This woodland native is one of our buyer’s favorites!
It is the Pacific NW version of Epimedium: Soft mound of leaves poised on upright wiry stems, the flowering stems rising above in late spring / early summer with their delicate sprays of flowers of recurved, blown back petals — hence the common name of Inside-Out flower - the stamens thrust forward into a pointed tip like a sharp pencil lead, very much like the native Dodecatheon (shooting star). The leaves are evergreen or deciduous, depending on species, and are uniquely tri-lobed, reminiscent of the duck’s foot that is its other common name.
Vancouveria is delicately showy, and is best suited for a semi-shady, dappled light setting, in humus-rich soil and with a moderate amount of water. Though it often can be found in moist forests in our region, one of its virtues is that it is one of those rare plants that can grow well in drier shady spots in the garden. Spreading by underground rhizomes, it will easily fill a space and is best used to fill between taller, larger plants. Keeping it on the drier side will slow the pace of its spreading.
Vancouveria is also virtually disease and pest-free. It is reliably low-maintenance, even by native plant standards. About all that will need to be done is to cut back and clean up the dead and winter-damaged leaves to make way for the new growth in spring.
There is one primary species of western Oregon, and two that come from the SW corner of the state:
Vancouveria hexandra — Inside-out flower
This is the Inside-out flower that is most common to our region, frequently spotted in low- to mid-elevation forests. Its leaves are deciduous, forming a mound usually eight to sixteen inches tall, the new leaves sometimes emerging tinged with deep brick red. The thin, leafless flowering stalks rise above like a mobile of tiny white inside-out umbrellas. It is a delicate looking but sturdy plant, undemanding in its care and undisturbed by bugs or disease.
Vancouveria chrysantha — Golden Inside-out flower, Siskiyou inside-out flower
Photo credit: Hartmut Wisch
Not commonly found but what a treasure — an intensely yellow inside-out flower! Evergreen foliage! This little beauty lights up the shady woods in the Siskiyou mountains in the southwest corner of the state and into northern California. It spreads more slowly than V. hexandra and is a little harder to grow here in the Willamette Valley.
Vancouveria planipetala — Redwood inside-out flower
Also evergreen, this inside-out flower is essentially a diminutive version of V. hexandra. Not commonly found, it grows in drier woods and redwood forests in southern Oregon down along the California coast. You may find this online, but unfortunately, we have not been able to find a source for us. Check online for sources.
Species: V. hexandra, V. chrisantha, V. planipetala
Common name: Inside-out flower, Duck’s foot
Native Range: From just south of Puget Sound, throughout the western half of Oregon and just barely into northern California. And that’s it. A true northwest native.
Characteristics: Soft mound of wiry stems and three-lobed semi-evergreen leaves that begin as a bright green and darken as they age. In late spring/early summer a thin flowering stem rises above the foliage carrying delicate, tiny “inside out” white flowers with recurved petals.
Culture: Grows in part to full shade, ideal for dappled sun. It has moderate water needs, and is an excellent plant for drier shady areas.
Pests/Diseases: Virtually pest and disease free.