Vancouveria hexandra


The Basics

Taxonomy: Kingdom - Plantae (plants). Subkingdom - Tracheobionta (vascular plants). Superdivision - Spermatophyta (seed plants). Division - Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants). Class - Magnoliopsida. Order - Ranunculales. Family - Berberidaceae ( Barberry family). Genus - Vancouveria C. Morren & Decne. - Vancouveria hexandra Dougl. ex J. Forbes

Ecology: Understory shade-tolerant perennial herb in late seral or climax mixed-conifer stands. The climate throughout the range is maritime to submaritime.


Perennial, deciduous to nearly evergreen, low growing, spreading, 10-20 inches ( 25-50 cm) tall; young stems wiry.  Leaves mostly arise near the ground, 8-25 cm long, compound, 2-3 leaflets, each somewhat heat-shaped at the base and commonly called duck foot-shaped, lobed, margin entire, green, lower surface sparsely hairy; petiole becoming straw-colored.   Flowers small, in upright clusters of 25-30, 6 white petals, 4-6 mm, strongly reflexed.

Leaves falling when fruits maturing, 2-3-ternately compound, 8-30 cm; petiole 3-25 cm, pilose at base. Leaflet blades narrowly to broadly ovate to rhomboid or rounded pentagonal, often 3-lobed, base cordate, margins entire to slightly sinuate and not conspicuously thickened, apex rounded to notched; surfaces abaxially sparsely hairy, adaxially glabrous. Inflorescences: peduncle 2-3 dm; pedicel 1-3 cm, glands absent. Flowers 5-30; bracteoles 6-9, white, yellowish when dried, dotted with glandular trichomes; sepals 6, white, 5-12 mm; petals 6, white, yellowish when dried, 4-6 mm, margins entire, petal apex strongly reflexed, with nectar-bearing pocket, nectaries golden; filaments stipitate-glandular. Follicles greenish to light brown, 10-15 mm including beak, beak 2-3 mm, stipitate-glandular. Seeds 1-6, black, lunate to reniform, 3 mm. 2 n = 12.


Vancouveria hexandra likes to be in old growth and unsalvaged interior communities. Vancouveria hexandra responds posivitly to salvaged forests that has been burned. Due to the rhizomes that allow Vancouveria hexandra to grow this allows them to sprout after a fire successfully.


Vancouveria hexandra blooms and fruits form May to July. Yellow Jackets and aunts can disperse the seeds. The yellow jacket carries the seeds a few meters away then removes the elaiosome and drops the seeds. While Vancouveria hexandra can spread by seeds it primarily relies on rhizomes. The rhizomatous spread once the plant has established.

Species Distribution


USDA Plants Database
USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Flora of North America
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 19+ vols. New York and Oxford.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Burke Museum. 2016. University of Washington.

Vegetation Responses to Natural and Salvage Logged Fire Edges in Douglas-Fir/Hardwood Forests
Hanson, J. J., & Stuart, J. D. (2005). Vegetation responses to natural and salvage logged fire edges in Douglas-fir/hardwood forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 214(1-3), 266-278.

Yellow Jackets (Vespula vulgaris) As a Second Seed Disperser for the Myrmecochorous Plant
Jules, E. S. (1996). Yellow jackets (Vespula vulgaris) as a second seed disperser for the myrmecochorous plant, Trillium ovatum. American Midland Naturalist, 367-369.