bee forage

Pacific waterleaf: early forage for bumble bees

The Pacific waterleaf, Hydrophyllum tenuipes, is a northwest native plant that grows in shaded, moist forestland. Spreading by underground rhizomes, it often covers large areas and gives the ground a soft and undulating appearance. The flowers appear in April and May and are usually white with pink filaments, but in certain areas such as the Hoh Rainforest, the flowers may be purple or blue. The plants grow to about two-and-a-half feet tall at most.

Both bumble bees and honey bees are attracted to the blooms, so a patch of waterleaf makes a great place to take photos. According to Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon (1994), the roots of the Pacific waterleaf were eaten by the Cowlitz tribes of western Washington. I took the photos below on May 19, at the height of this year’s bloom.

Honey Bee Suite

A bumble bee on a Pacific waterleaf flower. The shape of the leaf makes this plant easy to identify.
Bumble bee on Pacific waterleaf. Note characteristic leaf shape.
A honey bee nectaring on a Pacific waterleaf flower. Note the long purple stamens.
Honey bee nectaring on a Pacific waterleaf flower.

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1 Comment

  • Why has there been such loss in native bee populations? I make leafcutter homes from drilled clean wood. They do seem to be making again this year.