Small, sort of weedy-looking, growing at the edge of a gravel path.
This is the sort of plant that doesn’t get much notice and at first glance would probably be dismissed as an introduced weed. It turned out to be vari-leaved collomia (Collomia heterophylla), a plant native to British Columbia (the range map in eFlora shows it mostly in the southwestern portion of the province). It isn’t red or blue listed, but it wasn’t a plant that either Jocie or I had seen before.
Like the large-flowered collomia that we found at the Trent River estuary, this plant has a terminal cluster of flowers (at this time of the year, mostly done). Unlike the large-flowered collomia, vari-leaved collomia is much smaller and less robust in appearance. With a quick look, you might think it was a weedy, pink flowered, Eurasian geranium. Looking a little closer reveals several field marks that are helpful with identification.
The vari-leaved collomia has a terminal cluster of pink flowers that are very attractive. The pink, five-lobed tube flower suggests Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family). The leaves are alternate and their shape varies from deeply lobed and coarsely toothed at the base of the plant to almost entire closer to the flower cluster. The leaves are usually hairy.
Jocie found this plant at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park earlier this week. It was growing in the gravel on the side of the trail leading down to the upper falls—typical habitat for vari-leaved collomia is forest openings, streambanks, and gravelly roadsides and cutbanks.
You never know what you’ll find if you look carefully, and Little Qualicum Falls has already produced some very interesting plants on previous visits this spring. Take a second look at what you see. Sometimes the insignificant little pink flower on the edge of the trail might just be something unexpected!