Lush green hillsides with mountains in the background

Photo courtesy of M. Whalen

Katmai is home to hundreds of different types of vascular plants. These plants, along with lichen and mosses, form the foundation of the park's ecosystems and define the habitat characteristics for all of the more famous and recognizable denizens of Katmai National Park such as brown bears, wolves, eagles, lynx, caribou and more. Without the rich and diverse vegetation communities that blanket the park landscape, this area would be entirely barren of animal life. Therefore, preserving the precious botanical resources of the park is central to conserving and maintaining the entire intact ecosystem here.

See a complete list of Katmai's plant species or see below to learn about a select few edible and helpful plants commonly found in the park.

Many green leaves with several clusters of small berries

Photo courtesy of M. Whalen

Lowbush Cranberry

Vaccinium vitis-idaea
Alutiiq: Kenegtaq
Yup’ik: Tumagliit
Dena'ina: K'inghildi

The berries are used in jam and syrup or mixed with whitefish and fat to make akutaq. The fruit is best harvested after the first frost.

Akutaq is a traditional dish that is made from berries and fat. The Alutiiq “ice cream” may also include fish oil or eggs. While each family tends to have their own akutaq recipe, modern versions of the dish often include sugar, shortening, or mashed potatoes. Akutaq is often served at potlucks and celebrations.
Many bright pink flowers come off a central stem

Photo courtesy of S. Gage

Common Fireweed

Epilobium angustifolium
Alutiiq: Cillqaq
Yup’ik: Ciilqaarat
Dena'ina: Niłdghuligi

Fireweed shoots can be used in salad, and the flowers are often brewed in teas, used to treat boils, or made into jam.
Tall green stalks with a large white head

Photo courtesy of M. Whalen

Cow Parsnip

Heracleum lanatum
Alutiiq: Ugyuuteq
Yup’ik: Tarnaq
Dena'ina: Ggis
Regional name: Putchke

The peeled stems can be eaten raw or cooked with fish. However, the leaves can cause severe skin blisters, rashes, and itching.
A tightly curled fern

Photo courtesy of M. Whalen

Fiddlehead Ferns

Athyrium filix-femina
Alutiiq: Qataqutaq
Yup’ik: Cetuguaraq
Dena'ina: Ełnen tselts'egha

Prior to being unfurled, the curled heads of the fern can be roasted or boiled and eaten. Various species, like the Lady Fern, are commonly found in moist and shady woods and streambanks. They are also rich in vitamins.

New buds of a spruce tree

Photo courtesy of S. Gage

White Spruce

Picea glauca
Alutiiq: Arhmasut
Dena'ina: Ch'vach'etl'a

Spruce tips are new growth of the spruce tree. The light green tips may be eaten directly off the tree, pickled, baked, or boiled in tea for medical infusions.
Several single berries dangle from a stalk

NPS Photo/B. Plog

Watermelon Berries

Streptopus amplexifolius
Alutiiq: Muuguaq
Yup’ik: Atsarrluk
Dena'ina: Hcheq'a gek'a

The red-colored watermelon berries are watery and have an oblong shape. The berries are generally eaten in passing, rather than being harvested in large quantities.
Clusters of small white flowers grow off low growing shrubbery

Photo courtesy of S. Gage

Labrador Tea

Ledum palustris
Alutiiq: Atsaqutarpak, Nunallaq caayuq
Yup’ik: Ayuq
Dena'ina: Quchukda

While labrador tea can be toxic in large quantities, it may be boiled in tea, used in salves, and used for preventative medicine or burned for medical and spiritual purification. Take care not to confuse this with bog rosemary, Andromeda polifolia, which is poisonous and often grows intermingled with Labrador Tea.
Large group of fireweed flower.

What flowers might you find in Katmai?

Student Conservation Crew holding garbage bags full of invasive plants.
Invasive Species

What plants are non-native to Katmai?

Last updated: March 17, 2022

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