Wildflower friend or invasive foe?

During the Wildflower Festival, it’s important that you can correctly identify wildflower species. There’s nothing worse than thinking you have taken the most perfect photo of the alpine blooms, only to realize that it’s actually an invasive species that has stolen the habitat of native wildflowers.

Use this quick guide to help identify both wildflowers and invasive species and find all the resources you need to be an alpine wildflower expert!


Humming for Nectar
Mount Revelstoke National Park
Revelstoke, BC
A hummingbird hovers high in the alpine on Mount Revelstoke, about to get nectar from an indian paintbrush.
Photo by Matthew Timmins (@timminsphotos)


(Castilleja miniata)

Paintbrushes are one of the most recognisable flowers you can find in a subalpine meadow. Hummingbirds rely on this plant for food and are attracted to the red flowers. Although this plant gets energy from photosynthesis, it also steals energy from other plants by attaching to their roots.

subalpine daisy

Subalpine daisy

(Erigeron peregrinus)

Another subalpine species, this star-shaped flower is often mixed with lupines, paintbrushes, and arnica. This plant decreases in size as you get to higher elevations. People commonly mix up this plant and the invasive oxeye daisy so look for the purple petals.


Sitka valerian

(Valeriana sitchensis)

This shapeshifting plant starts with red shoots and pink flowers. This helps protect it from the sun. As the plant gets older, it begins to turn white and after the first frost in the fall, it gives off a sour, skunk-like odor!


Glacier lily

(Erythronium grandiflorum)

These are some of the first flowers you will see in the subalpine during snowmelt . They are a common snack for Grizzly bears who enjoy their bulbous roots. Glacier lily bulbs were also traditionally an important source of carbohydrates for Indigenous peoples.

western aneome

Western anemone

(Anemone occidentalis)

Once these flowers go to seed, they become an iconic part of the alpine wildflower display. Their interesting appearance has earned them many funny names including "mop-tops," "hippy heads", and some think they were the inspiration for Dr Seuss’ “truffula trees”.

white alpine flower

White mountain heather

(Cassiope mertensiana)

One of the cutest flowers you can find! This plant has done an excellent job of creating the perfect fruit bearing environment. The bell-shaped flowers allow light in, trap heat, and offer protection from wind. This creates the extra energy the plant needs to produce fruit.

“There are many invasive plant species that are easily mistaken for wildflowers because of their eye-catching appearance and how many there are in the landscape.”

Jess Booth, Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society.

Invasive species

hawk weed

Orange Hawkweed

(Hieracium aurantiacum)

Originally from Europe, this plant forms dense mats and prevents other native species from populating. Orange Hawkweed has the ability to spread via above-ground runners, horizontal roots, and its prolific seed head. It is classed as a noxious weed in BC.


Scotch broom

Introduced from the Mediterranean as a garden plant, Scotch Broom quickly invaded natural areas, choking out native species and increasing wildfire intensity. Its hardy seeds can last for up to 30 years lying dormant in the soil and established plants can live up to 25 years.

blue weed


(Echium vulgare)

This plant is classed as a noxious weed in BC. It is well known to farmers as this plant is toxic to horses and cattle. It can also cause minor skin irritation to humans. Identify it’s blue funnel-like flowers and hairy stems. Make sure you can tell the difference between this invasive species and the Arctic Lupine - a stunning wildflower species.

More Information

Photo | Rob Routledge, Bugwood
Photo | Rob Routledge, Bugwood

Spotted Knapweed

(Centaurea stoebe)

An invasive weed that originates from Eastern Europe. It only reproduces by seed, however, each plant can produce more than 140,000 seeds per year!

It thrives in sunny, well-drained areas and rapidly degrades rangelands throughout the country, especially in parts of southern BC. Spotted knapweed releases a chemical that hinders native plants’ root growth and displaces other vegetation. Infestations can decrease food quantities for wildlife and livestock as it is unpalatable for them, increase erosion and runoff, and, dead plant material can increase fire risk. (Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society)

More Facts

“Invasive plants like chicory, oxeye daisy, orange hawkweed, and blueweed and their ability to reproduce quickly and spread easily have negative impacts on our natural ecosystems. By learning to recognize and prevent the spread of these invasive species, we can promote healthy and biodiverse natural environments.”

Jess Booth, Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society.

Make sure you are preventing the spread of invasive species while you're out viewing the wildflowers.

The Play Clean Go principles are

  • REMOVE plants, animals and mud from boots, gear, pets, and vehicle.
  • CLEAN your gear before entering and leaving the recreation site.
  • STAY on designated roads and trails.
  • USE CERTIFIED or local firewood and hay.

Learn more wildflowers species on the Parks Canada website.

Get involved with our local invasive species group and do your part to remove invasive species.