Tolmiea menziesii (Piggyback Plant)


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Plant Description: This perennial has charming foliage and spreads from creeping rhizomes. Its  leaves are mostly basal and grow on long, hairy leafstalks. Leaf blades are broadly heart-shaped, bearing 5-7 shallow lobes and coarsely toothed margins. Flowering stems are hairy and glandular. In the spring, the plant produces racemes with clusters of purplish or maroon flowers. Each blossom has 5 long, thread-like petals, and 5 greenish-purple sepals. Fruits are slender capsules with numerous spiny, brown seeds. In the fall, small vegetative buds tucked right at the base of the leaf blades, become tiny leaves, and raise above the mature foliage. If detached and pushed into the soil, the young leaves propagate to form new plants.

This plant has both edible and medicinal properties. The Cowlitz Pacific Northwest tribe has used a poultice of fresh leaves from this plant to treat skin boils. The Makah Pacific Northwest tribe has eaten raw early spring sprouts for food. *CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL FOR MEDICAL USE. NEVER CONSUME PLANTS WITHOUT PROPER ID*

  • Height: 1-2ft
  • Width: 1 ft
  • Watering needs: moist
  • Sun needs: Full to partial shade
  • Soil needs: Moist, well-draining to dry, rocky; prefers rich acidic
  • Bloom Time: April
  • Portland Plant List (Backyard Habitat Certification): Yes

Landscape Use and Ecological FunctionThis native plant grows near streams, seepage areas, and in moist forests, glades and disturbed sites, frequently at low to mid-elevations. It is native from Alaska and south through the Pacific Northwest. This plant can be grown as a lush ground cover.

This is one of the few native species which can tolerate the low humidity inside modern homes, therefore it has been sold as an indoor houseplant. Small buds at the base of the leaf blades develop "daughter plants," thus the common names piggy-back plant or youth-on-age.

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