ISSN 1188-603X

No. 156 February 10, Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


Dr. Vojtech Holubec, the Czech botanist and expert alpine gardener, will speak on Sunday, February 16, 1997, at 2:30 p.m., in room A240 of the Human & Social Resources Building at UVIC. His topic will be:

"Kamtchatka - A land of fire, ice, beautiful alpines and fantastic dwarf willows"

Admission is $5.00 and tickets are available at the door, at Ivy's Books and at all Dig This stores.


From: Adolf Ceska ( & the CDC Newsletter No. 5 - December 1996

Seek and ye shall find! On September 18, 1996, Jane Wentworth (Washington Natural Heritage Program) took botanists George Douglas and Jenifer Penny (both from the B.C. Conservation Data Centre [CDC]) to a site of tall bugbane (Cimicifuga elata - Ranunculaceae) on Vedder Mountain in Washington, in order to survey the plant's habit and habitat. This paid off nicely next day, when Jane, George, and Jenifer discovered over 50 plants growing in a 6-hectare area of a 70-100-year-old western red-cedar (Thuja plicata) stand in the British Columbia part of Vedder Mountain near Cultus Lake. Tall bugbane was considered extinct in British Columbia since the last collection came from the late 1950's, and the plant has not been seen lately [cf. BEN # 10]. The plant is on the rare plant lists over its entire range in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

There was initial concern for the viability of the new Cultus Lake site, since it fell partly within a small business logging sale area in the Chilliwack Forest District. This concern was quickly alleviated when Ian Blackburn and Greg George (from the B.C. Ministry of Environment) took immediate action. Within days, a site inspection by the logging company and CDC staff resulted in alteration of the sale area boundaries and the establishment of a Wildlife Tree Patch for the Cimicifuga population.

After this find was published in the British Columbia CDC Newsletter (No. 5 - December 1996), Rob Scagel (Pacific Phytometric Consultants) reported to the CDC another population of Cimicifuga elata in the cut blocks on the north side of Vedder Mountain, in experimental plots established by the B.C. Ministry of Forests. He also mentioned the occurrence of the species near the junction of the Tamihi Creek with the Chilliwack River, and along the ridge top trail from Chipmunk Creek to Mt. Cheam. (The early botanist J.R. Anderson collected the plant from "Mt. Cheam" in 1899.)

Both Rob Scagel and George Douglas urge botanists to look for new sites of this plant. Mt. Liumchen of the B.C. Cascade Range is another area where the plant has been seen in the past and not collected since 1957. Please contact Dr. George Douglas (phone 250-256-5019, e-mail for more information on how to gather data needed for the CDC database of rare and endangered plant species. For more information on the ecology and conservation of Cimicifuga elata see BEN # 121.


From: Art Guppy, P.O.Box 7216, Stn. "D", Victoria, B.C. V9B 4Z3

[Adolf asked me to write a short note on the cultivation ofCastilleja levisecta. That is a difficult assignment. In fact it is impossible for me to do it as a short note.]

Castillejas are hemi-parasites which attach to the roots of other plants. Identifying host plants is difficult. I have in my garden 8 Castilleja species that have reached flowering size, and another 4 are coming along, but are still quite small. Of these 12 species I found in the literature only one host plant identified. Castilleja linariifolia (the state flower of Wyoming) can sometimes be seen growing with Artemisia tridentata (sagebrush) with no other plants nearby, so identifying that parasite-host pair was not difficult. By doing a little plantwatching, I have been able to identify common hosts of two Castillejas frequently seen at low altitudes on southern Vancouver Island. Castilleja miniata commonly grows on Alnus rubra, and C. hispida is often on Symphoricarpus albus or on Holodiscus discolor. Frequently these Castillejas are found where rock and hard clay keeps the roots of the trees or shrubs near the surface. I have grown these Castillejas in pots with their hosts and observed them to thrive and flower very well. I have observed that at the edges of subalpine meadows C. miniata is often associated with willows, but have not yet tested that pairing.

When I have not known the natural host for a Castilleja, I have tried a substitute host and often these are successful, but sometimes there are problems that probably would not arise with the natural host. Castillejas on substitute hosts seem prone to wilting on warm days as if unable to get sufficient water from their hosts.

This brings me to the problem that I have writing about Castilleja levisecta. I don't know its natural host. I do have a C. levisecta thriving in a pot on Symphoricarpos albus, but I don't suppose anyone would want Symphoricarpos albus in a garden as it is a very invasive weed. In my garden I have two plants of C. levisecta growing on a dwarf form of Spiraea japonica, and last May one produced 13 inflorescences, though these were not as plump as they are in nature, likely because the plant was not getting enough water from its unnatural host.

[In the Beacon Hill Park, where Castilleja levisecta used to grow, and on Trial Island, two plants that regularly accompanied Castilleja levisecta were Eriophyllum lanatum and the coastal variety of Festuca rubra. - AC]

Recently I have been trying Symphoricarpos mollis as a host plant for several Castillejas, and the first results are excellent. I doubt this is ever a host plant in nature as its choice of habitat probably would not suit Castillejas. I have a very showy, semi-dwarf form of C. hispida from the Oregon Cascades growing on this host, and it is doing extremely well. Unlike Symphoricarpus albus, S. mollis seems not to be invasive provide one cuts back the long runners. I have great hopes for success using this host with C. levisecta. When I have the sunshine yellow of C. levisecta next to the blinding red of Oregon C. hispida, you will need sunglasses to view them.

All of the 12 species of Castilleja growing in my garden and in pots have been raised from seed. I do not recommend collecting Castilleja plants from the wild as the combination of the shock of being moved to a new host would almost certainly kill the Castilleja. Certainly growing from seed is much quicker and easier. Twice I have had a Castilleja in a bloom within less than 6 months of the germinating of the seed.

There are several ways of growing Castillejas from seed, but I can only describe the two I have used. Several books recommend what I call the "sow and pray method"; that is one takes a handful of seed, goes out in the garden, and scatters it about. That might succeed if you are good with prayer.

I have used what I call the "improved sow and pray method." This requires some preparation. You must propagate a number of possibly suitable host plants (strong growing perennials). These should be young seedlings and rooted cuttings, quite small, and with roots near the surface. Tastefully space these prospective hosts about where you hope to have Castillejas, and then sow the Castillejas seeds close to the host roots. Choosing the time for sowing requires luck and judgment; it must be early enough in the winter to allow the seeds a sufficient period of cold, but the earlier you sow, the more time the rain has to wash away the seeds. With an easy species such as Castilleja miniata, provided you use plenty of seed, your chances of success are very good.

I no longer need to sow seeds of Castilleja miniata because the plants self-sow prolifically, and I frequently pull up seedlings as weeds. With other species I generally do not have much seed to spare, and I use the more painstaking method which follows.

You will need clean, sterilized sand, a suitable container such as 500 gram yogourt container and, as a cover, a piece of thin plastic cut from a plastic bag. Put about 2 cm of moist sand in the bottom of the container, level it, and sow the seed evenly over the surface. Sprinkle on enough dry sand to almost cover the seeds. (The dry sand will immediately take up moisture from the moist sand.) Place the covered container in a fridge at about 5 degrees C.

Germination will usually take place in the fridge after about 1 to 4 months. If there has been no germination after 3 to 5 months, depending on what seems a reasonable period of cold for the species, bring the container out of the fridge and place it in a window or in a green house. Some Castillejas seem to germinate best in the cold; others need warmth. Castilleja levisecta seeds will germinate in the fridge within about 2 months.

While the seeds are in the fridge, you need to get host plants ready. Fairly young seedling host plants or small rooting cuttings are best as their roots are near the surface and they won't cut off light to the tiny Castilleja seedlings. Pot the hosts in a well-drained, light, sandy soil. Deep clay pots of about 14 cm diameter are suitable. The potted hosts can be plunged in the garden until the Castillejas need them. At that time submerge the pots in water for at least 24 hours to drown any unwelcome guests; then allow them to drain for some hours.

When the seedlings Castillejas have unfolded their seed leaves, they are ready to plant, but they can be left in the fridge for some time after that without suffering harm. Make several small hollows in the soil near the host roots. Use a spoon to scoop out the tiny Castillejas with their roots enclosed in moist sand and place them in the hollows. Dry sand can be used to fill in around them, and this should immediately be moistened. Place the pot in a clear plastic bag, and close the bag above the pot to form a tent. If the host is tall it may protrude from the bag. Place the pot where it will get plenty of light but little direct sun. After the seedlings are growing you can gradually open the bag and then roll it down. Thin the seedlings down to no more than three in a pot. When the Castillejas are sturdy young plants, they and their host can be removed together from the pot and planted in the garden.

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