I get another break today, thanks to Eric La Fountaine and Brent Hine of UBC Botanical Garden. Eric’s both the photographer and the writer behind today’s entry – thank you!
Lewisia columbiana (Flora of North America) is found on rocky slopes and crevices in British Columbia and the northwestern contiguous United States. Its thick fleshy leaves and taproot help it withstand dry conditions. It is a small plant — the clumps of a dozen or so plants in the photos are each only around 10 cm across. The small, brightly coloured pinkish flowers attract attention in late spring and summer.
The leaves of this accession collected by Brent Hine, curator of the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden, have an appealing purple tinge, perhaps more prominent than usual due to being found at a high altitude. Brent reminisces about the collection, “There is really nothing quite like the experience of happening upon a plant where you didn’t expect it to be. In 2001, I was hiking on Mt. Cokely of southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I was among north-facing rock sheets wet with melting snow, small tufts of Vaccinium and other local mountain vegetation clinging to the raw landscape. This was the last kind of plant on my mind, yet suddenly there it was, and I recognized it immediately with a double take! A gratifying personal discovery which was the peak of that day’s experiences. The plant in the image has in cultivation retained all of its rosy-cheeked, hunkered-down character just as I found it that day.”
Lewisia columbiana is grown in gardens and has been used for hybridizing Lewisia cultivars. Paghat discusses the merits of the species for Northwest gardens in her article on Columbian bitterroot. Although the outer layer of the root is very bitter (hence the plant’s common name), the peeled root was a food source and traded item of early peoples in the region.