Flowers of the Lowland Pacific Northwest   Red/Pink/Orange Flowers


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Bleeding heart Fireweed Foxglove Columbine
Twinflower Scoulers scouleri Red Clover Shooting Star
Sweet Pea Canada Thistle Indian Thistle Northern Starflower

Herb Robert

Cooleys Hedge Nettle Slender Paint brush Rabbit foot clover

Jewel Weed



Bleeding Heart  Dicentra formosa

How to Identify it:  Pink, heart-shaped drooping flowers atop a single stem, leaves deeply divided, fern-like.

This plant  is found in the dappled sunlight of the  forest floor, sends up its leaves in mid to late February. The flowers, delicate pink hearts begin arriving in late March and April, turning to seed pods in June through August. This plant can continue to bloom most of the summer, and I have even seen a rogue bloom in September.   The seeds have a small dab of oil attached to them in a little white knob, and this oil attracts ants and some beetles to carry them off. Presumably the bugs eat the oil packet and ditch the seed.  On occasion in late summer you may find plants that have been browsed by something, the stems neatly clipped. I suspect mountain beavers but have never been sure.



 Fireweed  Chamerion angustifolium

How to Identify it:  Tall plant, up to 6 feet tall, with a foot or more of bright pinkish 4-petalled flowers which bloom from bottom to the top.  Leaves long and skinny.

This is a plant of clear cuts and openings, and it requires almost full sunlight to thrive.  In late summer the flowers turn to seed pods which release a cloud of fluffy seeds into the wind. This plant often takes over a cleared space and it will sprout from underground roots, its bright blaze of pink can often be seen at considerable distance.  The flowers are attractive to many insects, and sometimes honeybees specialize in this plant to the exclusion of all others, forming fireweed honey.  In many places the bottom to top flowering is a sort of natural calendar, in the north is said that 3 weeks after the top flowers bloom the first snow will fall.  The young growths of this plant are browsed by black-tailed deer, apparently however once they reach a certain age they are not tasty anymore. 

Fox glove  Digitalis  purpurea

How to Identify it:  Tall plant, up to 6 feet, stout with the upper third a cascade of usually pink tubular bell flowers with spots inside. Leaves are wooly and biggest at the bottom, getting smaller as they progress up the stem.

This is another stunning inhabitant of clearcuts and other openings in the woods. The deep pink flower tubes are at their peak in July and are specially designed for bumblebees, the lower part of the flower projects out slightly as a landing pad. The bee then climbs inside for nectar and get doused on their back with pollen for their effort.  This plant came to us from the gardens of Europe and it has widely spread. All parts of the plant are highly poisonous although it provides the heart medicine digitalis. The flowers come in a variety of colors, white through deep magenta and each flower only lasts about a week.  The numerous seeds are born in pods on the stem.  Foxgloves live for two years, the first year it is just a patch of leaves on the ground and can sometimes be mistaken for Comfrey. If the site provides enough light, the tall flower stalk will appear in the second year.


Red Columbine  Aquilegia formosa

How to Identify it:  Bright  red dangling flower with large spurs above each petal, yellow anthers hanging below.  2 foot, drooping slender stalk  with much divided leaves in groups of three on small stalks. 

This graceful and unique flower prefers moist situations, along ditches, in wet meadows but can also be found in drier situations under partial shade.  The red flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds who must do a bit of gymnastics to get to the nectar in the downward facing tubes. Sometimes bumblebees cheat and chew off the top of the spur to get at the nectar inside.  The flowers start in June and go through August, then dry into multi-part seedheads which dissolve in the winter rains, spilling the seeds.

Twinflower   Linnaea  borealis

How to Identify it: Small, evergreen shiny spoon shaped leaves form a ground cover. Flower a small,  usually paired drooping bloom.

This plant sometimes forms thin vine-like trails through the partially open canopy of the forest. Other times it can form dense clusters which cover 3-6 square feet.  The flowers appear in May and June and have have a delightful fragrance which attracts small flies and beetles.  The evergreen leaves are eaten as winter forage for elk.

Scoulers scouleri  Corydalis scouleri

How to Identify it:  Bright green leaves that are deeply lobed  with rounded ends  in fernlike clusters. Flowers long pink tubes several atop a stiff stem.

This plant often forms a thick lacy growth along streamsides, or in moist woods. The flowers appear in late April and May, and the flowering stalks may reach up to 3 feet tall. The flowers turn to a egg-shaped seed which disappear quickly so I suspect they are eaten by birds.

Red Clover   Trifolium pratense

How to Identify it: Oval Leaflets in groups of three, flower a bright pink
ball-like cluster at the top of the plant.

This is a common weedy plant, introduced from Europe and found in clearings, roadsides, and trail sides.  This plant improves the soil by hosting bacteria on its roots which convert nitrogen in the air to a form that plants can use. The flowers appear  in April and flower well into September, the nectar rich flowers are a favorite for butterflies and rabbits eat clover with gusto.  It is widely planted as a cover and forage crop and it has a long history of medicinal uses.

Shooting Star  Dodecatheon  pulchellum

How to Identify it: Several downwards pointing flowers from a slender stem usually bright pink to reddish tipped with a black sharply pointed cone.

This is a plant of wet and mucky places, the bright flowers serving as a warning to watch your step in the wet ground.

Sweet Pea   Lathyrus latifolia

How to Identify it:  Large cluster of pink flowers, stems sprawling with a distinctive wing, two large leaflets.

This is perhaps the showiest of all the weeds, found in roadside ditches and other marginal areas. Like many of the pea family this plant climbs with the help of special fast growing stems called tendrils, which reach out and curl around branches of other plants or fences.  Blooms in late May early June, the flowers turn into pea pods by late August.

Along the shoreline there is another showy pea called the Beach pea, which has oval leaves and no wings on the stem.


Canada Thistle  Cirsium arvense

How to Identify it:  Several pinkish/ light purple flowers without prickles, atop stout stems, leaves attach to directly without leaf stems, leaves sharp and pointed.

This is a plant which grows in thickets from underground roots. It fuels many pollinators, including butterflies although it is a non-native and invasive weed. It is usually around 2-3 feet tall but it can reach as high as 6 feet. It is a plant of fields, and open roadsides, and does not like the shade.  The flowers in June turn to light fluffy seed heads in September which spread in the wind. The seeds also float and so this plant is widespread and considered a noxious weed in some localities.  Sometimes the stems feed aphids which are tended by ants.


Indian Thistle  Cirsium edule

How to Identify it:  About 3 feet tall, dense purple tuft of flowers atop a thickly thorned ball.  Leaves sharply toothed and finely prickled.

The bright pink tuft of flowers starting in June is a butterfly favorite. This is plant of roadsides and fields, requiring open skies. The plant is well armed overall, and has a whitish tinge due to numerous hairs on the stem.  The flowers droop when they are first emerging and in late August and September the flower heads turn to white fluffy seeds which are carried far away by the wind.


Northern Starflower  Trientalis borealis

How to Identify it:  A single flower with 5 pointed petals from a whorl of 4-7 leaves.

This is a forest floor enchantment, the tiny pink jewel of the flower is framed by the leaves below and seems to float above them. Sometimes the flowers are white, or the petals have pinkish streaks.


Herb Robert  Geranium robertianum

How to Identify it:  Red flower with 5 petals on a hairy stalk, leaves finely dissected, stems reddish and hairy.

This is a invasive and spreading weed of roadsides and semi-open areas, although it can grow under shaded conditions.  It can form dense growths and choke out native understory flowers which is why it is considered a noxious weed. The crushed leaves have an unpleasant smell, one of its common names is Stinky Bob. In fall the leaves turn an attractive reddish color.  It begins blooming in April and continues through June, the flowers turn into a dry, pointed seed which explodes, scattering the seeds up to 20 feet away.  The common name of this plant has many variations, the one I like best is that is it named after Robert Goodfellow also known as Robin Hood.


Cooleys Hedge Nettle  Stachys cooleyae

How to Identify it:  Red purple trumpet flowers in a whorl on top of 15-30 inch square stem. Leaves toothed and opposite

A July blooming mint, found in damp rich soils that get at least partial sunshine. Run the stem back and forth on your fingers and note that it is square, a characteristic of all mints.  The bright tubular flowers attract Rufus hummingbirds and help fuel their southbound migration. 


Slender Paintbrush   Castilleja miniata

How to Identify It:  Red to orange bracts at top of leafy stems, slightly sticky to the touch.

This is perhaps the most common of several kinds of paintbrush which can be found on seaside cliffs, meadows and openings all the way to high subalpine mountain meadows.  The red coloration is not a flower, it is modified leaf, the actual flowers are small thin tubes which have a slit at the top just right for the tongue of a hummingbird to find. There are many variations in color within each species and many species to puzzle over.

Rabbits-foot clover  Trifolium arvense

How to Identify it:  Soft pinkish flower heads, leaves in groups of 3.

This is a European weed, often found along roadsides or in vacant lots. It seems to thrive best in compacted slightly sandy soils.  There are often many flowers which at a distance look vaguely fuzzy, hence the name rabbits-foot. I once watched a roadside deer grazing intently on this plant and rabbits also eat it.

Jewel Weed (Touch me not)   Impatiens noli-tangere

How to Identify it: Plant up to 4 feet tall, with egg shaped leaves, Flower orange with spots which dangles at the end of a long stalk.

This is a plant of streamsides and moist bottoms, often growing in clusters.  The bright yellow-orange flower is a bee magnet for bumblebees and other pollinators.  The fruit is a long capusule which suddenly bursts open when touched, broadcasting seeds several feet.