Piggy-back plant, also known as youth-on-age, is a delicate little woodland plant in the saxifrage family. The species, Tolmiea menziesii, is native to the Pacific Northwest coast where it grows in moist forested areas and along streams. It is often accompanied by red alder at low to middle elevations. At the base of the heart-shaped leaves, buds develop that grow into new leaves. The new little leaf develops right atop the big leaf, giving rise to the common name.
The flowers are brown to purple and grow on a stalk above the leaves. Every year I look forward to these little harbingers of spring but, until this year, I never knew they had bright orange pollen. The flowers are very small, about 6 to 9 mm long, so you can’t see the pollen without magnification. But last week I noticed that all the bumble bees working these plants were loaded with bright orange pellets.