Where the Wildflowers Are

Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)
Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum), one of many streamside flowers to look for this spring on Vancouver Island.

The spring wildflower bloom is well under way on Vancouver Island but there’s still time left to see some of the flowers along coastal forest trails and riversides. Here’s some of the more noticeable species to look for as well as some of the less frequently seen ones.

Pink Fawn Lily (Erythronium revolutum)

Pink Fawn Lily (Erythronium revolutum)
Pink Fawn Lily (Erythronium revolutum) - unusual double flower

This Vancouver Island specialty is a spectacular lily to see. Like the name suggests, it is pink in colour (although it comes in varying shades of pink) and usually sports a single nodding flower with bent back tepals. The Pink Fawn Lily (Erythronium revolutum) has a pair of large mottled basal leaves. It can often be found carpeting the ground in moist woodlands along streams and rivers.

Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)

Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)
Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)

This distinctive white flower is easy to identify. It has a large striking single flower with three large petals. With age, these petals turn to pink and purple in colour. Beneath the flower is a set of three broad leaves arranged in a whorl. Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) is found in moist forests and along streams and rivers as well as in shaded open forest.

Lyall’s Anemone (Anemone lyallii)

Lyall's Anemone (Anemone lyallii)
Lyall's Anemone (Anemone lyallii)

This small woodland flower is definitely worth looking for. Lyall’s Anemone (Anemone lyallii) has a single white flower with five sepals (which look like petals). It also has leaves in sets of three but the leaves are lobed and coarsely toothed, making each leaf look like three separate leaves. With a little extra work it can be found alongside some trails in moist coastal forests.

Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)

Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)
Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)

Just starting to come into bloom is Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa). Common in moist forests and alongside streams and rivers, Pacific Bleeding Heart forms a lacy carpet of fern-like green leaves. Clusters of five to fifteen heart-shaped pink flowers dangle from the stem of the plant. The seeds are dispersed by ants which are attracted to a white oil-rich appendage on each black pebbled seed.

Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanum)

Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanum)
Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanum)

The bright yellow bracts and immature flowers of Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanum) have been been out since late March but now the leaves are really starting to develop and namesake smell of the plant lends its pungent odor to the air. Skunk Cabbage (or Swamp Lantern) prefers to get its feet wet and can be found in swamps and fens, wet forests and mucky seepage areas. You’ll definitely smell it before you see it!

Stream Violet (Viola glabella)

Streamside Violet (Viola glabella)
Stream Violet (Viola glabella)

The flowers of Stream Violet (Viola glabella) are yellow and the three lower petals are marked with purple lines. The two lateral petals are white bearded, which is one feature that distinguishes it from the Trailing Yellow Violet (V. sempervirens). The leaves are toothed along the edges and heart-shaped, with the dark green leaf tapering to a point. Like the name suggests, this is another flower to look for alongside streams and in moist forests.

All of these flowers bloom in the spring on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Consult Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Pojar and Mackinnon), a user friendly and comprehensive guidebook to the plants of our area to help identify these beautiful forest flowers.