Flora of British Columbia

Covering the span of undergrowth to old-growth trees, over 3000 species of plant life are native to British Columbia.

Two temperate rain forests, coastal regions, mountainous zones, and an area of arid plateau are each adorned in differing styles. Because of the geographic sprawl found in BC, there are vast differences found in every direction. Each form of plant life adds to the natural wonder that is British Columbia. With so many species in every region, it's good to familiarize oneself with the basics, but be prepared for something new.

British Columbia Coastal Rainforest

Coastal Rainforest

One BC's primary rainforest regions is the Great Bear Rainforest, stretching over 12,000 square miles. Roughly 100 inches of rain per year falls in this region! This land is so rich in plant and animal life, that some have referred to it as the Amazon of the North. Western Red Cedar and Sitka Spruce are two of the species of trees dominant here.

Some of the cedar trees are over 1000 years old while some of the spruce grow to 300 feet tall! Other large conifer trees also feature here: multiple species of hemlock, pine, and Douglas fir. Deciduous trees are less common, but because the temperatures remain moderate year-round, Big-Leaf Maple are a part of the equation.

But rainforests are not all about trees. British Columbia's coast also plays host to a wide variety of moss, lichen, ferns, bushes, and even grass. Epiphytes are plant life without roots, and in the Great Bearcat Rainforest, they can be found hanging most everywhere. Some of the more common species are Dicranum fuscescens, Scapania bolanderi, and Bazzania denudata. Aside from the scientific names, these different style of mosses and lichen cling to the bark of trees at different elevations, creating a density of plant life unrivaled throughout most of North America.

Ferns and bushes, some with berries, are also spread throughout the rainforest. Two of the most dominant fern species are the sword and deer ferns. Among the bushes present, one of the most popularly sought after by humans and animals is the huckleberry. These moderately sized bushes produce one of the tastiest treats enjoyed by herbivore and omnivore residents of the forest.

British Columbia Southern Mainland

Southern Mainland

British Columbia is a mountainous region. Where elevation changes so steeply to disallow prairies, there are more than enough trees to compensate in the presence of plant life. Species of conifer cover every hillside until the elevation gets so steep that only the rock and ice remain.

Since most of the rain falls on the coast, BC's interior mountains generally do not carry the plethora of undergrowth seen in the Great Bear Rainforest. A wider variety of trees are found inland because there is so much more room for them to spread out. Multiple types of spruce, fir, pine, and larch dominate the evergreen populations.

Deciduous trees are more common inland as well. Aspen, alder, cottonwood, birch, maple, and oak add to the rich habitat for wildlife that is found in this area of BC. Since deciduous trees lose their leaves every fall, some spectacular vistas can be seen while driving through British Columbia's mountains.

Lowland plateaus carry completely different styles of plant life. It is here where a person can find British Columbia's provincial flower: Cornus nuttallii, of the Dogwood family. Sage brushes and bunch grasses are among the scrub style of scattered flora. It is interesting to note that several scrub species of plant life also form above the tree line on mountains before giving way to a lack of soil. One such order that propagates several species is Vaccinium. 

Bromegrass, fescue, and hairgrass can be found among the relatively few pockets of protected rainshadow lowland in British Columbia. Big-game of all sorts rely on habitat convergence areas like these grassy fields for continued health and a balanced ecosystem.

British Columbia Inland Rainforest

Inland Rainforest

British Columbia's Rocky Mountains are hiding one of the world's best-kept secrets: the Incomappleux Valley. Loggers found this wet region in the 20th century and proceeded to harvest as much wood as they could. This process came to an end in 2003, and a clear-cut region with a lone tree dating back to 1800 years still standing is a sign that conservation is the new direction.

Another name this region goes by is the Valhalla Rainforest. It lies along the western edge of the Rocky Mountains, collecting heavy rains as weather systems stack up against a natural barrier. It is dominated by a combination of cedar and hemlock trees dating back more than a millennium in places. 21st-century science expeditions continue to describe a wealth of information regarding floral species sometimes thought to have been extinct. One such species of concern is the Nephroma occultum.

Lichen species are still being discovered in this area. 40 potentially new species were being examined in 2007 following verification of 13 guaranteed newly discovered species. This form of plant life serves as a natural fertilizer by collecting environmental nitrogen and aiding in tree growth. Nearly 300 species of lichen have been described in this rich region.

Other valleys in the Valhalla Rainforest region of British Columbia remain largely unexplored. Rare orchids, worts, mushrooms, and shrubbery are found nearly every time someone ventures into the wilderness here. Plant enthusiasts really need to take advantage of this South Eastern BC hotspot for scientific discovery!


British Columbia Northern Interior

Northern Interior

Remote, rugged, cold, wild. British Columbia largely exists in this region the way it has for thousands of years. Grasses are the dominant feature of the northeastern section, which happens to be the edge of the Yukon Plateau. These grasses have been at the center of continued studies as recently as 2011 to help further the understanding of northern BC's flora. Bentgrass, orchard-grass, and oatgrass are a few of the species present that have been defined.

Wildflowers are also found in abundance in this area of British Columbia. Orchids, lilies, poppies, and so many more are scattered along the ground. There is a relatively short growing season in North BC. This means that some of the plants shielded from heavy precipitation in the southern regions are also visible here. For example, several species of flowering willow shrubs decorate the area.

Trees are not uncommon in northeastern BC. Stands of birch and spruce thrive in the soil present. Aspen and other deciduous trees are also found here. Conifers line the hillsides surrounding the plateau.