COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Deltoid Balsamroot Balsamorhiza deltoidea in Canada - 2009
Committee on the Status
of Endangered Wildlife
Comité sur la situation
des espèces en péril
COSEWIC status reports are working documents used in assigning the status of wildlife species suspected of being at risk. This report may be cited as follows:
COSEWIC. 2009. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Deltoid Balsamroot Balsamorhiza deltoidea in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 22 pp.
(Species at Risk Status Reports)
COSEWIC. 2000. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Deltoid Balsamroot Balsamorhiza deltoidea in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 23 pp.
(Species at Risk Status Reports)
Ryan, M., and G.W. Douglas. 1996. COSEWIC status report on the Deltoid Balsamroot Balsamorhiza deltoidea in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. 1–23 pp.
For additional copies contact:
c/o Canadian Wildlife Service
Ottawa ON K1A 0H3
Également disponible en français sous le titre Évaluation et Rapport de situation du COSEPAC sur la balsamorhize à feuilles deltoïdes (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) au Canada – Mise à jour.
Deltoid Balsamroot -- Photo by Hans Roemer.
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2009.
Catalogue No.: CW69–14/45–2009E–PDF
Deltoid Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) is a perennial herb arising from a deep, fleshy taproot with stems reaching to heights 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. The fruits are small, dry, hairless achenes.
Deltoid Balsamroot occurs from the southeast coast of Vancouver Island south through Puget Sound to the Willamette Valley of central Oregon onwards into California.
In Canada, it is known from coastal locations on the southeast side of Vancouver Island from Campbell River to the vicinity of Victoria. The extent of occurrence is approximately 1000–1200 km2. The Canadian populations are approximately 150 km from the nearest extant populations in the United States. The Canadian range constitutes less than 1% of the species’ global range. The current Index of Area of Occupancy is 16 km2.
In Canada, Deltoid Balsamroot occurs from low to mid elevations (up to 250 m asl). The soil tends to be well to rapidly drained. The soil is generally moist in the spring but the moisture level diminishes as the growing season progresses. By the time the fruits are developing and the plants are senescing, the soil experiences significant water deficits for prolonged periods.
Deltoid Balsamroot usually occurs in woodlands dominated by Garry Oak and/or Douglas–fir, or in meadow ecosystems. Shrubs are usually sparse although invasive shrubs are often present. The herb layer tends to be well developed and dominated by a relatively even mix of grasses and forbs. Invasive grasses are always present and often dominate the herb layer.
The amount of potential habitat on southeast Vancouver Island and the adjacent offshore islands 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 significant portion of the habitat supporting the largest Canadian population, near Campbell River, has been converted into parking lots and light industrial developments since the species was last assessed in 2000.
First Nations on southeast Vancouver Island used fire extensively to stimulate the growth of food species and improve forage for game species. Fire suppression has led to major changes in vegetation and soil conditions that have greatly reduced the suitability of remaining habitat. The habitat at most locations has greatly deteriorated due to invasion by exotic invasive shrubs and grasses.
Two populations occur on federal lands: one in a national historic site and the other in an Indian Reserve. One population occurs in a provincial ecological reserve, as well as on adjacent private land. Three populations occur in parks managed by municipal or regional governments. The remaining two populations occur completely within private lands.
In Canada, shoot dormancy begins to break in April and flowering peaks in May. The flowers are pollinated by insects. Seed production is often limited by vertebrate grazing, insects feeding in the flower heads, and high levels of seed abortion. The dry fruits are shed as the plants begin to wither, usually in late June, and most seeds probably fall close to the parent plants.
Seeds probably germinate in early spring. Most plants likely require several years to reach maturity.
In Canada, natural populations of Deltoid Balsamroot may be heavily affected by vertebrate and invertebrate defoliators.
Population Sizes and Trends
Deltoid Balsamroot has been reported from at least 16, and perhaps as many as 20 locations in Canada, only eight of which have extant populations. Based on the most recent data, from each site, in 2007 there were 1589 plants in Canada that are large enough to flower.
Most subpopulations/populations appear to have been relatively stable since 1996, however the largest population has declined from a peak of approximately 1700 plants in 1992 to 345 plants in 2007. This is the result of commercial development of the site in 2003. The sharp decline in this population accounts for most of the 35–40% decline in the total Canadian population since 1996.
Limiting Factors and Threats
Apart from the threats posed by invasive species and herbivory, some Deltoid Balsamroot populations are threatened by trampling, flower–picking and trail maintenance activities. Actions have been taken to protect five of the populations from invasive shrubs, trampling and/or herbivory. Little action has been taken to control invasive grasses and forbs.
Four of the populations contain 10 or fewer mature plants, which predisposes them to extirpation by random events.
Special Significance of the Species
Deltoid Balsamroot has many traditional uses for culinary and medicinal purposes. Early settlers in the Victoria area used the seeds as chicken feed. The species has significant potential as a garden plant because of its showy blooms, although it tends to be susceptible to invertebrate herbivory.
Existing Protection or Other Status Designations
Deltoid Balsamroot is globally secure. It is ranked as a critically imperilled (S1) species in British Columbia, the only province/territory where it occurs. COSEWIC assessed Deltoid Balsamroot as Endangered in Canada in 2000. This endangered species is protected under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act on federal lands such as Indian Reserves and National Historic Sites.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was created in 1977 as a result of a recommendation at the Federal–Provincial Wildlife Conference held in 1976. It arose from the need for a single, official, scientifically sound, national listing of wildlife species at risk. In 1978, COSEWIC designated its first species and produced its first list of Canadian species at risk. Species designated at meetings of the full committee are added to the list. On June 5, 2003, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed. SARA establishes COSEWIC as an advisory body ensuring that species will continue to be assessed under a rigorous and independent scientific process.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other designatable units that are considered to be at risk in Canada. Designations are made on native species for the following taxonomic groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, arthropods, molluscs, vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.
COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three non–government science members and the co–chairs of the species specialist subcommittees and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge subcommittee. The Committee meets to consider status reports on candidate species.
- Wildlife Species
- A species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and is either native to Canada or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.
- Extinct (X)
- A wildlife species that no longer exists.
- Extirpated (XT)
- A wildlife species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere.
- Endangered (E)
- A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
- Threatened (T)
- A wildlife species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
- Special Concern (SC)*
- A wildlife species that may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
- Not at Risk (NAR)**
- A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances.
- Data Deficient (DD)***
- A category that applies when the available information is insufficient (a) to resolve a species’ eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the species’ risk of extinction.
COSEWIC Status Report on the
- Species Information
- Population Sizes and Trends
- Limiting Factors and Threats
- Special Significance of the Species
- Existing Protection or Other Status Designations
- Technical Summary
- Acknowledgements and Authorities Consulted
- Information Sources
- Biographical Summary of Report Writer
- Collections Examined
List of Figures
- Figure 1: Illustration of Deltoid Balsamroot
- Figure 2: Global Distribution of Deltoid Balsamroot
- Figure 3: Canadian Distribution of Deltoid Balsamroot
- Figure 4: Search Effort by Fairbarns
List of Tables
Deltoid Balsamroot is a well–defined species with no distinct subspecies or varieties (ITIS 2007).
Deltoid Balsamroot (Figure 1) is a perennial herb arising from a deep, fleshy taproot that bears one or more crowns. Each crown may produce one to several erect, up to 1 m tall, unbranched stems from a common base. The basal leaves are long–stalked, with large triangular blades as much as 50 cm long and 20 cm wide. Their margins are toothed but never lobed. The stem leaves are much smaller and somewhat narrower and the leaf stalks are progressively smaller up the stem. Each flower head consists of a central disk bearing small yellow flowers and a peripheral ring of larger yellow flowers. The fruits are small, dry, hairless achenes (Hitchcock et al. 1955). Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) is the only other species in Canada that might be confused with Deltoid Balsamroot, but the ranges of the two species do not overlap in Canada.
Deltoid Balsamroot is a diploid with a haploid number of n=19 (Weber 1946). Studies of the internal transcribed spacer region of the nuclear ribosomal DNA indicate marked differences among different U.S. populations (Moore and Bohs 2003).
A single designatable unit is recognized based on the occurrence of a single entity in Canada that is geographically restricted to a small region of British Columbia within the Pacific National Ecological Area recognized by COSEWIC.
J. Rumley from Hitchcock et al. 1955 with permission; entire plant; involucre and single floret.
Deltoid Balsamroot occurs from the southeast coast of Vancouver Island south through Puget Sound to the Willamette Valley of central Oregon onwards into California, where it occurs both in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and dry coastal areas as far as the vicinity of Santa Barbara (Figure 2).
In Canada, Deltoid Balsamroot is known from coastal locations on the southeast side of Vancouver Island from Campbell River to the vicinity of Victoria (Figure 3). The Extent of Occurrence (EO) was estimated by calculating the approximate length (in km) of coastline between northernmost and southernmost locations and multiplying this value by 3.0 (because the species is unlikely to grow more than 3 km inland). Using this procedure, the EO is estimated at approximately 1000–1200 km2. This may represent an overestimate of its extent of occurrence in Canada because the collection history indicates that the Campbell River population is disjunct rather than continuous with its main range further south in Canada. Based on a 1 x 1 km grid, the historic Index of Area of Occupancy (IAO) is 16 km2 and the present value is 8 km2. Based on a 2 x 2 km grid, the historic IAO is 32 km2 and the present value is 16 km2. Given the small size of occupied habitat and adjacent suitable habitat at extant locations the 1 x 1 km grid is more biologically appropriate than the coarser grid.
Circles indicate extant populations, stars indicate extirpated populations, triangle indicates an experimental re–introduction.
From Table 1 it is clear that almost all of the actual area of habitat occupied by the eight populations (about 10.3 ha in total) is comprised of the habitat primarily of three extant populations. These three populations (1, 3, 9) and possibly including #8, likely should be considered to represent viable populations based on having a seemingly adequate number of mature plants for the populations to persist, at least for the near future. Three of these (population 3, currently the largest, as well as 8 and 9) occur in regional parks; the fourth (population 1, currently the second largest but reduced in size by site development) is found on an Indian Reserve. On the basis of area occupied, the populations of Deltoid Balsamroot should not be considered to be severely fragmented based on IUCN criteria.
|Location and Ownership||Year||Collector/|
|Number of Plants/area||Notes|
Campbell River (Indian Reserve)
|1959||Beamish||unknown||Site variously referred to as south of Campbell River and north of Campbell River but probably all the same site, which is north of the town of Campbell River but on the south shore of the river itself; Fairbarns (2007) counted all individuals large enough to reproduce whether or not they had flowers.|
(NGO protected area)
|1940s||Watts||unknown||Population consists of 25–30 container–raised plant which were re–introduced in 2004. The plants were still alive in 2007.|
(BC Ecological Reserve)
|1930||Newcombe||unknown||Fairbarns 2007: 253 plants on private land and 761 plants on crown land (only plants large enough to reproduce were counted). Approximately 35% of plants of reproductive size bore flowers.|
|2001||Douglas||no full count|
Fort Rodd Hill
(National Historic Site)
|1966||Ashlee||unknown||Fairbarns (2007) counted all individuals large enough to reproduce whether or not they had flowers.|
|1963||Hett||unknown||One subpopulation extirpated since first observed in 1963; all subsequent counts have come from the only other subpopulation.|
|1940||Eastham||unknown||Fairbarns (2005) counted several previously reported patches and counted all individuals large enough to reproduce whether or not they had flowers.|
|1999||Douglas & Fleming||~ 100/100 m2|
|1992||Cadrin||unknown||Fairbarns (2007) counted all individuals large enough to reproduce whether or not they had flowers.|
|1976||Brayshaw||unknown||Presumed extirpated (site destroyed in 1997).|
|1913||Macoun||unknown||Fairbarns (2007) counted all individuals large enough to reproduce whether or not they had flowers.|
|1887||Macoun||unknown||Presumed extirpated. Macoun collection labelled Cedar Hill, Newcombe collection labelled Lost Lake, Walker collection labelled Lakehill.|
|1893||Macoun||unknown||“Victoria Arm” appears to have been an informal name and the location is unknown (perhaps Saanich Peninsula).|
|1876||Dawson||unknown||“Dews Harbour” appears to have been an informal name and the location is unknown.|
|1930||Newcombe||unknown||South Saanich is a large area, which includes locations 10, 11, 15 and 16. Newcombe collection may have been from one of these populations or may have been a different location within South Saanich.|
|1896||Anderson||unknown||Anderson collection labelled “Skist” Mtn. may have been Skirt Mtn (population #8, above).|
n.b. Apart from Fairbarns, investigators did not indicate whether they were counting all plants or just mature individuals
The Canadian populations are approximately 50 km from the nearest historic U.S. population in Islands County, Washington State. The Islands County population, which occurs in a well–studied conservation area, has not been reported since 1934 and is presumed extirpated. The next nearest populations are in South Puget Sound, approximately 150 km from Canada (Arnett pers. comm. 2007). The Canadian EO constitutes less than 1% of the species’ global range.
This section is based on data collected by M. Fairbarns from extant Canadian populations of Deltoid Balsamroot.
In Canada, the species occurs from low to mid–elevations (up to 250 m asl). The slope angle varies from 0–50% and on steeper slopes the populations generally occur on west or south facing aspects. The soils appear to consist of thick (≥ 30 cm deep), medium to coarse–textured deposits, usually with a high component of coarse fragments. The soil tends to be well to rapidly drained. In the early growing season, the soil tends to remain moist. The soil moisture level diminishes as the growing season progresses and by the time the fruits are developing and the plants are senescing the soil experiences significant water deficits for prolonged periods. The surface is characterized by relatively small amounts of exposed mineral soil and fine litter. Coarse woody debris is usually present but rarely abundant. While the roots of deltoid balsamroot appear to require deep soil, rocks frequently outcrop near or within populations.
Deltoid Balsamroot usually occurs in woodlands dominated by Garry Oak and/or Douglas–fir, or in meadow ecosystems. Shrubs are usually sparse although on occasion their cover may be as high as 25%. The most frequent native shrub species are Dull Oregon–grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Invasive shrubs, primarily Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius*)1, are often present but rarely abundant. Spurge–laurel (Daphne laureola*) is occasionally present and may even dominate the shrub layer in places. In most cases, invasive shrubs appear to have displaced herbaceous species.
The well–developed herb layer tends to be dominated by a relatively even mix of grasses and forbs. Leading native forbs include Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Camas (Camassia spp.), Field Chickweed (Cerastium arvense), Menzies’ Larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), Cleavers (Galium aparine), Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum), Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis), Pacific Sanicle (Sanicula crassicaulis) and Death–camas (Zygadenus venenosus). Invasive forbs are usually present but rarely abundant. The most frequent species are Tiny Vetch (Vicia hirsuta*) and Common Vetch (V. sativa*). Grass Peavine (Lathyrus sphaericus*), an invasive member of the pea family, is rarely present but where it does occur it may be abundant. The only native grass that is frequent and moderately abundant is Blue Wildrye (Elymus glaucus). Invasive grasses are inevitably present and often dominate the herb layer. Leading species include Sweet Vernal–grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum*), Soft Brome (Bromus hordeaceus*), Hedgehog Dogtail (Cynosurus echinatus*), Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis*) and Barren Brome (Vulpia bromoides*). The invasive grasses have probably displaced native grasses and forbs. The bryoid layer, composed of mosses, liverworts and lichens, is rarely well–developed.
Summer droughts cause the herbaceous vegetation to die back in June and July so moisture competition is probably a critical stressor and plant adaptations to moisture stress undoubtedly play a critical role in determining species competition. Mature Deltoid Balsamroot plants possess a long, deep taproot that stores moisture and nutrients, and accesses soil moisture below the rooting zone of most co–occurring herbaceous species. In contrast, seedlings of Deltoid Balsamroot have shallow root systems and probably suffer greatly from competition with other herbaceous species – particularly invasive grasses.
The open tree canopy, where present, probably casts relatively little shade, especially on south–facing slopes. In contrast, low shrubs such as Common Snowberry can cast dense shade, which likely explains the absence of Deltoid Balsamroot on sites where low shrubs are abundant.
Some of the ecosystems where Deltoid Balsamroot occurs were well–suited to burning by First Nations for food plants or other purposes (Turner 1999). Wildfire may have also played a significant role in maintaining ecosystem properties and functions.
Habitat Loss and Fragmentation
The amount of potential habitat on southeast Vancouver Island and the adjacent offshore islands 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. The extent of Garry Oak ecosystems in Victoria decreased 95% from 10 510 ha in 1800 to 512 ha in 1997 (Lea 2002). There is an ongoing decline in the extent of habitat suitable for the establishment of new populations as recommended in the recovery strategy for this species (Parks Canada 2006). This is due to strong demands for more recreational sites and more intensive housing development within the Canadian range of Deltoid Balsamroot. For example, the population of metropolitan Victoria has increased from approximately 180 000 in 1966 to an estimated 348 467 in 2007 and is projected to increase to 407 600 by 2026 (CRD 2007a,b). The most expensive and sought–after properties are in coastal areas, where most Deltoid Balsamroot habitat is found. As a result, there will be continued pressure to develop woodland and meadow habitats capable of supporting the species.
A significant portion of the habitat supporting the largest Canadian population, near Campbell River, has been converted into parking lots and light industrial developments since the species was last assessed in 2000. The threat of habitat loss is exacerbated by the severe fragmentation of remaining habitat.
Altered Fire Regimes
Pre–European fire regimes in the dry coastal belt of southeast Vancouver Island are probably more complex than is generally reported. There is no doubt that First Nations in the area used fire extensively to stimulate the growth of food species – particularly camas bulbs that provided a storable form of starch. Fire may also have been used to improve forage for game species such as elk and deer (Turner and Bell 1971).
Frequent low–intensity burns killed young Red Alder (Alnus rubra) and Douglas–fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and checked the growth of Trembling Aspen and most shrub species – notably Common SnowberryandNootka Rose(Rosa nutkana). The resulting increase in light levels and decrease in competition favoured the growth of herbaceous plants such as Deltoid Balsamroot. Even the composition of the herb layer altered, because many highly competitive plants decrease under a regime of frequent burning.
First Nations’ fire management practices also played a significant role in the development (and therefore fertility) of soils. The organic component of the upper mineral horizon was not greatly reduced by low–intensity fires because it accumulated through the in–situ decomposition of roots material. In contrast, the surface organic materials did burn rather than accumulate, releasing nutrients. Because the main inputs of organic matter came from herbs rather than coniferous trees, the upper mineral horizon also had a near neutral pH reaction in sharp contrast to the acidic nature of soils under Douglas–fir forests (Broersma 1973). As well, the frequent fires provided a continuous supply of ‘safe sites’ where the seeds of Deltoid Balsamroot may have been able to germinate and grow without the stifling influences of surface organic horizons.
Habitat Invasion by Exotic and Native Species
Most locations have a significant cover of exotic invaders including shrubs and/or grasses (see above). At some sites, Common Snowberry, a native shrub, appears to have expanded into most of the habitat formerly available to Deltoid Balsamroot.
Scotch Broom and other invasive shrubs are being controlled in five of the eight extant populations but invasive grasses and forbs are not being controlled because of a lack of effective techniques.
One very small population (2 plants) occurs in a national historic site managed by Parks Canada Agency. There is a moderately large population (345 plants) in an Indian Reserve but much of the habitat at this site has been lost over the past decade (see Table 1). Another moderately large population (1017 plants) lies within a provincial ecological reserve, as well as on adjacent private land. Three populations occur in parks managed by municipal or regional governments. The remaining two populations occur completely within private lands. Deltoid Balsamroot present on federal lands are protected as an endangered species under the federal Species at Risk Act. Those present in parks under provincial and municipal jurisdictions would potentially receive some protection from habitat loss due to development activities.
In Canada, shoot dormancy begins to break in April. In average years, flowering peaks in May (Fairbarns pers. obs.). Flowers are pollinated by insects. A close relative, Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), does not appear to be capable of self–pollination. Arrowleaf Balsamroot is self–fertile when pollinated by bees but higher rates of seed set are achieved with cross–pollination (Cane 2005).
The dry fruits are shed as the plants begin to wither, usually in late June. The dry fruits lack any structures to aid dispersal by wind, water or animals (Fairbarns pers. obs.) so most seeds are probably dispersed over very short distances.
It is not certain when germination occurs under natural conditions but propagation studies have demonstrated that high germination rates are achieved after seeds are cold–stratified and then sown into outside beds during the spring (when temperature are between 2–6°C). In such conditions, 37% germination was observed over a 6–week period with the first seedlings emerging 18 days after they were sown (Drake and Ewing 1997). This suggests that under natural conditions germination normally occurs in early spring.
Young plants may be quite susceptible to root rot if the soil remains damp during the summer, normally a dormant season (Roemer pers. comm. 2006). In cultivation, plants may flower in their second year (Hook pers. comm. 2005). In nature, plants likely require several years to reach maturity.
In Canada, natural populations of Deltoid Balsamroot may be heavily affected by vertebrate and invertebrate defoliators. Columbia Black–tail Deer and Eastern Cottontails may remove sufficient leaf material to cause a long–term decline in plant vigour (Roemer pers. comm. 2006). The larval stage of a moth (Eurois occulta) has been found feeding on the foliage of Deltoid Balsamroot at one site (Roemer 2005) and invertebrate herbivory by unknown agents has been observed in many other locations. Fences may be built to protect the plants from vertebrate herbivores but have no effect on insect defoliators, which cause substantial leaf loss in several populations (Fairbarns pers. obs.). The original population at Somenos appears to have disappeared after the site was subjected to cattle grazing (Watts ex D. Polster pers. comm. 2007).
In the largest population, a high proportion of Deltoid Balsamroot seeds have been aborted in most years (Fairbarns pers. obs.), perhaps as a result of the rapid onset of drought conditions in June.
Fruits are small, dry, hairless achenes (Hitchcock et al. 1955) with no specialized structures to promote long–distance dispersal.
Taller shrubs and trees appear to suppress growth by limiting the amount of light available to Deltoid Balsamroot. Woody and herbaceous species (particularly robust invasive grasses and forbs) compete for nutrients. No evidence of other, biologically significant interspecific interactions affecting Deltoid Balsamroot has been noted.
Deltoid Balsamroot has attractive, showy flowers that are not easily overlooked. It has distinctive leaves that easily distinguish it from other plants with bright yellow flowers. Suitable sites have been surveyed repeatedly since the early 1980s in a series of projects designed to document the distribution of rare plants of Garry Oak woodlands and coastal prairies on southeast Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. The principal investigators included Adolf and Oldriska Ceska, Matt Fairbarns, Hans Roemer, Jenifer Penny, Harvey Janszen, Frank Lomer and the late George Douglas, all of whom are/were familiar with Deltoid Balsamroot. Fairbarns has conducted a focused search for this species throughout its extent of occurrence since 2002 but found no new populations (Figure 4).
In the absence of species–specific information, NatureServe criteria treat locations of vascular plants such as Deltoid Balsamroot as separate occurrences (populations) if they are separated by over 1000 m of persistently unsuitable habitat. COSEWIC generally accepts this criterion for vascular plant species. Deltoid Balsamroot has been reported from at least 16, and perhaps as many as 20 locations in Canada (Table 1), only eight of which have extant populations.
Based on the most recent data from each site, there are about 1589 plants in Canada that are large enough to flower.
An experimental re–introduction project has begun near Somenos, British Columbia, but it is too early to report on results (Polster pers. comm. 2007). The probability of persistence of this population is uncertain, therefore it is not treated as an extant population in this update.
The original status report (Ryan and Douglas 1994) estimated a total Canadian population size of 1907 mature individuals from a total of five verified locations. Three populations have subsequently been rediscovered at historic locations not reported by Ryan and Douglas (1994). They described the Fort Rodd Hill and Mill Hill populations as status unknown. These populations were subsequently rediscovered by the original collectors where they had been found originally; it seems quite unlikely the populations had been extirpated and re–established. Ryan and Douglas neglected to mention the 1896 Anderson collection from “Skist” (presumably Skirt) Mountain, nor did they mention conducting surveys in the area so it is quite possible this population has persisted since its original discovery.
The similarity in numbers between those reported in Table 1 and values presented by Ryan and Douglas are misleading. Large new subpopulations have been discovered at sites 3 and 9. Because these subpopulations and populations were presumably present but undetected all along, in 1996, the total Canadian population probably consisted of approximately 2600 mature individuals. Accordingly, the Canadian population appears to have declined from approximately 2600 individuals in 1996 to about 1589 in 2007. Considering uncertainties, particularly with population estimates prior to 2005, the decline is estimated at between 35–40% over the 11–year period.
Where there are comparable records, most subpopulations/populations appear to have been relatively stable since 1996. The single major exception has been a decline in the largest population (1) from a peak of approximately 1700 plants in 1992 to 345 plants in 2007. This is the result of commercial development of the site in 2003, which now consists of a 1600 m2 prairie remnant fenced off and surrounded by roads, a parking lot and light industrial buildings. The sharp decline in this population accounts for most of the decline in the Canadian population since 1996.
Extensive floristic surveys have been conducted in nearby areas of Washington State, including the Olympic Peninsula (Buckingham et al. 1995), the main islands of San Juan County (Atkinson and Sharpe 1993) and small islets in San Juan County (Giblin pers. comm. 2006). From these studies, it appears that Deltoid Balsamroot is absent from the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands. For these reasons, there is negligible opportunity for unassisted genetic immigration (seed or pollen) from the United States.
The impacts of invasive species and herbivory have already been discussed. Trampling and flower–picking threaten populations that occur along trails, as at Mount Tzuhalem, Thetis Lake, Beacon Hill and perhaps Campbell River. Trail maintenance activities, including regrading and mowing, pose a threat to the populations at Thetis Lake and Beacon Hill. Habitat loss and population size reduction due to commercial development has occurred at the Campbell River site.
The very small size of populations at Beacon Hill, Skirt Mountain, Fort Rodd Hill and Highland Pacific (all with 10 or fewer mature plants) predisposes them to stochastic events that could quickly eliminate them and, as well, to inbreeding depression.
Actions to Minimize Threats
The recovery strategy for Deltoid Balsamroot does not recommend actions for specific populations. This direction will be provided in an action plan, which has not yet been developed. Nevertheless, the following actions have been taken to protect the remaining populations.
Populations at Campbell River, Fort Rodd Hill, Mill Hill, Mount Tzuhalem, Thetis Lake, Highland Pacific and Beacon Hill have been mapped and the appropriate land owners/managers have been made aware of the locations.
The remnant population at Campbell River was fenced in 2007 to prevent it from being damaged by vehicles using the parking lot that encircles it. Transplant and propagation programs have been established at Campbell River although the transplants appear to have died and there is little or no suitable habitat in which to establish transplants. There is also a program to control invasive shrubs in the Campbell River population.
The Fort Rodd Hill population has been mapped and is being closely monitored. Invasive shrubs are being controlled. The population will be fenced to protect it from vertebrate herbivores.
The Mill Hill population has also been mapped and cages have been built around most of the plants to protect them from vertebrate grazing. Invasive shrubs are being controlled at the site.
The Mount Tzuhalem population has been protected from human activities by fencing much of the area and closing off some trail sections to direct people away from the plants. Unfortunately, flower heads were removed from many of the plants in both 2006 and 2007, apparently by people interested in harvesting the seeds. Invasive shrubs are being controlled in the vicinity of many subpopulations at Mount Tzuhalem.
Although invasive shrub control programs have been established at many sites, little or nothing has been done to control invasive grasses and forbs. As well, the main invasive shrub (Scotch Broom) is capable of quickly recolonizing sites from the long–lived seedbank if invasive shrubs are not removed on a regular basis. If Scotch Broom is allowed to re–establish itself, even small populations may quickly replenish the soil seedbank and reverse the benefits of many years of clearing.
Deltoid Balsamroot has many traditional culinary and medicinal uses (Garth 1953, Kunkel 1984, Usher 1974, Yanovsky 1936, Zigmond 1981). Early settlers in the Victoria area used the seeds as chicken feed (MacFie 1972), which suggests that the species may have once been both abundant and fecund in the area.
Deltoid Balsamroot has significant potential as a garden plant because of its showy blooms, although it tends to be susceptible to invertebrate herbivory and more resistant strains would be desirable. Seeds are not readily available in Canada. At least one grower propagates the species for sale as an ornamental but the plants are not widely available in the Canadian retail market.
NatureServe has rankeddeltoid balsamroot as “G5” (globally secure and essentially ineradicable). It is ranked “S2” (imperilled) in Washington. It has not been ranked by NatureServe member programs in California and Oregon, which generally means it is present but secure (NatureServe Explorer 2007).
The British Columbia Ministry of Environment has included Deltoid Balsamroot in the "Red–list" of taxa that are threatened or endangered in British Columbia and has ranked it as "S1" (critically imperilled) in British Columbia (BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer 2007). COSEWIC assessed Deltoid Balsamroot as Endangered in Canada (2000) and it is an endangered species protected under Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act on federal lands such as Indian Reserves and National Historic Sites.
Range of Occurrence in Canada: British Columbia
|Generation time (average age of parents in the population)||at least several yrs|
|Observed percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over the last 10 years||35–40% over the past 11 years|
|Projected percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over the next 10 years||Unknown|
|Observed percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over any 10 year period, over a time period including both the past and the future||Unknown|
|Are the causes of the decline clearly reversible?||Unknown|
|Are the causes of the decline understood?||Yes|
|Have the causes of the decline ceased?||No|
|Observed trend in number of populations|
Historical decline but stable since last report
|Are there extreme fluctuations in number of mature individuals?||Unlikely|
|Are there extreme fluctuations in number of populations?||No|
|Is the total population severely fragmented?|
More than one–half of the area is occupied by presumably viable populations and only a small proportion of the total population is in small isolated patches.
Number of Mature Individuals in Each Population
|Population||N Mature Individuals|
|#1. Campbell River||1014|
|#3. Mount Tzuhalem||2|
|#6. Fort Rodd Hill||1|
|#7. Skirt Mountain||53|
|#8. Mill Hill||166|
|#9. Thetis Lake||7|
|#10. Highland Pacific||1|
|#13. Beacon Hill||345|
|Number of populations (locations)||8|
Extent and Area Information
|Estimated extent of occurrence (km2)||1000–1200 km2|
|Observed trend in extent of occurrence||Stable|
|Are there extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence?||No|
|Estimated area of occupancy (km2)||8 based on a 1x1 km grid and|
32 based on a 2x2 km grid km2
|Observed trend in area of occupancy||Decline|
|Are there extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy?||No|
|Is the extent of occurrence or area of occupancy severely fragmented?||No|
|Number of current locations||8|
|Trend in number of locations|
Historical decline but presently stable
|Are there extreme fluctuations in number of locations?||No|
|Observed trend in area of habitat||declining in extent and quality|
Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats)
Rescue Effect (immigration from an outside source)
|Status of outside population(s)?||USA: secure|
|Is immigration known or possible?||No|
|Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada?||Unknown|
|Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada?||Yes|
|Is rescue from outside populations likely?||Unlikely|
Additional Sources of Information: None
Status and Reasons for Designation
Met criteria for Threatened, A2ac; B1ab(ii,iii.iv,v)+2ab(ii,iii,iv,v) but designated Endangered, B1ab(ii,iii.iv,v) +2ab(ii,iii,iv,v), because 4 of the native populations may not be viable.
|Reasons for designation:|
A showy perennial comprising only eight natural populations containing about 1600 mature plants. The largest population has declined greatly due to site development in recent years and accounts for most of the 35–40% decline in the total Canadian population. All populations experience continued habitat degradation from competition with invasive introduced plants. Four of the eight populations are also at risk of extirpation from stochastic events due to the presence of only one to several plants in each.
Applicability of Criteria
M. Fairbarns would like to acknowledge the generous help provided by Jenifer Penny and Marta Donovan of the BC Conservation Data Centre. Sid Watts gave Fairbarns a tour of the Mount Tzuhalem site, and provided useful observations based on his recollections of the site since he first visited it in the 1930s. Fairbarns also received valuable support from Andrea Schiller of the Canadian Forest Service.
Dr. Patrick Nantel. Conservation Biologist, Species at Risk Program. Parks Canada.
David Fraser. Endangered Species Specialist. Biodiversity Branch, Conservation Planning Section, Ministry of Environment, Government of British Columbia.
Gloria Goulet. Coordinator, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge. COSEWIC Secretariat, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada.
Kevin Fort. Species at Risk Biologist. Pacific Wildlife Research Centre, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada.
Jenifer Penny. Botanist. British Columbia Conservation Data Centre. Victoria, British Columbia.
Amsberry, L. and J. Maron. 2006. Effects of herbivore identity on plant fecundity. Vegetatio 187: 39–48.
Arnett, Joe. pers. comm. 2007. Telephone conversation with M. Fairbarns. December 2007. Botanist, Washington Natural Heritage Program.
Atkinson, S. and F. Sharpe. 1993. Wild Plants of the San Juan Islands (2nd edition). The Mountaineers, Seattle. 191 pp.
BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer. 2007. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Available for authorized users only. (Accessed: December 7, 2007).
Broersma, K. 1973. Dark soils of the Victoria area, British Columbia. M.Sc. Thesis. Department of Soil Science, University of British Columbia. Vancouver. 110 pp.
Buckingham, N.M., E.G. Schreiner, T.N. Kaye, J.E. Burger and E.L. Tisch. 1995. Flora of the Olympic Peninsula. Northwest Interpretive Association. Seattle. 199 pp.
Cane, J.H. 2005. Pollination needs of arrowleaf balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata (Heliantheae: Asteraceae). Western North American Naturalist. 65(3):359–364.
Drake, D. and K. Ewing. 1997. Germination Requirements of 32 Native Washington Prairie Species. pp. 181–187 in Ecology and Conservation of the South Puget Sound Prairie Landscape. P. Dunn and K. Ewing eds. The Nature Conservancy of Washington, Seattle, WA.
Garth, T.R. 1953. Atsugewi Ethnography. Anthropological Records 14:140–141
Giblin, D. pers. comm. 2006. E–mail correspondence with M. Fairbarns. Aug. 9, 2006. Collections Manager, University of Washington.
Hitchcock, C.L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J.W. Thomson. 1955. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 5: Compositae. Univ. Wash. Press, Seattle. 343 pp.
Hook, Fred. pers. comm. 2005. Conversation with M. Fairbarns. June 2005. Parks Environmental Technician, City of Victoria.
ITIS 2007. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. US Department of Agriculture. Accessed December 7, 2007.
Kunkel,G. 1984. Plants for human consumption. an annotated checklist of the edible phanerogams and ferns. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein.
Lea, T. 2002. Historical Garry Oak Ecosystems of Greater Victoria and Saanich Peninsula. 1:20 000 Map. Terrestrial Information Branch, B.C. Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management. Victoria, B.C.
MacFie. M. 1972. Vancouver Island and British Columbia: their history, resources, and prospects. Coles Publishing, Toronto, Ontario.
Moore, A. J., and L. Bohs. An ITS phylogeny of Balsamorhiza and Wyethia (Asteraceae: Heliantheae). Am. J. Bot. 2003 90:1653–1660
NatureServe 2004. Notes and Definitions for Habitat–based Plant EO Delimitation Guidance (MS Word Version, 53 Kb)(https://transfer.natureserve.org/download/longterm/PLANT_EO_%20SPECS/EO%20Specs%20Decision%20Tree%202004-10.doc), 1 October 2004.
NatureServe Explorer. 2007. An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 6.2. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. (Accessed: Dec. 7, 2007).
Parks Canada Agency. 2006. Recovery Strategy for Multi–Species at Risk in Garry Oak Woodlands in Canada. In Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Ottawa: Parks Canada Agency. 58 pp.
Polster, Dave. pers. comm. Telephone conversation with M. Fairbarns. December 2007. Restoration Scientist, Polster Environmental Services.
Roemer, H. 2005. Rare Plants of Mill Hill Regional Park, Victoria, B.C. Botanical Electronic News (BEN). March 14, 2005. ISSN 1188–603X.
Roemer, Hans. pers. comm. 2006. Conversation with M. Fairbarns. May 2006. Botanist, Victoria, B.C.
Ryan, M. and G. W. Douglas. 1994. Status report on the Deltoid Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza deltoidea. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario. 24 pp.
Turner, N.J. 1999. “Time to burn:” Traditional use of fire to enhance resource production by aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. In Indians, Fire and the Land in the Pacific Northwest. Edited by R. Boyd, Corvallis, OR, Oregon State University Press:185–218.
Turner, N.C. and M.A.M. Bell. 1971. The ethnobotany of the coast Salish Indians of Vancouver Island. Economic Botany 25:63–39.
Usher. G.A. 1974. Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable.
VREB (Victoria Real Estate Board) 2006. Historical MLS Sales Statistics.
Weber, W.A. 1946. A taxonomic and cytological study of the genus Wyethia, family Compositae, with notes on the related genus Balsamorhiza. American Midland Naturalist 35:400–452.
Yanovsky. E. 1936. Food Plants of the North American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 84 pp.
Zigmond, M.L. 1981. Kawaiisu Ethnobotany. Salt Lake City. University of Utah Press.
Matt Fairbarns has a B.Sc. in Botany from the University of Guelph (1980). He has worked on rare species and ecosystem mapping, inventory and conservation in western Canada for approximately 20 years. He was a botanist with the British Columbia provincial government until 2003 and now manages Aruncus Consulting, an independent biological conservation research company. He has written a number of COSEWIC status reports.
The following collections were examined:
- Royal BC Museum herbarium (V)
- University of Victoria herbarium (UVIC)
1 Asterisks indicate species which are not native to the range of Deltoid Balsamroot in BC.
- Date Modified: