Photo Credit: Nicole Marcotte
Signs of Spring

Washington’s Early-Bloomers

Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s that time of year when we will start to see some petals and color popping back into our local landscapes. We want you to know which native flowers you can expect to see in the coming month throughout the entire state of Washington. From the tiny white flowers of the Indian plum which can be seen in Seattle’s parks, to the large yellow Balsamroot flowers of eastern Washington’s canyons; read below to learn more about Washington’s true signs of spring!

Photo credit: Nicole Marcotte
Indian Plum - Oemleria cerasiformis

Indian plum – Oemleria cerasiformis

Where to find it: Low elevations west of the Cascades in open woods and along stream banks

Distinctive features: This deciduous shrub has small white flowers, which often appear before its smooth, cylindrical leaves

Cool fact: Indian plum is the first deciduous shrub to flower in the Pacific Northwest, making its flowers the true first sign of spring.

Photo Credit: Nicole Marcotte
Flowering red currant - Ribes sanguineum

Red-flowering currant – Ribes sanguineum

Where to find it: Low to mid-elevation in dry open woods, and on rocky slopes

Distinctive features: Crooked stems with brownish-red bark, and rose colored flowers that form in drooping clusters

Cool fact: Red-flowering currant is an essential native pollinator plant, and provides early spring nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Photo Credit: Nicole Marcotte
Skunk cabbage - Lysichiton americanum

Skunk cabbage – Lysichiton americanum

Where to find it: Low elevation swamps and wet forests

Distinctive features: Large basal leaves that can reach up to 1.5 m long with flowers on a thick stalk, which is hooded by a large yellow bract

Cool fact: The leaves of this plant were used by First Nations people as wax paper for wrapping food in steam pits and lining berry baskets.

Photo Credit: Nicole Marcotte
Salmonberry -Rubus spectabilis

Salmonberry – Rubus spectabilis

Where to find it: Low to subalpine elevations in wet forests and disturbed sites

Distinctive features: Deciduous shrub with zigzag-shaped branches, shredding bark and scattered prickles, with 1 to 4 pink flowers per branch

Cool fact: Salmonberry is a favorite of the Swainson’s thrush, and the ripening of its berries is associated with the arrival of this thrush, which is called the ‘salmonberry bird’ in many different languages.

Photo Credit: Nicole Marcotte
Trilium - Trilium ovatum

Trilium – Trilium ovatum

Where to find it: Mossy areas, stream banks, and shaded forests

Distinctive features: Solitary flowers with three white petals and three oval to heart-shaped leaves below

Cool fact: Trillium seeds are often dispersed by ants, and its flowers will turn pink to deep red with age.

Photo Credit: Michael Franum
Common camas - Cammasia quamash

Common camas – Cammasia quamash

Where to find it: Moist meadows and open prairies

Distinctive features: Has a flower spike with purple (sometimes white) flowers that open widely at the same time

Cool fact: When Meriwether Clark first noted the camas blooms in this region, he said they resembled ‘lakes of fine clear water.’

Photo Credit: Nicole Marcotte
Arrowleaf balsamroot - Balsamorhiza sagittata

Arrowleaf balsamroot – Balsamorhiza sagittata

Where to find it: East of the Cascades in dry conifer forests and open grasslands

Distinctive characteristics: Triangular or ‘arrow’ shaped basal leaves with large sunflower-like flowers

Cool fact: Balsamroot plants have a thick, woody taproot which was used as a coffee substitute by the First Nations people of this region.

For more resources on identifying native plants this spring, check out these helpful links:




  • Nicole Marcotte

    Nicole comes to us from the Northeast, where she graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies from St. Michael’s College in Vermont. She made the jump to Seattle to serve as a 2014 AmeriCorps member with EarthCorps. After a year of grubbing immense amounts of blackberry, spraying knotweed along the Cedar River, maintaining trails in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and planting plenty of native species, she realized that her true passions lie in habitat conservation and restoration. This newfound passion led her Forterra. If she’s not out frolicking through alpine meadows in her free time, you can find her in Washington Park Arboretum where she likes to create botanical-artwork from fallen flowers and foliage.