Lewisia tweedyi: Queen of the Genus

Frank Tweedy, the eponymous discoverer of Lewisia tweedyi, collected plants while working for the US Geological Survey in Montana, Idaho and Washington. He’s reputed to have collected the Lewisia that bears his name while working on a railroad survey near Mt. Stuart in the Wenatchee mountains.

The tweedyi bloom — far more subdued than the rich (some might even say gaudy) colors of the various Lewisia cotyledon hybrids found in the nursery trade — ranges from pastel shades of peachy pink peach to a deep rich pink contrasting with shades of orange yellowish apricot.

While nothing compares to stumbling on this beauty in its natural habitat while hiking in the mountains around Leavenworth, Washington; a close second may be enjoying the bloom daily on a specimen in a clay pot.

Seattle plantsman, alpine authority and author, Roy Davidson, writing in the 1970’s described the color range eloquently, especially the variations found in the wild:

“this is almost invariably a lovely pastel peach color, the result of a pink wash of pigmentation over a basic background of soft lemon-yellow; often variable in the same flower over its life span of a few days, usually deepening appreciably.  Sometimes the blush is evident only concentrated on the margins, thus leaving a lemon or quite greenish star or eye effect in the center of the blossom with a fluff of yellow stamens in its center, but on occasion, in wild plants the pink fails to develop, and the result is, of course, a fragile beauty in crisp lemony-citron, with yellow boss to match. Now, in cultivation, has emerged the other extreme, those with none of the minimum of the yellow basic color, so that the total effect is a pastel pink of great beauty.”

(noted in the Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia, February 1973)


Whether it’s reputation for being difficult to manage in cultivation is deserved or not, it’s toughness, like most mountain dwelling plants, is a startling fact. Years ago, I had one in a clay pot under an eave and lost track of it for at least 18 months.

Discovering it in a shriveled state under some brush in early in spring I revived it with a deep watering.  It recovered and made a single weak looking bloom that year.  With some minimal care, it continues to bloom nicely every spring.  A critical key to pot cultivation is letting it dry out after blooming subsides, keeping it dry all summer and relatively dry all winter.

5 thoughts on “Lewisia tweedyi: Queen of the Genus

  1. Balony; The peach color is exactly what we see from this flowering plant in the Wenatchee area. In fact, it is the richest, pinkest pink that I have ever seen. It is almost as if this flower received all of the pink/orange thay nature had to offer. It is an oozing, luscious, pink/orange, and is one of the most exciting wildflowers out there.

    • Thanks for your comment Kirk. I’ve never seen it in the wild. You’re fortunate to live near this amazing plant. I totally agree that it is one of the most amazing wildflowers ever and is as beautiful as anything plant hybridizers create. Score one for nature! Check out the picture of the ‘rosea’ plant I got from Richard Ramsden in Seattle. It’s at the very end of my last blog post of May 5th, “May Day in the Garden.” I will also add it to the Alpine Gallery pix. Does this one come closer to what you see in the wild?

      — Bart

      • Your photo here is what it looks like in the wild. I hike out of Leavenworth and run across it often; I’ve never, ever seen it as pink as the other picture. It’s a beautiful peach:)

  2. Thanks JR. It’s been at least 10 years since I last hiked around Leavenworth, probably the Icicle Ridge trail, but I’m pretty sure it was late summer. I have never seen it in the wild. I’m retired now, so maybe this spring will be the year. Do you have any suggestions where I might hike?

  3. Regarding what L. tweedyi looks like in the wild:

    The marvelous image collection website for species in Washington state — developed and hosted by the University of Washington Herbarium at the Burke Museum — features 94 photographs of L. Tweedyi. The photographs were collected from botanists and serious plant photographers.

    It’s clear from these photographs that there is some variation in L. Tweedyi, as expected for all species, but the overwhelming evidence appears that my seed grown plants are indeed representative of what is found hiking in the mountains around Wenatchee. The wonderful “rosea” cultivar, also pictured on my website is an exception, possibly a sport, and while it’s spectacular, it is clearly not representative of the species in the wild.

    For those of us who haven’t seen Tweedyi blooming in the mountains, check out all 94 photographs here.

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