Species Profile

Grand Coulee Owl-clover

Scientific Name: Orthocarpus barbatus
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2005
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Grand Coulee Owl-clover


Grand Coulee Owl-clover is a yellowish-green annual herb covered entirely with hairs. Its stem is erect, sometimes branched above and 8 to 25 cm tall. Its leaves are linear, entire or deeply cleft into long, narrow lobes with small tail-like appendages. They are arranged alternately around the stem and are 2 to 4 cm long. The yellow, tube-shaped flowers are grouped in a terminal spike. The fruits are elliptical capsules containing several seeds. Grand Coulee Owl-clover is distinguished from two other yellow-flowered species of owl-clover of south-central British Columbia, O. luteus and O. tenuifolius, by its bracts, which are cleft in three to five long narrow lobes. Those of the other two species are cleft in three shorter lobes.


Distribution and Population

Grand Coulee Owl-clover occurs east of the Cascade Mountains in western North America, from the southern Okanagan Valley in south-central British Columbia south to Grant County in south-central Washington. In Canada, Grand Coulee Owl-clover occurs at four sites in the southern Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. The size of the four Canadian populations range from 185 to approximately 8,000 plants, for a total of 9,000 to 12,500 individuals. Population trends are not well known, with only one site having data from more than several years.



The populations of British Columbia occur in the bunchgrass zone (bunchgrass grows in dense tufts), which has a cold, semi-arid climate. Summers are hot and dry, with mean July temperatures of approximately 20°C and little precipitation. The bunchgrass zone is one of the most populated and developed areas in the British Columbia interior. In this area, Grand Coulee Owl-clover is limited to extremely dry, open sagebrush communities at lower elevations, often on sites with sandy to gravelly soils. In general, trends for natural habitats in the Okanagan Valley have shown a marked decline in recent years due to various land developments.



Grand Coulee Owl-clover is an annual plant that probably germinates in May and dies in late July. Its very showy flowers are pollinated primarily by bees. It appears that owl-clover species are predominately outbreeders. Like all members of the genus Orthocarpus, Grand Coulee Owl-clover is a hemiparasite, which means that it forms a root system with other plant species. Although it is capable of producing its own food through the process of photosynthesis, it must obtain water and nutrients through parasitic root connections with neighbouring plants. Although it tends to have enhanced growth and reproduction in the presence of a host, it is capable of growing and producing flowers in the absence of a host.



Grand Coulee Owl-clover is limited to dry open sagebrush communities. Certain alien plants, particularly newly introduced species, are a major threat to the species. Land development for orchards, vineyards, golf courses and housing is currently the most serious threat to this species.



Federal Protection

The Grand Coulee Owl-clover is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Grand Coulee Owl-clover receives no protection at the provincial level. The largest Canadian population of Grand Coulee Owl-clover, located in the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, is protected under the British Columbia Provincial Park Act, which prohibits certain activities in the area, such as logging and mining.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Grand Coulee Owl-clover (Orthocarpus barbatus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Grand Coulee Owl-clover Orthocarpus barbatus in Canada (2005)

    Grand Coulee owl-clover (Orthocarpus barbatus) is a member of the broomrape family (Orthocarpaceae) and one of nine members of the genus Orthocarpus, of which five species occur in British Columbia and Canada. The species is a yellowish annual herb, reaching 8-25 cm in height. The alternate leaves are stalkless and 2-4 cm long. The yellow flowers are 10-12 mm long, tube-shaped, with yellowish-green bracts. The fruits are elliptical capsules containing several seeds with tight-fitting, netted coats.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Grand Coulee Owl-clover (2005)

    A semiparasitic annual restricted to a small area east of the Cascade Mountains. The few small populations are subject to extreme fluctuations in numbers of mature plants and at continued risk from introduced weeds, overgrazing and housing developments. One population in South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area is protected from development.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Grand Coulee Owl-clover (Orthocarpus barbatus) in Canada (2012)

    The Grand Coulee Owl-clover was listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as Endangered in August 2006. In the spirit of cooperation of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Government of British Columbia has given permission to the Government of Canada to adopt the “Recovery Strategy for the Grand Coulee Owl-clover (Orthocarpus barbatus) in British Columbia” under Section 44 of the Species at Risk Act. As the competent minister under SARA, the federal Minister of the Environment has included an addition (Part 1) which completes the SARA requirements for this recovery strategy, and excludes the section on Socio-Economic Considerations. Socio-economic factors are not part of the consideration process for federal recovery strategies developed under SARA. These factors are kept isolated from this strategic phase of recovery planning. The British Columbia Ministry of Environment led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the species (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment Canada.


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.