Native Species Spotlight

Native Species Spotlight
Native Species Spotlight

Ready for a more positive spin on things? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Our Native Species Spotlight explores some remarkable native flora in the Sea to Sky, and how they might fit into your daily life.

As most of you might know, the horticultural world is filled with beautiful foreign plants, some of which are actually flowering invasive species. Whether it’s your garden or a neighbours, it always helps to be aware of which plants are capable of going wild and damaging your local ecosystem. Not to worry, though – our Plantwise program can give you the low-down on all different kinds of invasive ornamentals, and help you find some native species to replace them.

Although foreign ornamentals don’t cause the same kind of damage invasive species do, our ecosystem can always benefit from having more native flora around. They can play a role in soil stability, bee, moth and butterfly life cycles, bird habitats and put on a dazzling show with their unique blooms!

Today, we’re appreciating every eye-catching detail of the Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa). Also known as the Red, Western or Sitka Columbine, this perennial herb blooms incredibly unique flowers, with bright red, crown-shaped outer petals fading to a sunny yellow near the centre stamen. These dazzling blooms steal the show from May through August, attracting a pollinating audience of hummingbirds, long-tongued bees, and butterflies. Aside from its mainstage flowers, the leaves on Red Columbines are delicate and fern-like, boasting graceful blue-green hues.

Growing about 3 ft. tall and 1 ft. across, this stunner of a plant would make an attractive addition to any ornamental, naturalized, or bird-friendly garden! An especially close friend of the Ruby-throated hummingbird, Red Columbine provides this small flyer some of its first, most vital nutrients during the spring migration northwards. Historically, this brilliant plant poses some practical uses as well, used by communities such as the Quileute First Nations. Its main use has been medicinal, repurposing the herb’s roots into a poultice to treat joint pain, inflammation, dizziness, and gastrointestinal irritation. British Columbian First Nations Communities, Gitxsan and Wetsuweten, have also made good use of Red Columbine, consuming its nectar as a form of candy!

Thriving in partially shaded, moist meadows and woodlands, Red Columbine can be spotted all the way from Alaska, throughout B.C., western Alberta, Montana, Washington, and along the northernmost edge of California. But don’t let its wide range fool you – this unique plant doesn’t take kindly to elevations above 3000 meters. Once established, Red Columbine can self-seed and produce many healthy, brilliant plants for years to come. Even in the fall, this colourful plant adds depth and warm, autumnal tones to its surrounding environment, with dainty seedpods fluttering in the wind.

We recommend planting all types of native plants in your garden, and consider what species would grow best under your yard’s unique growing conditions. If you’re curious or wanting more guidance along the way, check out the “Grow Me Instead” booklet! It can teach you about invasive species hiding in gardens, and which plants to replace them with. So what are you waiting for? There’s a whole world of native alternatives out there, just waiting to be your next best plant-friend.

 

Sources:

West Coast Seeds

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

E-Flora B.C.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

California Native Plant Society – Calscape

United States Department of Agriculture – Ruby-throated hummingbird

B.C. Central Coast Biodiversity Guide

United States Department of Agriculture – Columbine Natural History

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