Alberta Native Plant Council

Western False Asphodel

Rare Plant Profile – Western False Asphodel (Triantha occidentalis (S. Wats.) Gates) 1

Western false asphodel (Triantha occidentalis (S. Wats.) Gates) is a perennial herb in the Tofieldiaceae Family (previously in Liliaceae [2]). There are two subspecies recognized in Alberta: brevistyla (short-style sticky Tofieldia) and montana (mountain Tofieldia) [3]. This plant grows from underground rhizomes [4] and is either leafless or has 1-3 leaves near the base [5]. Flowers are white or greenish, 3-7 mm long, with 3 petals and 3 slightly shorter and wider sepals [6].

This carnivorous plant has a unique feature of trapping small insects near its insect-pollinated flowers [7]. Flower stems are coated with sticky hairs that produce a digestive enzyme known as phosphatase, which digests the small insects [8]. The hairs can catch midges and gnats but are not sticky enough to capture larger insects like bees and butterflies that pollinate the flowers [9].

In Canada, western false asphodel is found in wet meadows, marshes, fens, and bogs, as well as along streambanks in British Columbia and Alberta [2]. While its conservation status rank in British Columbia is S5, or Secure, its conservation status rank in Alberta is S1, or Critically Imperiled [10]. This is due to its low number of occurrences, it is likely at the edge of its range, and its montane habitat is under threat from development activities [11].

To learn more about rare plants of Alberta, visit the links provided in the footnotes, and stay tuned for the ANPC’s second edition of the Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta book. This is one of many conservation initiatives that ANPC is working on. Please remember to renew your 2021 membership, as ANPC relies on membership dues and donations to support this and other conservation and education initiatives.


Photos: Steve Matson




[3]List of Elements – Vascular Plants. Available at:

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kershaw, L.; Gould, J.; Johnson, D.; Lancaster, J. 2001. Rare vascular plants of Alberta. Univ. Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta and Nat. Resour. Can., Can. For. Serv., North. For. Cent., Edmonton, Alberta

[6] Ibid.