Species Profile

Tall Woolly-heads

Scientific Name: Psilocarphus elatior
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2001
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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

Image of Tall Woolly-heads

Tall Woolly-heads Photo 1



Tall Woolly-heads is an erect woolly annual, 1-15 cm tall. Its branched stems are woolly-hairy with opposite, moderately silky-hairy, entire leaves. One or several spherical flower heads are clustered in the forks of stems or at their tips and are up to 6 mm tall. The cylindrical, glabrous (hairless) fruits are 1.0-1.7 mm long.


Distribution and Population

The species occurs in southwestern British Columbia, southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan in Canada, and ranges south through Idaho, Washington and Oregon to northern California. The Pacific population is restricted to southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia.The species still occurs at six of the eleven known sites in BC. Four of these sites have been confirmed since 1993.



The species inhabits dried beds of vernal (spring) pools and other open, moist, often disturbed sites in the coastal Douglas fir zone at elevations below 1000 m. The climate of the this zone consists of mild wet winters and warm dry summers. Tall Woolly-heads typically occupies open, exposed sites that are usually seasonally flooded after a rapid snow melt. The locations are often level, although generally slightly depressed. The species is not found within particular communities and often occupies sites where other species are sparse. There does not appear to be any specific association with other plants.



Little information exists regarding the biology of the species. Lack of structures attractive to insects and animals, and an interpretation of the floral structure, indicates that the species may self-pollinate. However, pollen may not be essential for seed production, and asexual reproduction may also occur.



Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to existing populations of Tall Woolly-heads. In BC, sites where the species occurs are either subjected to heavy pedestrian trampling or are at risk from development. One Tall Woolly-heads site is located in Uplands Municipal Park, but the status of the population in Francis-King Regional Park is unknown. Maintenance of footpaths and mountain-biking in both parks have been destroying surrounding vegetation. The population at Somenos Lake would likely be eliminated if the water level were lowered for agricultural purposes. Threats to the continued survival of Tall Woolly-heads are compounded by the lack of biological and ecological information, which makes it difficult to manage sites for the species.



Federal Protection

The Tall Woolly-heads 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.

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 Multi-Species at Risk in Vernal Pools and other Ephemeral Wet Areas Associated with Garry Oak Ecosystems 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.

1 record(s) found.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Multi-Species at Risk in Vernal Pools and other Ephemeral Wet Areas Associated with Garry Oak Ecosystems in Canada (2016)

    This multi-species Recovery Strategy has been developed to address the recovery of plants at risk in vernal pools and other temporally wet habitats on southern Vancouver Island and adjacent Gulf Islands. The strategy focuses on all Canadian locations of six species: bog birds-foot trefoil (Lotus pinnatus), tall woolly-heads (Psilocarphus elatior, Pacific population), water-plantain buttercup (Ranunculus alismifolius var. alismifolius), Kellogg's rush (Juncus kelloggii), rosy owl-clover (Orthocarpus bracteosus), and dwarf sandwort (Minuartia pusilla).