Species Profile

Brook Spike-primrose

Scientific Name: Epilobium torreyi
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2006
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Brook Spike-primrose


Brook Spike-primrose is an erect, annual herb 10 to 60 cm tall. Plants are greyish with spreading hairs; the leaves are narrow, finely toothed along the margin, and nearly stalkless and hairy, except at the base of the plant. The lower leaves are opposite, while the upper leaves are alternate. The small pink or white flowers are arranged in a leafy terminal spike. When mature, the plant produces dry fruit consisting of capsules containing many seeds. The capsules are cylindrical, about 8 to 13 mm long. Unlike the seeds of most other species in the genus, the seeds of this species are lacking a tuft of silky hairs (coma) at the summit. Brook Spike-primrose may be confused with another rare species in British Columbia, the dense spike-primrose, which may occur at the same site. The flowers of Brook Spike-primrose are less crowded than the flowers of the dense spike-primrose and its capsule has a prominent beak.


Distribution and Population

The range of Brook Spike-primrose extends from southern British Columbia to northwestern California and east to Idaho and Nevada. In Canada, it has been found in only two localities, both in the vicinity of Victoria, British Columbia: the Craigflower Meadow site and the McTavish Road site, in North Saanich. Based on careful surveys conducted from 2001 to 2004, both reported populations of Brook Spike-primrose in Canada are presumed extirpated. The Craigflower Meadow population has not been observed since 1993, and the McTavish Road population since 1966. Neither site has been visited regularly and either could have been extirpated well before 2000. However, given the relatively short period of time since the last observation of plants in 1993, there is still the possibility that some viable seeds remain in the seed bank (in the soil).



In Canada, Brook Spike-primrose has been found in seasonally moist meadows and open sites that dry out during the summer. During the years before Brook Spike-primrose was extirpated from the Craigflower Meadow site, the site was dominated by a mix of native and exotic herbs with a sparse cover of invasive shrubs.



In most Brook Spike-primrose flowers, self-pollination occurs in the bud before the flower opens. It flowers and fruits in mid- to late summer, and the seeds probably germinate the following fall or winter. The seeds require moisture and light to germinate. Unlike the seeds of most other species in the genus, the seeds of Brook Spike-primrose lack a fluffy coma that aids in wind dispersal. This lack of a seed dispersal mechanism limits it ability to spread to unoccupied suitable habitats. Its capsules open in the late fall and the seeds fall to the ground, probably as the capsules are shaken during winter rains.



Serious threats to Brook Spike-primrose are the degradation/loss of habitat, mainly through alteration by residential and agricultural development. The habitat of this plant has also been altered by physical disturbance of sites by heavy equipment, by the introduction of invasive alien plants and by the natural encroachment of native Douglas-fir trees. The extirpation of Brook Spike-primrose appears to have been the result of degradation/loss of habitats where it formerly occurred, as well as its great rarity. The Thetis Lake Park population originally occupied a small area within Craigflower Meadow. Prior to the designation of the area as a park, the City of Victoria planted grand firs at this site. As well, the site has been invaded by one-seeded hawthorn (English hawthorn) and many invasive alien plants. This has had a serious impact on the habitat and may be responsible for the extirpation of the species. The North Saanich site was in an open, grassy meadow along the eastern end of McTavish Road. Much of this stretch has been converted to residential use and the rest has suffered from ditching and invasion by highly competitive non-native plants.



Federal Protection

The Brook Spike-primrose 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.

In British Columbia, Brook Spike-primrose is not protected under any provincial statute.

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 Brook Spike-primrose (Boisduvalia stricta) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team

  • Conan Webb - Chair/Contact - Parks Canada
    Phone: 250-478-5153  Send Email



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.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Brook Spike-Primrose Epilobium torreyi in Canada (2006)

    Brook spike-primrose (Epilobium torreyi) is an erect, annual herb from a taproot. Its leaves are narrow, toothless or nearly so, and nearly stalkless. The lower leaves are oppositely arranged, and lack hairs, while the reduced upper leaves are alternate and hairy. The small, pink or white flowers are arranged in a leafy, terminal spike. The seeds, which lack the tuft of hairs typical of most species in the genus, are contained in cylindric, hairy, 4-chambered capsules.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Brook Spike-primrose (2006)

    Although no plants have been seen at the two known sites after intensive directed surveys, there is still the possibility that some seeds may remain in the soil seed bank given the relatively short period of time since the last observation of plants in 1993, or that previously overlooked populations may be found.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Brook Spike-primrose (Epilobium densiflorum) in Canada (2013)

    Brook Spike-primrose (Epilobium torreyi) is a small annual plant that is found in ephemerally wet, disturbed areas in Canada. It is known only from extreme southwest British Columbia where it has been reported from two sites on the southeast tip of Vancouver Island (in the vicinity of Victoria): Craigflower Meadow and McTavish Road. Plants have not been seen at the McTavish Road site since 1966, or from the Craigflower Meadow site since 1993. Since there is the possibility that some seeds may remain in the soil seed bank, the species is considered Endangered in Canada rather than Extirpated.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2007)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and 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 Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006)

    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. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.