The sand dunes at Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are home to a number of beautiful and hardy plants. Some of these wildflowers are spectacular and showy, covering the dunes with a colourful display. However, others are less dramatic and require more work to find. Pink sand-verbena (Abronia umbellata) is one of these less common plants. The sand dunes are a very sensitive ecosystem so exploring them with care is recommended.
Two different sand-verbenas flower in the sand dunes at Wickaninnish Beach. While both are somewhat similar in appearance, they are distinctly different.
Yellow sand-verbena (Abronia latifolia) is wide-spread in the dunes. Yellow sand-verbena forms large mats of succulent leaves and the bright globes of yellow flowers are distinctive, numerous, and easy to identify. However, by late August these flowers are close to being past their prime. Visit earlier in the summer if you want to see this sand dune wildflower at peak bloom.
Finding pink sand-verbena takes a little more effort. It blooms later in the summer and the flowers are noticeably smaller than the showy yellow sand-verbena. The leaves of the pink sand-verbena are more oval in shape and the plant has a delicate appearance. The plants at Wickaninnish Beach are survivors from a sand dune restoration project that began over ten years ago. At that time, pink sand-verbena was introduced to the dune ecosystem and consequently, it has established itself in a small section of the dunes.
While pink sand-verbena is common further south along the Pacific coast in Washington, Oregon, and California it is very rare in British Columbia. The sand dunes at Wickaninnish Beach are one of the few locations where it is easily accessible and seen on Vancouver Island. When you visit Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, take the time to search for this beautiful red-listed dune wildflower but be mindful of your impact in this beautiful and fragile landscape.