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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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: