E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Sanguisorba officinalis L.
great burnet (official burnet)
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #84231)

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Distribution of Sanguisorba officinalis
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a thick short rhizome, smooth, usually glaucous; stems erect, 20 to 150 cm tall, often branched above.
Basal leaves several, 10-40 cm long, pinnately compound, with stipules fused to base of long leaf-stalks and forming membranous margins; leaflets 7 to 15, egg-shaped to lance-oblong, 1.5-4 cm long, coarsely saw-toothed, green above, paler beneath; stem leaves 1 or 2, similar but smaller and with fewer leaflets, with free leaflet-like stipules.
Inflorescence a dense, cylindric to egg-shaped, long-stalked spike, 1-3 cm long, of numerous small flowers; corollas absent; calyces reddish-purple to maroon, 4-lobed, the lobes egg-shaped, 2-3 mm long; ovaries superior; stamens 4, the filaments linear, not flattened, about the same length as the calyx-lobes.
Achenes, enclosed in the 4-angled, narrowly winged, hairy hypanthium.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Bogs and fens in the lowland and montane zones; frequent along the coast; N to AK and YT and S to S CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Sanguisorba officinalis

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 5 279 1790
Slope Gradient (%) 0 7 50
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 8 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 6 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BWBS(1), CWH(177), ESSF(2), MH(15), SWB(1)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-intolerant, submontane to subalpine, circumpolar forb distributed in Pacific and Cordilleran North America. Species occurs on very moist to wet soils, nitrogen-medium, often disturbed soils. Widespread but scattered on water-receiving and water-collecting sites in boreal, cool temperate, and cool mesothermal climates. Most common in non-forested semiĀ­terrestrial, often Sphagnum-dominated communities. Characteristic of wetlands.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Poterium officinale (L.) A. Gray
Sanguisorba microcephala C. Presl
Sanguisorba officinalis subsp. microcephala (C. Presl) Calder & Roy L. Taylor
Sanguisorba officinalis var. polygama (W. Nyl.) Mela & A. Caj.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References