Indicator Plants

Tolmiea menziesii – youth-on-age

Common Name


Alternate Common Names
  • piggy-back plant


Scientific Name

Tolmiea menziesii

Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
  • Medium (M)
  • Wet (W)
Soil Nutrient Regime (SNR)
  • Rich (R)

Botanical Drawing

Hitchcock, C. Leo, and Arthur Cronquist. Flora of the Pacific Northwest: An Illustrated Manual © 1973. Reprinted with permission of the University of Washington Press.

General / Habitat
  • Perennial herb
  • Grows abundantly in moist forests, stream-banks, and along old logging roads
  • Low to middle elevations
  • Its distinct name refers to the small plantlets that buds at the base of some leaves, and grow into daughter plants which fall of and root
Key Identifying Characteristics
  • Form: Flowering stems up to 40-80 cm tall, hairy stems
  • Leaves: Main leaves basal, hairy, heart-shaped, 5-7 shallow lobes and coarse toothing, sometimes with new plantlets budding at base (hence name piggy-back or youth-on-age), stem leaves reduced
  • Flowers: Brownish-purple, 4 thin and curved petals, 3 prominent stamens, several borne in elongated clusters
  • Fruit: Slender capsules containing numerous seeds
  • Saxifrage species’ leaves can be difficult to tell apart, but piggy-back plant’s unique leaf budding makes it easy to distinguish
Interesting Characteristics
  • Plantlets fall off and root to become new plants

Douglas, G.W. et al (Editors). 1998-2002. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Volumes 1 to 8. B.C. Min. Environ., Lands and Parks, and B.C. Min. For., Victoria, B.C.

Pojar, J. and A. MacKinnon. 2014. Plants of Coastal British Columbia Including Washington, Oregon & Alaska. B.C. Ministry of Forestry and Lone Pine Publishing. Vancouver, B.C.


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