting the light brown 1.5 cm bulb either in early spring or late fall and eating raw or cooking in pits. Flowers, leaves, and bulbous root are all edible, with a strong onion taste.

Pacific Bleeding Heart- Fumitory Family (Fumariaceae)

Dicentra formosa

Status: Native plant

Description: A beautiful and delicate perennial plant with small, puffy, pink, heart-shaped flowers, the Pacific bleeding heart can be found blooming in Yellow Point in May and June. The genus name Dicentra refers to the two nectar-bearing flowers with four petals each, which create a sac with spurs on the end. Bluish-green leaves are deeply cut, lacy, and fern-like. The plant grows up to 45cm in height, with foliage almost as tall as the flower stalk. It spreads mainly by rhizomes, but is also spread by ants, who feed their young an oil-rich appendage of the seed and dispose of the rest, thus assisting in seed dispersal.

Habitat/Uses: The bleeding heart grows best in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil, at low to mid elevations. It thrives in part to full shade in woodlands, damp forests, ravines, and near streams, preferring cooler temperatures. The flowers are rich with nectar, attracting syrphid flies, bumblebees, and hummingbirds, and the foliage is a food source of the butterfly larvae Clodius parnassian. Bleeding hearts can be used in native woodland gardens, growing well with various fern species beneath other plants and trees. Deer tend to ignore the plant. First Nations peoples reportedly used the roots to treat toothaches and worm infestations. However, the entire plant contains toxic compounds (isoquinolones), which, in large quantities, can cause trembling, weakness, convulsions, and difficulty breathing. Any part of the plant may cause skin irritation due to these poisonous compounds.

Self-Heal – Mint/Deadnettle/Sage Family (Lamiaceae)

Prunella vulgaris

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Flowering in Yellow Point from June onward, this perennial plant is native to Europe. Although generally low-growing, it can reach heights of 30 cm. It is characterized by small, two-lipped dark pink or violet flowers, clustered into dense spikes, 2-5 cm long and ~ 1.5-2 cm wide. Medium lance-shaped green leaves reminiscent of mint leaves arise in pairs along the square stem. Leaf edges are toothed or slightly wavy.

Habitat/Uses: Self-heal is adaptable, and grows easily in various landscapes, from garden beds and borders to woodland edges and meadows. It prefers sun or partial shade, moist soil, and cool to mild temperatures. It is found at low to mid elevations. Edible leaves and flowers have been long used in a variety of ways in folk medicine: plants are usually cut during summer flowering and used in various infusions, tinctures, and ointments. The flowers are rich in pollen, so are an important food source for butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, sweat bees, and long-horned bees.

Harvest Brodiaea- Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae) (Formerly in Lily Family)

Brodiaea coronaria

Status: Native plant

Descripton: Blooming in late June/early July, these native perennial six-petalled lavender-blue, violet, or rose upright bell-shaped flowers grow in a loose umbel. They arise on an erect stem from 1-3 grass-like basal linear leaves, ~ 2 mm wide. At the centre of the flower are white to purple hornlike staminodes (sterile stamens) that lean toward the fertile stamens. It can reach a height of 30 cm in some habitats, but is usually shorter in the Yellow Point area.

Habitat/Uses: Found in grasslands and open woodlands at low to mid elevations, this drought-tolerant plant prefers full sun but tolerates light shade. Well-drained soil and dry summers favour its proliferation; rock gardens and xeriscapes are ideal places for it to grow. The plant is slow-growing, long-lived, and very easy to care for. It comes into flower as native grasses become dormant, hence the term ‘harvest’ in its common name. The corm of the plant is edible, apparently sweet and flavourful with a taste and texture similar to sweet potatoes. It is a food source for rodents; rabbits and slugs enjoy the young shoots in the spring.

Oxeye Daisy – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Leucanthemum vulgare

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by http://www.bcinvasives.ca)

Description: Often confused with the ornamental Shasta daisy, perennial oxeyes are daisy-like flowers with 20-30 white ray flowers, 1-2 cm long, surrounding yellow central discs, 10-20 mm wide, on long slender stems. Lower leaves are lance-shaped with toothed margins. Upper leaves have wavy margins and are alternately arranged, narrow, and stalkless. Flowers appear in early June in Yellow Point, and continue well into July. Plants can grow up to one metre tall. Widespread and considered a weed or invasive plant in many countries, the oxeye is native to Europe and temperate Asia. It is considered a noxious, invasive weed in BC.

Habitat/Hazards: The oxeye daisy can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including meadows, open forests, and disturbed areas. It is a common weed in fields and along roadsides in Yellow Point. Found at low to mid elevations, it prefers sun but tolerates partial shade. It is able to grow in a variety of soils, from degraded pastures to rich loamy soils. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes, with a mature plant producing up to 26,000 seeds. A new plant can regenerate from rhizome fragments, making it a difficult plant to eradicate. Additionally, plants can cause soil erosion, as their manner of growth results in exposed soil. These plants decrease forage for wildlife, and crowd out our native plants, decreasing local plant biodiversity. Although the unopened buds can reportedly be marinated and eaten, the plant has an unpleasant taste, which causes grazing animals to avoid it, leading to further spread in pastures. The plants have a shallow root system, so are easy to pull up, but seeds can germinate years after dispersal, often making eradication a long-term project.

Lupines – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lupinus sp.

Status: Native plants

Description: Lupine species found in Yellow Point are a group of striking white, pink, blue and purple flowered perennial herbs, growing up to 90 cm in height. Flowers, up to 2 cm in length depending on species, grow in tiered whorls around a raceme, which can measure up to 20 cm. Flowers bloom starting in late June in the area, and can continue into August. Leaves with hairy undersides can feature up to 15 light to medium green elliptical leaflets, alternating along a central stalk in palm-like fronds. Stems are hollow.

Habitat/Uses: Lupines can be found from sea level to elevation up to 2500 m. Generally, they prefer slopes, full to partial shade, and moist to fairly well drained soils. Lupinus latifolius prefers moist open to shady woods and meadows; Lupinus rivularis is found in sand and gravel, near marshes, streams, and other wet places at low elevations; and Lupinus littoralis is found at sea level in coastal sands. Lupines attract butterflies and birds.

Did you know? Although they are not found in Yellow Point, Vancouver Island marmots favour feasting on lupines. Interestingly, several (but not all) species of lupines are known to contain alkaloids, which are poisonous.

Pearly Everlasting – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Anaphalis margaritacea

Status: Native plant

Description: Emerging in late June or early July in Yellow Point, the individual cottony stems of the herbaceous perennial pearly everlasting grow 30-90 cm in height, often in clumps. Flowers are globular, long-enduring, white, dry bracts with yellow centres, resembling fried eggs, although younger flowers are reminiscent of small pearls. Flowers are often slightly musky smelling. Leaves are long and slender, arranged alternately, with green surfaces and white, woolly undersides that match the stems. The hairy stems and leaves are an adaptation to reduce water loss and overheating.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring sun to part shade, pearly everlasting grows well in sandy, gravelly, dry soils, and is often found on roadsides in Yellow Point in the heat of summer. It can also be found growing in meadows and woodlands, and does well as a drought-tolerant specimen in native plant gardens. It can be used in flower arrangements, and has been used medicinally as a salve to treat burns, bruises, and sprains. Plants can be grown from seed or propagated. Bees and butterflies are the main pollinators; the American Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) uses the plant as a host for its young. Reportedly, it was used as a tobacco substitute by First Nations peoples.

Great Mullein/Common Mullein- Butterfly Bush Family (Scrophulariaceae)

Verbascum thapsus

Status: Invasive plant (as per BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources)

Description: This statuesque hairy biennial herb/weed, a native of Europe/northern Africa/Asia, starts out as a small rosette of furry silver-grey leaves, eventually growing to heights of two metres or more when well-established. In its second year, a flower spike bearing numerous, short-lived yellow flowers emerges. The inflorescence is 10-50 cm, densely packed, with wheel shaped flowers 1.5-3 cm in diameter. The stem carries numerous leaves alternately, which reduce in size as they ascend the stem. Leaves are uniquely arranged to form clasping channels to carry the water down the stem toward the roots. The abundant ‘hair’ on the leaves ‘shades’ the leaves, preventing excess evaporation, making this plant extremely drought-tolerant.

Habitat/Uses: Mullein thrives in challenging conditions, preferring places like gravel pits, dry roadsides, and fields with well-drained soil. It flourishes in full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations. This is a great plant for wildlife, attracting bees, hoverflies, and other pollinators. It also supplies (non-native) carder bees (Anthidium) with ‘fur’ to build their nests. Various species of caterpillar may also feed on the foliage. It is a prolific self-seeder, and in a hospitable environment often needs to be weeded out. Mullein has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. Tea can be made from flowers and leaves to soothe respiratory ailments. The plant also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Did you know? The Romans believed placing leaves at the openings of homes would repel demons. Some legends say that witches used the flower spikes as torches and other stories say that burning the spikes repels witches and evil spirits (from http://www.davesgarden.com).

St. John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort Family (Hypericaceae)

Hypericum perforatum

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by http://www.bcinvasives.ca)

Description: Considered an invasive plant, St. John’s wort is a perennial invader of disturbed land and grazing fields that flowers in June-July. The flowers are characterized by five bright yellow petals, often ringed with black dots, clustered at branch tips. Ten or more stamens and a single pistil emerge from the centre of the flower. Flowers in clusters can number up to 100, and each plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds each year, which can survive in soil up to ten years. Stems up to 60 cm in height carry simple, veined, opposite leaves. Held up to the light, translucent oil glands on the elliptical or triangular leaves give a perforated appearance, hence the epithet ‘perforatum.’

Habitat/Uses: St John’s wort prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations in grasslands and forests. It is often seen on the roadside in Yellow Point. Well known as a treatment for depression, the plant is reportedly also used as a diuretic, expectorant, and sedative. (Please consult your health care provider for medical advice before ingesting St. John’s wort.) It is considered poisonous to livestock, due to the compound hypericin, which causes photosensitivity.

Sweet Pea/Everlasting Pea – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lathyrus latifolius

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Arising from a single root, dramatic displays of these robust, brightly coloured perennial flowers burst forth in Yellow Point in late June/early July. Racemes of 4 to 11 white to dark pink odourless flowers are produced on hairless stems carrying short, wide-winged leaves, which hold pairs of lance-shaped to oval, pointed leaflets up to 7.5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. Flowers, up 2.5 cm wide, are composed of an upper and lower keel with lateral petals. If available, these plants will climb adjacent vegetation using their tendrils, and can reach three metres in height. They spread by rhizomes and self-seeding.

Habitat/Uses: Introduced from Europe, sweet peas are found in abundance in Yellow Point, sprawling along roadsides and in ditches. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, full sun to light shade, and are found at low to mid elevations. Bumblebees pollinate, butterflies visit for nectar, and deer (usually) ignore them. They can be grown in gardens, but often need to be cut back. They make striking cut flower displays throughout the summer. Note that the peas are NOT edible.

Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot – Carrot Family (Apiaceae)

Daucus carota

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by http://www.bcinvasives.ca)

Description: Native to Europe and Asia, Queen Anne’s lace is considered invasive to BC. It is a biennial herb characterized by an umbrella-shaped white, yellowish, or pinkish umbel up to 15 cm wide, composed of numerous 5-petaled flowers. There is often a solitary purple flower centrally. The umbel sits atop a 90-120 cm hairy, fine-lined central stem (which may branch), while oblong, pinnate, feathery leaves that resemble poison hemlock, fool’s parsley, and water hemlock, are found at the base and alternately along the stem. Lower leaves appear more ‘feathery’ than upper leaves, with upper leaves becoming smaller, shorter-stalked, and more widely spaced than those near the base. Flower heads appear in Yellow Point in June and continue through the summer. Foliage and the slender, woody taproot smell distinctively like edible carrots.

Habitat/Hazards: Queen Anne’s lace establishes easily on road sides, abandoned fields, and disturbed agricultural land. It is a hardy plant and thrives in dry environments, preferring full sun to partial shade, and well-drained to dry soil. Removing the plant (since it is considered invasive) can be done by pulling or digging it up, ensuring removal of the entire tap root. Note that handling the plant can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. Additionally, the plant can be confused with its cousin, giant hogweed, which, if handled, can result in severe skin irritation, blistering rashes, scarring, and even blindness. If uncertain of the species, do not touch it. (If you believe you have found hogweed in the area, the Coastal Invasive Species Committee can be contacted at 1-844-298-2532 to properly dispose of the plant.)

Did you know? Romans ate Queen Anne’s lace as a vegetable, and early Europeans cultivated it. (Note: Do not eat wild plants without positive identification from an expert. Many people have confused Queen Anne’s lace with poison hemlock, resulting in illness or death when ingested). Its common name derives from a legend that states Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) pricked her finger while tatting lace, resulting in a single drop of blood landing in the centre of the lace.

Botanical Definitions

Source: https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/curriculum-collections/biodiversity-counts/plant-identification/plant-morphology/parts-of-a-flower

Anther: The part of the stamen where pollen is produced. 

Corm: Vertical, fleshy, underground stem that acts as a food-storage structure in certain seed plants.

Inflorescence: A group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches.

Ovary: The enlarged basal portion of the pistil where ovules are produced.

Peduncle: The stalk of a flower. 

Petal: The parts of a flower that are often conspicuously colored. 

Pistil: The ovule producing part of a flower. The ovary often supports a long style, topped by a stigma. The mature ovary is a fruit, and the mature ovule is a seed. 

Raceme: A flower cluster with the separate flowers attached by short equal stalks at equal distances along a central stem. The flowers at the base of the central stem develop first.

Receptacle: The part of a flower stalk where the parts of the flower are attached. 

Sepal: The outer parts of the flower (often green and leaf-like) that enclose a developing bud. 

Stamen: The pollen producing part of a flower, usually with a slender filament supporting the anther. 

Stigma: The part of the pistil where pollen germinates. 

Tepal: Segment of the outer whorl in a flower that has no differentiation between petals and sepals.

Umbel: An inflorescence that consists of a number of short flower stalks which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs. The word was coined in botanical usage in the 1590s, from the word Latin umbella, meaning “parasol, sunshade”.

Native/Introduced/Invasive Designations

Varying definitions exist for the terms ‘native’, ‘introduced’, and ‘invasive’. Additionally, there seems to be no ‘master’ list for introduced and invasive species for this region, or for Vancouver Island. (If anyone knows of such lists, please let us know!)

A native plant is defined by the Native Plant Society of BC as “one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat – and occurred prior to European contact….Native plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi, and microbes to form a complex network of relationships. These plants are the foundation of native ecosystems, or natural communities.” (https://npsbc.wordpress.com/native-plants/)

The Invasive Species Council of BC (www.bcinvasives.ca), a registered charity and non-profit society, lists invasive species found in BC on its website. It defines invasive species as: plants, animals or other organisms that are not native to BC whose introduction and spread causes harm to the province’s native species or our economy.

A definition for introduced species (also known as an exotic, alien, non-native, or non-indigenous species) is an organism that is not native to the place or area where it is considered introduced and instead has been accidentally or deliberately transported to the new location by human activity (https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/introduced_species.htm). Such species can ultimately become invasive, or can co-exist with native species. For this page, ‘introduced’ species are those that are non-native but also non-invasive.

Resources/References

Electronic atlas of the flora of BC: https://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/eflora/identification.html

Invasive plant species in BC (reference is from 2004; updates to list is uncertain, but at least some invasive plants (e.g., Himalayan blackberry) are not listed): https://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/eflora/invasive_sp_list.html

Website of the Invasive Species Council of BC: https://bcinvasives.ca/

Camosun College’s website of native plants and traditional uses by First Nations: http://camosun.ca/sustainability/garden/plant-id.html

Author and photographer Mark Turner’s exhaustive website of wildflowers of the Pacific northwest: https://www.pnwflowers.com/

Nanaimo and Area Land Trust’s website for their native plant nursery: https://www.nalt.bc.ca/1_10_native-plant-nursery.html

The Province of BC’s website for invasive species, including a link for reporting invasive species: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/invasive-species

Habitat Acquisition Trust’s website for gardening with native plants: https://www.hat.bc.ca/gardening-with-native-plants

The Native Plant Society of BC’s website: https://npsbc.wordpress.com/

This page from the Master Gardeners Association of BC has a downloadable pdf of the native plants of the Pacific northwest: https://www.mgabc.org/content/native-plants-pacific-northwest

Pojar and MacKinnon’s ‘Plants of Coastal British Columbia’ is a best-selling field guide of plants found along the coast from Oregon to Alaska: https://49thshelf.com/Books/P/Plants-of-Coastal-British-Columbia2

Author: yellowpointecologicalsociety

We are a non-profit society. We work to understand, appreciate, protect and restore the ecosystems and watersheds in the Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island and to inspire and support local residents and visitors to do the same.

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