From mountain top to shoreline, the islands of the archipelago are carpeted in lush vegetation. Depending on the season, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of foliage can be found in the area's six distinct habitat types.

The northeastern part of the archipelago is covered with thick Sitka spruce forests and represents the only unmixed stand in the world. Heavily laden with moss, these massive trees shelter a variety of shade tolerant plants, including several varieties of orchids. Salmonberries grow here and produce a tasty red berry in mid-to-late summer; these berries are not only picked for jams, jellies and wines, but provide a good part of the brown bear diet. Blueberries are also favored by bears and humans on Kodiak Island.

In summer, Kodiak Island is a mosaic of color. Meadows yield colorful displays of wildflowers including, shooting stars, rose purple orchids and chocolate lilies. Lupine, monkshood and fireweed bloom in profusion.

Other plants have adapted to alpine slopes where the cold temperatures, windy temperatures and shorter growing season challenge their hardiness. Moss Campion and Kamchatka rhododendron grow very low to the ground offering shelter from the wind.

Rocky cliffs host cinquefoil and roseroot. Beaches are home to Beach pea in late summer and produce a pod that is edible. In late summer and early fall, berries can be found along most every roadside and trail. Low-bush cranberries, blueberries and salmonberries are local favorites.
Deep purple iris, Labrador tea, and the insectivorous sundew thrive in bogs found throughout the island group.

Common Kodiak Plants

  • Mountain alder. A medium to large deciduous shrub. Dark green, oval toothed leaves that turn brown in fall.
  • Fireweed. A perennial plant with long, narrow leaves and large clusters of purplish-pink flowers.
  • Sitka spruce. Evergreen with flattened needle-like leaves and cylindrical cones.
  • Pacific Red Elder. A large shrub with toothed leaves. Produces clusters of bright red berries. Can grown 14 ft tall.
  • Chocolate lily. Dark purple, bell-shaped flowers with lance-shaped leaves.
  • Wild geranium. Jagged leaves and rosy purple flowers
  • Salmonberry.A tall deciduous shrub that thrives in Kodiak’s open forests, meadows and stream banks. Deep pink flowers are produced from April to July. The raspberry like fruit ranges in color from yellow to dark red.
  • Spreading wood fern. Dense, triangular fronds that can reach a foot long.
  • Devil’s Club. Large, deciduous, spiny shrub that flourishes in wet ravines under the spruce canopy.
  • Cotton grass. A sedge that grows in a wide range of wet habitats. Identified by its white, fluffy flower head.

Ouch! Plants that hurt

As you enjoy Kodiak’s fields and forests, you may be introduced to some of the toxic plants that thrive here.


Pootchki has extremely large, broad leaves and flat, broad white blossoms atop a hollow stalk that grows more than four feet tall in sunny spots. Although the plant is edible, it can cause skin irritations, burns and/or scarring. Direct contact to the plant or its juices, particularly on a sunny day (the chemical in pootchki sensitizes skin to light) may result in blisters or bluish or brown blotches that can remain for months.

If you come in contact, wash thoroughly with water, treat with vinegar and water or by applying wet tea bags to the area.

Other names: Pushki, Cow parsnip.


Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettles are not common in town, but hikers in the backcountry must avoid the serrated leaves. The fine hairs on the underside of nettle leaves contain formic acid, a common poison of stinging insects. Make contact with these stinging hairs and you’ll develop blisters that feel much like bee stings.

If you come in contact with this plant, wash immediately, pack with mud or a mixture of baking soda and water.


Devil’s Club

The broad leaves of the Devil’s club are crowned in a cone of beautiful berries, especially in fall when leaves turn yellow and the berries turn bright red. Hikers avoid them because their stalks are covered in thousands of needle-like thorns that deliver a powerful sting.

These sharp spines can penetrate even leather.