Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest
In Canada, the balsamroot plant only occurs on the south eastern portion of Vancouver Island. It is usually found in rocky, exposed areas containing Garry oak, or in open meadows near the ocean. Balsamroot habitat destruction and aggressive invasion of exotic species are the main threats to the balsamroot plant. These threats are real, we could loose this plant in the next few years if we don’t protect it. No government legislation exists to protect rare and endangered vascular plants in British Columbia.
The Balsamroot is a perennial herb arising from a deep fleshy taproot with stems reaching to a height of 1 m. It is a member of the aster family. The basal leaves are large, long stalked and triangular. The stem leaves are much smaller and narrower. Each flower head consists of a central disk bearing small yellow flowers and a peripheral ring of larger yellow flowers.
Balsamroot occurs from the southeast coast of Vancouver Island south through Puget Sound to the Willamette Valley of central Oregon into California. In Canada, it is known from coastal locations on the southeast side of Vancouver Island and from Campbell River where a large population can be found. Balsamroot usually occurs in woodlands dominated by Garry Oak or Douglas fir but they are sometimes found in meadow ecosystems as well.
The amount of potential habitat on southeast Vancouver Island has declined greatly over the past century as suitable woodlands and maritime meadows have been destroyed during the development of land for residential and recreational use. A large portion of the habitat supporting the largest Canadian population, near Campbell River, has been converted into parking lots and light industrial developments since the last assessment in late 2007.
This plant needs to be recognized as extremely endangered and protected from further destruction of habitat. In 2007 there were 1,589 plants in Canada that were large enough to flower. Most populations appear to be relatively stable since 1996, however the largest population from the Campbell River Spit site had declined from a peak of 1,700 plants in 1992 to 345 plants in 2007.