Balsamorhiza deltoidea

Deltoid balsamroot or Puget balsamroot is native to California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. In Washington, it was listed as Imperiled but that conservation status is now under review. In British Columbia, however, it is a red-listed species (equivalent to endangered) and officially listed as an endangered species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Balsamorhiza deltoidea. Today’s photograph is of one of the 1600 or so mature individuals present in Canada.

Not only are there few individuals remaining in Canada, but they are also under threat; according to the COSEWIC 2009 Assessment and Update Status Report (PDF): “The largest population has declined greatly due to site development in recent years and accounts for most of the 35-40% decline in the total Canadian population. All populations experience continued habitat degradation from competition with invasive introduced plants. Four of the eight populations are also at risk of extirpation from stochastic events due to the presence of only one to several plants in each”. Personally, I’m not sure how altering an environment such that individuals of endangered species are destroyed can be called “development” — particularly due to the nature of the development: “A significant portion of the habitat supporting the largest Canadian population, near Campbell River, has been converted into parking lots and light industrial developments”. Brings to mind a song (by a Canadian).

Fire suppression and residential development are cited as additional reasons for a long-term decline in the Canadian populations (do note that the two complement each other). First Nations who resided or used the meadows where deltoid balsamroot grows (or grew) often used fire as a means of suppressing tree growth and promoting herbaceous food species (e.g., camas) and game forage species. This would have helped boost population numbers artificially; it is likely impossible to say with any certainty what the population size would be in British Columbia without any human-induced factors.

Additional images are available from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture: Balsamorhiza deltoidea.

Balsamorhiza deltoidea

11 responses to “Balsamorhiza deltoidea”

  1. Daniel Mosquin

    I should also note — this photo was from early May, last year.

  2. David Tarrant

    Thank you Daniel for another excellent entry.
    The image makes me feel as if I was really there with you on the hike.
    A tranquil image indeed, and particularly comforting at this time with all the sad and incomprehensible news from Japan.
    I also loved the link to Joni Mitchell. Lets hope at least one or two developers stumble upon this site and wake up to the message!

  3. elizabeth a airhart

    i wish i knew how to save all the plants and trees and flowers
    could this be grown in private gardens for future times
    i agree the news from japan is so sad the ides of march indeed

  4. Bob Borquist

    Balsam Root is one of my favorite wildflowers and became so during a drive up the Columbia River Gorge a few years back.
    I was tempted to drive up a side road and dig one out with whatever I had in the car, but contained myself. I had no idea they were endangered until I read this. They seemed so plentiful.
    I join another reader in asking if young plants can be purchased. I live in KItsap County with easy access to the Seattle area.
    Thanks for the report.

  5. Hollis

    another great photo, but it makes me long for spring! only a few more months …

  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Bob, in the Columbia River Gorge, these are not rare, though there are a couple other species of Balsamorhiza also present there. It’s only here in British Columbia at the north end of the range (and across a political boundary) that one can consider them endangered. As I mentioned, their conservation status is under review in Washington (meaning it could be either positive or negative), and they are, if not common, present in many places in Oregon according to the Oregon Plant Atlas.

  7. wendy

    Try the California Native Plant Link Exchange for plant sources. In re ‘development’ it is a neutral concept on its own. Add modifiers (dire, detrimental, negative, appalling etc.) to achieve precision in meaning. After all there might be developments for the better. Somewhere. I have often wondered why this plant is not found in the horticultural mainstream.

  8. Amy

    Wonderful photo – looks like the flowers are posing for you. I’m having a good time trying to identify other species I see in your photograph as well.

  9. Toinette Lippe

    Believe it or not, I have seen these flowers in Central Park, here in New York City. I thought it must be some kind of sunflower I wasn’t familiar with. Those are definitely the leaves I saw last summer. I wonder how it arrived here. Maybe one of our several hundred migrating birds. Did you know that Central Park is one of the best birding spots in the whole of the United States?

  10. phillip

    …to Hollis New Mexico we are in full bloom of spring…apricot, cherry, apple blossoms everywhere, new green on all trees. The latest killing frost here would have to be before Good Friday, that’s in the records.

  11. Scott Clay-Poole

    A commentor mentioned that they would like to try to save all plants. I as well have endeavored. I collected 3 of these species from an impending housing development directly across the street, south of the Mima Mounds Preserve south of Olympia, Washington (about 15 miles). I collected as many of the “immediately” doomed south puget sound prairie species as I could in succeeding weekend visits and planted all in my backyard…many camas, fritillaries, violets, and 3 balsam roots (which have very very deep roots). However, the balsamroot, having been in my yard for 5 years or so, has never bloomed. But they still come up each year, and I protect them from the slugs that love them, and perhaps one day, they will bloom. And yes, at the housing area, many of the mounds were simply bulldozed into lawns. Very sad.

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