Tofieldia coccinea

Submitted by Mark McD on

Tofielda coccinea

I have posted a photo of this little plant before, but I'm reminded today about the plant as the snow receded and revealed the dwarf carex-like evergreen rosettes of foliage. The plant is circumpolar, mostly found in extreme northern latitudes. For all the years I've had it, flowers have never been produced, it just sits there happy to make neat rosettes of prostrate foliage. How do I get it to bloom? I grow it in an open shady location, but maybe it needs full sun in more moist conditions to flower. It's native habitat is: "meadows, wetlands, crevices of rocks or cliffs; 1800-2400 m, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Russia, North America."

Two photos, on the left taken today as the snow receded, and on the right, from last spring. What I like about this plant, it is completely fuss-free, takes moisture or drought, heat or cold, it always looks the same... fresh, neat, green and dwarf.

The flowers are described in Flora of North America as "tepals greenish, tinged pinkish cream to deep crimson". Most photos I've seen show whitish flowers, sometimes tinged pinkish.

Photos: Alaskan form, this looks like the one to grow, with showy reddish flowers and wider leaves!


Submitted by cohan on Fri, 03/18/2011 - 22:47

Interesting--not as red as I'd expect from the species name...
I've only seen T glutinosa, seems to be sporadic in my area ( so tiny, not at all easy to see, and unlikely, out of flower) and in the mountains, at not particularly high altitudes (where I have seen it..)
That species was always associated with damp/wet places.... leaves are in flat clusters, just like a tiny iris...

Submitted by Boland on Sat, 03/19/2011 - 06:41

Both T. glutinosa and T. pusilla are native here but both grow on the opposite side of newfoundland from me.  neither clump like coccinea.  We grow T. glutinosa in our BG.  It does reasonable well and does bloom.

Submitted by Mark McD on Sat, 03/19/2011 - 08:00

Todd, the T. glutinosa is very pretty, the red anthers contrasting with the neat white heads of bloom, I like it.  Thanks for the feedback everyone, I shall be looking for both T. glutinosa and T. pusilla.

I have two clumps of T. coccinea; I plan on moving one to a sunnier spot to see if that will induce some flowering.

Submitted by cohan on Sat, 03/19/2011 - 23:43

I dug up images from T glutinosa in 2009, and realised I never finished loading the albums from that day-trip to So, I fixed that, but no captions yet...
Here is the full album of this site---
a clayey, gravelly wet area (I'm not sure if this is stream fed, or just melt, or....) beside the road; as you go farther back the area becomes grassier, then woody. I photographed Primula mistassinica and Saxifraga aizoides in the same site, earlier in the year.
The Tofieldia grows with those two in the mid range between the water and the wooded area, possibly ranging a bit closer to the woods (though the ground is uneven and areas of wetness end at different points)..


The plants of Tofieldia glutinosa are just a few inches tall, possibly 4-6"/10-15cm at most....


Submitted by Lori S. on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:05

Excellent photos, Cohan.  That's not one I have noticed yet.

Submitted by cohan on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:50

Thanks, Lori--I think its a gorgeous little plant (they say 10-50cm, plants I saw much closer to the former)--I can imagine it in a little wet trough..
both references I have looked at mention calcareous marshes or shores, as habitat, which I guess makes sense with the two sites in the mountains I have seen it at--this one and along river banks just in the Kootenay Plains south/west of Abraham Lake-- this water/soil is probably full of rock flour from snow melt..
I have also seen it in one site not too far from home (the same place I showed the Primula incana from, recently)..just one or a couple of plants, and I have not caught it in flower, just past flowering (doubt I'd easily notice it with just leaves!) and that spot I wouldn't think would be that calcareous--the middle of the ditch seemed more clayey than anything else(due to road excavation removing topsoils, presumably), could be calcareous, though not an alkaline marsh like down south, but the fenceline where the Tofieldia was was grassy/wooded, and i'd expect the soil to be organic...

Based on distribution maps, it shouldn't be too rare, but probably very hard to notice if you don't catch it in flower!

Submitted by Hoy on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 03:26

Beautiful, Cohan! I like the sight of the wood too -it looks different from our coniferous woods.

I am always glad when I find T. pusilla here, that means the probability of finding other rare plants is good. T. pusilla always grows in good, mineral rich/calcareous soil, moist at least when the snow melts in spring (summer actually!). They never grow taller than 5cm!

Submitted by cohan on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 15:26

Tks, Trond--the woods behind the 'lake' look like wet/'muskeggy' woods, probably mostly Picea mariana, though there are Abies around, but those are outside my real knowledge zone, since they don't occur right around here, so I don't know exactly where they are or how to recognise them from a distance!
We have T pusilla as well, though I have never seen it; a similar range, though a bit more restricted to mountains, I think, without the occurrences farther out that glutinosa has...

Submitted by Boland on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 17:02

Both species of Tofieldia also grow on damp calcaroues soils here too, but always in full sun.

Lori, I have seen T. glutinosa in Bow Valley Park

Submitted by Lori S. on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 17:47

Cohan, did you get close enough to confirm those as black spruce?  I was thinking that it would not be my first guess... more like white spruce?  I don't see the characteristic clubby tops.  Stands of black spruce were common in our old stomping grounds of N. Sask., and in NE Alberta (which I visited last week).   White spruce are not adverse to moisture, and often line streams and ponds.  As you've noted, that area looks like an old borrow area, or at least something to do with highway construction, rather than a bog.

Todd, I'll have to make a note to visit Bow Valley Park in the spring... I have not spent much time there, and I have to admit we are usually just zipping past it on the way home from our hikes.  There doesn't tend to be marshy areas where we hike, so I'd guess we may not be in the right habitats for Tofieldia.

Submitted by cohan on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 18:17

Lori--nope, I did not get/look closely enough to be at all sure of species, so i make no promises  ;D and it could well be different up there, but here, that is typical black spruce (mariana) habitat-- white-glauca, will grow to the edges of wet areas, but not generally right in them, apart from higher patches..
also the skinny, scruffy look of the trees is typical here of mariana...
The water continues farther back from the road, but I've never really looked well enough/or cant see from there-to know if there is a watercourse farther back, or..... the whole area has a tendency to dense, muskeggy forested ground interspersed with open water which goes on and on (seemingly for hours on the drive home..)--I can't imagine travelling there without the highway, apart from by river!

Submitted by Mark McD on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 18:51

Cohan, nice photo series on Tofieldia glutinosa, a charming plant.

I don't know much about T. pusilla, so I googled and there is lots of information and photos.  Looks like a good addition to a miniature bog garden or container.

Tofieldia pusilla, Scotch false asphodel, Scottish asphodel

A few good information/photo pages on T. pusilla:
...quite a list of synonyms for this little plant:

Lots of good plants in this link, including the Tofieldia
...go about 1/3rd the way down, lots of interesting pics

Submitted by Boland on Mon, 03/21/2011 - 04:09

We had T. pusilla in our BG but it was so small, it got lost.  As you note, probably better in a miniature bog garden.  The leaves along are only 1-2" so EASILY lost!