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

Tolmiea menziesii (Pursh) Torr. & A. Gray
piggy-back plant (youth-on-age)
Saxifragaceae (Saxifrage family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #6886)

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Distribution of Tolmiea menziesii
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from scaly rhizomes; flowering stems 30-80 cm tall; plants hairy throughout, glandular-hairy above.
Basal leaves heart-shaped, 3-10 cm wide, nearly as long, shallowly 5- to 7-lobed, sharply toothed, hairy, sometimes with small buds at base of leaf blades, long-stalked, the stalks hairy; stem leaves few, similar to the basal, reduced; stipules leaf-like, elliptic, 3-8 mm long, irregularly toothed, short-bristly.
Inflorescence a many-flowered, spike-like, terminal cluster, 10-30 cm long, the flowers irregular; petals usually 4, brownish-purple, 8-12 mm long, thread-like; calyces greenish-purple to brown, free of ovary, the hypanthium tubular, 5-9 mm long, the upper 3 lobes larger than lower 2, the calyx deeply cleft between lower 2; stamens 3.
Capsules, 9-14 mm long, equally 2-valved; seeds about 0.5 mm long, finely spiny.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist forests and streambanks in the lowland and montane zones; common in coastal BC; N to AK and S to CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Tolmiea menziesii

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) 0 149 1080
Slope Gradient (%) 0 8 119
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
18 126 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 5 7
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: CDF(1), CWH(177), ICH(1), IDF(3), MH(2), SBS(1)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to subalpine, Pacific North American forb (very marginally in the Cordilleran region). Occurs in maritime to submaritime cool mesothermal climates on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils; its occurrence decreases with latitude, elevation, and continentality. Sporadic in coniferous forests, plentiful in broad-leaved forests on water-receiving sites. Associated with Athyrium filix-femina, Galium triflorum, Oplopanax horridus, Polystichum munitum, Rubus spectabilis, and Tiarella trifoliata. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms.

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 cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Tiarella menziesii Pursh

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References