Species Profile

Showy Phlox

Scientific Name: Phlox speciosa ssp. occidentalis
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2004
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Showy Phlox


Although there are six Showy Phlox subspecies, the Occidentalis subspecies is the only one that occurs in British Columbia. Therefore, in Canada, Showy Phlox is referred to solely by this name with no reference to the subspecies.



Showy Phlox is a perennial herb with erect stems measuring 15 to 40 cm in length. The upper part of the plant is covered in hairs and, occasionally, small glands, whereas the lower part of the plant has hairs only. The leaves, which are long and narrow or lance-shaped, can grow to 7 cm in length by 1 cm in width. The leaves face each other along the stem. Flowers are grouped at the tip of the stems in loose clusters and range in colour from pink to white. The Showy Phlox is similar to the more widespread Phlox longifolia, although these two species have slightly different habitat requirements. Their flowers are slightly different and somewhat difficult to distinguish in a natural setting.


Distribution and Population

Showy Phlox of the Occidentalis subspecies occurs in western North America, from southern British Columbia to northern Oregon, and eastward to Idaho and western Montana. The species also occurs from southern Oregon to the Sierra Nevada in California and Nevada, as well as the Klamath Mountains and the Northern Coast ranges of northern California. In Canada, Showy Phlox has been observed only in the Okanagan Valley in south-central British Columbia. Current and newly discovered populations are clustered around the Yellow Lake and Twin Lakes area between Keremeos and Penticton. There are currently nine known Showy Phlox populations in British Columbia. Four of these populations were discovered in 2003. Two or three historic populations could not be found and may well have disappeared. The Canadian population is estimated to number between 6 400 and 57 000 reproductive individuals. As there is very little information on population size dated prior to 2003, it is impossible to determine trends. While it is rare in British Columbia, Showy Phlox appears to be widespread throughout northwestern North America.



Showy Phlox occurs in a region of British Columbia where the climactic conditions are extremely specific. In this region, the summers are hot and very dry and the species seems to favour areas that are relatively cool due to the orientation of the site. This herb typically grows in dry soil that occasionally shows signs of moderate erosion. It occurs in open areas such as grasslands dotted very sparsely with sagebrush and open Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir forests. The Okanagan Valley is considered one of Canada’s most endangered natural environments and the habitat of the Showy Phlox is clearly shrinking.



There is very little information on the biology of the Showy Phlox. This species is assumed to reproduce primarily by seeds. Propagation can be done in the spring with ripe seeds and with cuttings towards the end of summer. Like many perennial herbs, the Showy Phlox is dormant in the winter.



Since 41% of the land on which Canadian populations of Showy Phlox occur is private property, this species is particularly vulnerable to development. The main threat to the habitat of this species is the increased development of land for recreational purposes. The British Columbia population is all the more vulnerable by virtue of the fact that it occupies such a limited area. Weed control activities involving the use of broad-spectrum herbicides also pose a threat to these Showy Phlox populations, particularly the smaller ones. The species could be threatened by the weeding operations carried out under the Weed Control Act, which requires occupants to remove weeds on their property.



Federal Protection

The Showy Phlox is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Showy Phlox in British Columbia is not protected under any provincial law. The White Lake population is partially on federal land belonging to the National Research Council, where the species and its habitat are protected.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Showy Phlox (Phlox speciosa ssp. occidentalis) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Showy Phlox Phlox speciosa in Canada (2005)

    Only a single subspecies of showy phlox, Phlox speciosa ssp. occidentalis, is known from Canada. The species is therefore referred to simply as Phlox speciosa throughout the report. It is a perennial plant with a somewhat shrubby base. Stems are erect, 15-40 cm tall, rising from a woody taproot. The plant is glandular to glandular-hairy above, and hairy below. The opposite leaves are linear to lance-shaped, to 7 cm long and 1 cm wide. The plant has clusters of flowers at the ends of stems, with leafy bracts. Corollas (joined petals) range from pink to white. The corolla tube (1-1.5 cm long) spreads to five wide lobes (1-1.5 cm long) that are notched at the tip. Calyces (joined sepals) are glandular, with flat, transparent segments between the five green ribs. Styles range from 0.5-2 mm long.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Showy Phlox (2005)

    A showy perennial known from a very small area and from fewer than 10 locations. The species is present within a region subject to on-going habitat loss and degradation as a consequence of private property development, agricultural practices, and the spread of invasive plants.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Showy Phlox (Phlox speciosa ssp. occidentalis) in Canada (2017)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Showy Phlox and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia, as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery strategy for the Showy Phlox (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada.


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017