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Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest

Twinflower, BC Coastal Region
Twinflower, Photo By Robert Logan

This beautiful plant has two pink bell like flowers on a slender stem, and a thicker stem below which creeps along the ground, forming small mats of the plant. It is one of our smallest and most beautiful native flowers. Twinflower occurs all around the world in the boreal forest zone of the northern hemisphere. It grows in all of BC.

Twinflower is a small plant belonging to the honeysuckle family. It is evergreen and is characterized by above ground runners known as stolons from which numerous short shoots grow. The shoots are 4 to 6 cm. in height, up to 3 mm in diameter and they turn woody with age. They have small round leaves which  grow in pairs on opposite sides of the stems, these leaves can last for up to 16 months. The shoots are of two different kinds, the non reproductive ones only have leaves on them, while the flowering shoots also have flowers that are up to 15 cm. tall. Stolons are not produced until a plant is around 10 years old, then they grow in annual segments which can be as much as 48 cm long. Over time the stolons can become buried under a shallow layer of forest litter or duff and they take root at the nodes in between the different segments. The roots form a shallow, fibrous network with their growing tips in or just underneath the duff layer. The stolons also produce branches, and when a branch becomes separated from the main stolon, it grows on to form an entirely new plant. This vegetative propagation is the plants main method of reproduction, and as a result the species usually occurs as clonal patches, consisting of groups of plants which are genetically identical.

The Twinflowers common name is derived from its distinctive and unique way of flowering with two bell shaped flowers growing on a forked stem. The flowers are a pinkish white in color, downward facing and each consists of 5 petals. Their scent is described as very fragrant and almond or anise like, and they produce nectar which attracts pollinating insects. On the coast, The twinflower typically blossoms in June or July, although elsewhere in its range it can flower as late as September. Individual blossoms persist for about 7 days, and after pollination the flower develops into a  small, one seeded pod.

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