Discover more than 5000 plants that are found across Canada. MY ACCOUNT

Written by: Summer Graham

An often-overlooked aspect in the restoration of natural areas is one of the most important – the soil. Soil creates the foundation (literally) for plant establishment, so properly restoring soil before planting can make the difference between a successful project and a failed one.


Many people think of soil as “just dirt”, but it is much, much more than that. Healthy soils contain minerals, plant-derived organic matter, nutrients, gases, and an entire web of interacting species like bacteria, fungi, and other micro-organisms. The fungi, or microbes, present in soil are referred to as mycorrhizae (pronounced mai·kuh·rai·zee). These fungi form a symbiotic relationship with a plant’s root system; in exchange for food, they help the plant absorb nutrients from the soil and protect them from certain stressors. These microbes are diverse and abundant. In fact, a single teaspoon of soil can hold thousands of different species and billions of individuals!  


Historically, when agricultural soils became depleted of nutrients from constant farming, farmers turned to additives such as fertilizers. But these solutions are only a temporary fix, and do not address the issue that led to poor soil health in the first place. By harvesting crops from the land year after year, traditional farming breaks the natural process of nutrient cycling since carbon and other nutrients are not returned to the soil by naturally decomposing on the land.


More recent farming techniques have focused on partially restoring the nutrient cycle by planting cover crops on fields during the off-season, allowing them to remain and decompose before planting crops to harvest. When restoring an area that was previously agricultural field or is currently abandoned and degraded land, amending soil nutrients before planting is essential for healthy plant growth.


When it comes to protecting and restoring soils, there are some useful guidelines available. While many of these focus on the importance of soil from an agricultural standpoint, organizations like Credit Valley Conservation and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority have useful guides for soil management during development and restoration activities. These resources have helpful information on salvaging and replacing topsoil, testing soils, dealing with issues such as compaction, and creating soil management plans. They also provide general guidelines for integrating compost and other organic material into a site.


Keep in mind that each site will be different and methods for successful soil restoration may vary depending on your target or goal, and recommendations may also differ depending on where you live in Canada. Here are a few recommendations that are good place to start!


Additional Reading:

Soil Science Society of America - Why is Soil Important? 


Grow Organic - Blog 


The effect of common soil amendments on the germination and growth of native plants frequently used in restoration in coastal southern California


Restoring Damaged Land


The Plant Microbiome and Native Plant Restoration: The Example of Native Mycorrhizal Fungi 


To restore our soils, feed the microbes 


Using Beneficial Soil Microbes to Improve Plant Growth


How Do You Restore Degraded Soil? - The Permaculture Research Institute 


Additional Learning:

Soil Regen Summit 




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Written by: Summer Graham



With 2021-2030 being the UN decade on ecosystem restoration,

I think it is a good time to reflect on the importance of healthy, functioning ecosystems as well as take action in restoring them. Some organizations have spearheaded restoration efforts like the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of degraded ecosystems by 2030! While these large-scale targets are inspiring, you may be wondering if there is anything you can possibly do to help. Well there is - and it starts in your own backyard!


Some common garden species became popular and widespread before they were known to be invasive outside of their native range. By replacing these problem species with native ones, you can reduce the risk of contributing to the degradation of near-by native areas. You may think “This Common Buckthorn is just in my backyard, it doesn’t matter if it’s planted here” but Buckthorn berries are often eaten by birds, which then spread seeds all over! 


Many invasive, non-native garden species are unfortunately still sold in garden centres, so informing yourself (and your friends!) on which species to avoid buying is the first step. Then, you can determine which native species would be most ideal for your garden. By using the Ontario Invasive Plant Council (OIPC) Grow me instead guide, gardeners in Ontario can easily swap invasive species with native ones! See below for some recommended replacements to common Southern Ontario species:


                         Instead of Planting....                                                                                  ...Plant This! 



(Vinca minor)


View Plant


Wild Geranium

(Geranium maculatum


View Plant


European Lily

of the Valley

(Convallaria majalis)


View Plant



Starry Flase Solomon's Seal

(Maianthemum steallatum)


View Plant



(Aegopodium podagraria)


View Plant



Large-leaved Aster

(Eurybia macrophylla)


View Plant


English Ivy

(Hedera helix


View Plant



Wild Strawberry 

(Fragaria virginiana


View Plant



Yellow Arch-angel

(Lamiastrum galeobdolon)


View Plant



Zig-zag Goldenrod

(Solidago flexicaulis)


View Plant



Similar resources are available for Alberta, Yukon, BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba (see below). Now that you are inspired to replace your garden with some native species, head to our native nursery locator to find some native plants near you!


Additional Resources:

Ontario OIPC Grow Me Instead Guides Southern 

OICP Grow Me Instead Northern

Alberta Grow Me Instead 

Yukon Grow Me Instead 

Be Plant Wise BC 

Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council

Manitoba Grow me Instead



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Written by: Manpreet Dhaliwal 

National Forest Week


Welcome to National Forest Week! Have you never heard of it? Well, let me tell you a little bit about it. For one week in September every year, the Canadian Institute of Forestry (CFI) takes the opportunity to raise awareness and educate about the Canadian forest sector, as well as the important social, 

environmental, and economic role that this resource plays in our daily lives.


This year, they are encouraging people of all ages to participate in activities such as photo and youth drawing contests, and "Treevia Tuesday" to celebrate our national forests. Interested in participating? Check out the CFI website for more information on campaigns and other resources. This year, I decided to participate by answering the question "What does the forest give you?"




What does the forest give you?


It's a difficult thing to put into words because it's as unique to me as the meaning of life; it is indescribable how much forests give to us, and I couldn't be more grateful for the forest's contribution to my survival every day. Especially when you learn how 6 million trees are planted on Ontario public land each year, and how at 10 acres of forest per person, we have more access to forests than any other country. The most exciting part of it all is knowing that as of 2017, Canadian forestry operations, planting enhancement, and planting initiatives removed 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from our own backyard. We have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide by 50 million tonnes by 2050 if we continue to use greater sustainable forest management like this during the coming years.


Every Tree Counts


After learning this, I took a step back and asked myself, "How can I contribute to future emission reductions while also giving the gift of trees to future generations?" I had no idea where to begin, but as I worked through my research and consulted my network, I became more familiar with the Canplant database and all the resources it offered. I was able to collaborate with local sustainability and environmental groups in the Kitchener Waterloo Region to raise awareness of the trees and plant species that local organizations and residents could plant on their properties.




Now I'd like to ask you to pay it forward by planting a tree and sharing your hopes for future generations. If you're not sure where to start, check out the CanPlant database to see what plants you might be able to grow in your area. Do you require funding for a project? The CanPlant team has compiled a list of grant opportunities to assist you in getting started with your project to plant trees and other native plants.



"Our Roots, Forest" -

Carbon Visuals:


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Written by: Summer Graham 


On September 9th I attended the online webinar “Gardening for the Birds” with Kevin Kavanagh and hosted by North American Native Plant Society (NANPS). The webinar was targeted at individuals interested in selecting native species for their gardens that would help support bird populations. Even as someone with over 5 years of experience in the field of ecology and with an interest in native plants, I found myself learning new information and gaining valuable lessons from the presentation.


The webinar was recorded, and you will be able to view it on the NANPS website in the coming weeks, but if you don’t have the time or prefer to read, I’ve provided a summary of some key take-aways below!


Benefits of Gardens

One of the first topics covered in the webinar was the benefits of gardens and what your garden can provide for local wildlife. Your garden, when planned correctly, can support breeding (species that come to an area during the breeding season to nest), resident birds (birds that remain in the area throughout most of their lifecycles), and non-resident or migratory birds travelling long distances (species that are just passing through in spring and fall). It is also important to remember that when we improve the landscape for birds, we also provide habitat for a variety of other wildlife as well.


For example, look at Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). You may plant this attractive species to help support birds who are attracted to the seeds like Wood Thrush, but you are also supporting other species, including many insects like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Silkmoth, and Spicebush Swallowtail.   


In terms of overall benefits to birds, your yard can provide:

  • Easy access to a bounty of food without the need to expend excess energy searching,
  • Habitat for breeding and nesting,
  • Shelter from predators or weather events while migrating and,
  • Access to clean water


Selection of Species

Ideally, the species you select for your garden will:

  1. Be native to your region and occur naturally in your local area and,
  2. Occur naturally in habitat with conditions that mimic those present in your yard.


Note: Gardens and yards are often drier than adjacent natural areas. Just because a species is found in a ravine near your house doesn’t mean it wants to be in your yard!


Check out the CanPlant “Find my Ecozone” page to learn more about what grows in your region. Remember, just because a species is native to your province or territory doesn’t mean it belongs in your ecozone! Try and keep it as locally appropriate as possible.


Birds and other wildlife respond to habitat, not just species. For example, you may attract a few more birds to your yard by planting a single, native shrub, but you will attract far more if you introduce multiple species and habitat features to the area. This is important to remember when you plan your yard, as you have an opportunity to provide habitat that isn’t available in adjacent yards or natural areas around you.


For example, maybe you live next to a forest that has plenty of mature trees but lacks a shrubby understory. By planting shrubs and other bushes in your yard, you attract species that are looking for shelter or for nesting locations closer to the ground.


Or perhaps your neighbors have a wonderful prairie pollinator garden, but don’t have a water feature? By adding a pond to your garden, you will provide a water source for birds and other wildlife that are already in the area.


Another thing to consider is how you can provide food, shelter, and water year-round, not just in the warmer months. You can do this by planning and diversifying the species in your yard, so flowers, berries, and seeds are available during different seasons.



Although the list of native species for wildlife is extensive, below is a summary of different plants you might consider based on your location (most of these species are suitable for southern Ontario) and the types of birds you are looking to attract. For more detail on what to plant for certain species, check out the Birds Canada site!



There are several species you can plant that produce fruit for birds including:

Small/medium sized seeds

Many of these native plants flower and attract native pollinators while also acting as egg hosts. Be sure not to deadhead (remove old flower heads to try and encourage a second bloom) or cut back the plants until birds have taken advantage of the many seeds!


Larger trees like our native Oak (Quercus sp.) and Hickory (Carya sp.) species produce nuts and acorns perfect for larger species like woodpeckers. 



Nectar feeders, like Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, benefit from spring to fall blooms. A combination of Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), and Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) would be a feast for them!


Cone seeds

White Pine (Pinus strobus) is probably the best native species for attracting birds that feed on cone seeds. Make sure you have enough room in your yard before planting though!



Native Willows (Salix sp.) are ideal for attracting warblers that feed on native insects. By flowering early, willows provide habitat for many native insects in the spring when warblers are migrating back from the south.



When aiming to provide habitat, it was suggested earlier to look at surrounding areas (but not necessarily staking out your neighbours’ gardens!) for features that may be missing on the landscape scale that you can add to your yard.


You should also consider letting leaves stay on your yard rather than tidying them up, as this provides habitat for insects and will attract species such as Northern Flicker that like to forage on the ground for food. If you can, set out some decomposing logs or stumps to provide additional habitat, as well as a perching spot for ground foraging species to hop up on and check their surroundings for predators while they feed.


A water feature can be a great addition to a wildlife garden but be sure it includes the right characteristics to maximize its benefit to local species!

  • Edges that slope down to the water to allow for drinking,
  • Sticks and logs across smaller features to provide perches and sharing of the feature,
  • Trickling sounds to attract wildlife and indicate that fresh water is present and,
  • Shallow end for bathing.  

Most importantly, keep your water feature clean! Wildlife won’t use it if they sense something is “off”, and diseases can be spread through features shared by many animals.



Make it Happen!

All this information might be overwhelming, and you might not know where to start. The best advice is to START SMALL! You don’t have to transform your backyard into a bird paradise overnight, and in terms of budget, time, and commitment, it’s probably best if you don’t. Look to plant a couple native shrubs, and introduce a few habitat features at a time.


Once those species are well established and require less care to thrive, move on to the next thing. By taking on too much at one time, you risk burnout and might become unmotivated to continue if plants start to die and your yard becomes more like a desert than an oasis.


Once you are ready to get started, head to our Native Plant Nursery Finder to discover local places to purchase your plants! 

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Written by: Summer Graham 


So, you want to get started on a native plant garden, but you aren’t sure where to get your plants. You can always check out our native plant nursery locator on the “Where to Buy” resource page, but what if you don’t live very close to a nursery, or your budget for starting a garden is smaller than you would like?


Plant propagation is a great way to grow your own plants from already established native plants. These could be plants from a friend or family members native plant garden, or from a rural landowner in your area. Please, ask for permission before taking plant cuttings or seeds from any private property, and don’t remove native plants from conservation areas, nature reserves, or municipal, provincial, and national parks!


Sexual Propagation

Sexual propagation involves the collection of seed once a plant has been pollinated. This method is different for each plant, so be sure to look into methods of seed collection and germination. If you plan on saving the seeds, look up how to properly store them and how to break dormancy when you are ready to plant. Propagation by seed collection is especially popular for native prairie and savannah restoration projects to help increase the chances of successful germination.


One relatively easy seed to collect and grow is the acorn, or the seed of native Oak trees (Quercus sp.).  There are many different species of Oaks across Canada, so try to collect an acorn from under a tree you know to be native, and then follow these steps to germinate:


  1. Collect acorns in the fall, just after they fall to the ground. Collect more than one, as this increases your chances of getting a viable (able to germinate) acorn.
  2. Test your acorns to make sure they are viable. This is done by placing them in a cup of water. Acorns that are no longer viable will float to the top.
  3. Acorns can be stratified over the winter by placing them in ziplock bag with some damp sand or paper towel, and placing them in the refrigerator (~5 deg C) for 3-4 months.
  4. Your acorns may germinate (start to grow) in the fridge in early spring, but if they don’t, don’t worry! Plant your acorns in early spring and watch for the emerging tree
  5. When deciding on a place to plant, think of the natural growing conditions for the species you have (where did you collect it from?), and use the CanPlant database for help!
    Since they are a tasty snack for deer, you might want to protect your new oak tree from browsing for a few years, to help it grow.


Asexual Propagation

Asexual propagation involves taking cuttings of a specimen plant, and effectively creating a “clone” plant. Here are some tips for collecting native plant cuttings:

  1. Research what time of year cuttings are best collected for the species you have. For many woody species, this is in the dormant season (late fall/winter).
  2. Use clean, disinfected pruning shears to avoid spreading disease between plants.
  3. Remove flowers and flower buds from cuttings so any stored energy is directed towards developing roots so you can establish your plant.
  4. Use a rooting hormone to promote rooting on cuttings.

For some native plants, rooting before planting isn’t even needed! Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and many native willows (Salix sp.) can be propagated through stem cuttings in very early spring before budding, and then almost immediately planted or “staked” into suitable habitat. For more tips on this method of live staking, see this  Nature Conservancy Canada blog post.


Now that you know a little more about plant propagation, go forth and multiply (your native plants)!



Native Plant Network Propagation Protocol Database 

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre – Species specific propagation information often available 


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Written by: Christina Myrdal



Determining whether a species is considered native or introduced is not as straightforward as you might think.


The question of whether a plant is native or introduced may differ depending on the source you are using and which geographical area you are referring to. For example, a plant can be native to Canada, but not native to certain provinces (e.g. Manitoba Maple). You may have noticed that some sources even differ in their display of native species ranges.


The term native is defined as “of indigenous origin or growth”. Native species are therefore defined as those which originate from a given area prior to human intervention. These species have evolved over thousands of generations as part of a cohesive ecosystem alongside other native wildlife and have adapted to the environmental conditions present in a given region.


Non-native or introduced species are those which were introduced by human intervention, the timing of which is often attributed to European settlement when plants and animals could more easily be relocated to new parts of the world where they don’t naturally occur. You may have noticed that many of the highly prevalent invasive species in North America are of Eurasian origin, such as Japanese Knotweed, European Common Reed, and Common Buckthorn. While many species are easy to classify as native or non-native, this is not always the case.


Many species’ origins are difficult to trace and it may be unclear whether they are truly ‘native’ or were introduced so long ago and successfully naturalized. In these cases, it is helpful to review provincial or federal species rankings for the most current assessment of a given species based on available science.

CanPlant’s native/non-native species locality filter is consistent with the distributions listed in the Database of Vascular Plants of Canada (VASCAN). VASCAN uses data from a variety of sources and references to include widely-accepted native statuses for species in the geographical ranges that they cover.


If you want to learn more about native species, be sure to check out our Blog Post here!

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By: Bianca Marcellino


There is no doubt that planting native plants in your garden has a large number of benefits including:

  • promoting pollinators,
  • reducing pesticide use,
  • decreasing your water bill (natives often adapt better to local climate,
  • reducing your carbon footprint, and
  • promoting food web interactions and natural pest management.

However, there are a few things to consider when wanting to add some native plants to your garden.





1. You’ll first want to characterize the garden site that you will be working with.

What kind of soil do you have?

  • How much sun exposure does the area get?
  • How much moisture is there in the soil, and what is the drainage like?

This will help guide you to what kinds of native plants will do well in your area so that you can match the right plant to its required conditions.


It may also be beneficial to research what kind of plants existed on the area before development to get a sense of what will do well. By filtering the species profiles of various native plants on CanPlant, you can get information on their native ranges as well as their moisture, soil and sun requirements.


2. Once you have characterized your area, it is often helpful to draw up a simple garden plan to help decide where plants will go, keep track of any changes to the original garden design, and visualize what the end result will look like. You may want to consider:

  • If you are planning to plant trees, how large will they grow at full maturity?
  • Will trees create too much shade for the rest of the plants in the area?


3. Next, you may need to prepare the soil at the site for planting. If you matched your plant selections to the soil type that you already have, you probably won’t need to make too many adjustments to the soil. If there are no plants currently present, or the soil is unsuitable (rocky or clay-based soils are not very good for any plants), compost and/or manure may need to be added to improve nutrient content.

4. Remember to start slow. Plant a few native plants in your garden in the first year and see how they do. Assess blooming gaps and if soil conditions differ from year to year. Add or remove based on pollinator/animal needs and your own capabilities. Ideally, you should have a good mix of species that bloom in spring, summer, and fall to provide the most benefit to local pollinators.


Pollinator & Wildlife Promotion: 

1. Try to have blooms all season long to maintain a steady food source/shelter for wildlife.

  • Grow plants with foliage in addition to flowers as many animals rely on foliage for their primary source of food (i.e. Monarch caterpillars and the leaves of milkweed plants).
  • Plants with high nectar content (i.e. raspberry or serviceberry) attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Berry- producing native plants can attract forest songbirds and other avian migrants.

2. Leave plants up for winter. Not only can they add some beauty to a dull winter landscape, but they can provide critical habitat for animals during the winter months.

3. Cluster the same species into small groups (about 5 individuals) to attract pollinators.

4. There is no need to remove all the plants already established in your garden, look for gaps and mix the native species into what is already there. This way, you are creating more diversity and only adding additional food sources, not taking any away. The exceptions to this are aggressive non-native (invasive) species like Periwinkle, English ivy, or Japanese barberry that will crowd out other species. These should be handled following the appropriate best management practices to make the area more suitable for planting.


With these tips in mind, head over to the CanPlant species page and discover a world of native plants suitable for your yard! With a free account, you can save a custom species list perfect for keeping track of everything you plan to add to your garden, and then find what local nurseries sell native species near you using our Native Plant Nursery Map!


References & Additional Resources:

What to know about starting your first native plant garden

Planting your native garden

Your guide to gardening with native plants

Native gardening 101


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Written by: Summer Graham 


After a disturbance, ecosystems go through a progressive change of species composition that follows a relatively set pattern over time. This process is called succession, and understanding it can be key to the successful restoration of degraded and disturbed natural areas.


There are two main types of succession, primary and secondary. Primary succession will occur after a large disturbance (volcanic eruption, glacial formation and retreat, forest fire, etc.) resulting in exposed rock with little to no vegetation present. Primary succession is a very slow process (sometimes hundreds or thousands of years!) in which species like mosses, lichens, and fungi establish over bare rock and eventually enough soil is present to allow secondary succession.


Secondary succession can occur after primary succession, or after a less impactful disturbance occurs that sets an ecosystem back in terms of development. Imagine a clear-cut forest that removes most canopy trees but leaves shrub and ground layer vegetation, or a wind storm that creates a clearing in an established forest. Secondary succession will also occur in an anthropogenic setting such as an abandoned farm field. In the example of succession into a forest community, grasses, forbs and shrubs will give way to early pioneer tree species (e.g., Aspen, Cherry, and Pine) that usually tolerate high levels of sunlight and exposure. These species will eventually be replaced by more shade tolerant, intermediate species such as Beech and Maple.


Secondary Succession


Eventually succession may reach a climax community, or the final stage of succession. In an old-growth forest, canopy will be fully developed and the understory will be composed of shade tolerant species. The composition of these communities will vary based on geography and climate. Contrary to general thought, climax communities like old-growth forests are not static or devoid of disturbance, as the oldest trees will eventually die and be replaced by other species from the understory. Small disturbances may still occur throughout the system, creating a dynamic equilibrium.


Some types of ecosystems will form climax communities relatively quickly, such as tall-grass prairies, while others may face frequent, high levels of disturbance and never reach this final stage of succession. Regardless, there is value in all stages of succession. For example, both late and early successional habitats support a variety of wildlife species including Species-at-Risk like the Golden Winged Warbler (early successional shrub habitat) and Spotted Owl (old growth coniferous forests). Some species have adapted to only establish after certain disturbances, such as Lodgepole Pines (Pinus contorta) that require the high heat of forest fires to release and germinate their seeds.


Disruption of the natural successional cycle by human interference can greatly impact the amount and variability of habitats available to wildlife. Restoring natural disturbance, or mimicking it in restoration projects, may help to introduce these species to the landscape once more.


Additional Reading:

Living Nature – Ecological Succession 

Khan Academy – Ecological Succession 



Ecological Succession – Ecology CrashCourse 

Ecological Succession – Bozeman Science 



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Written by: Bianca Marcellino



The Tundra biome is characterized by extreme cold weather, low biotic diversity and precipitation levels, short growing seasons, low-growing vegetation of simple structure, and nutrients available mostly in the form of dead organic matter. Only a small portion of the permafrost thaws each growing season, called the active layer, which limits the vegetation to low shrubs, sedges, flowering plants, and mosses, all with shallow roots and short reproductive cycles. 


In recent decades, the Tundra has rapidly warmed causing a variety of environmental effects including: melting sea ice resulting in increased water levels, shifting vegetation ranges, and release of CO2 stored in the permafrost. Presently, northern Tundra soils hold ~30% of the total soil organic carbon, which with the continued increase in temperature expected to occur over the next decades, threatening the release of this carbon sink; has alarmed the scientific community and gained the name the “Carbon Bomb”.


The warming temperatures may promote the expansion of the Canadian population into previously sparse areas such as the Tundra, fostered by the increased ability of the Tundra to support a greater abundance of vegetation (Deslippe 2011). This activity serves to counteract the lurking prospect of the carbon bomb ‘explosion’; however, the warming temperatures are also expected to drive native Arctic species further North if they are unable to adapt to the warming climate of their original regions. It is unclear whether the release of atmospheric carbon through the thawing of the permafrost will result in the Tundra becoming a carbon source via heightened microbial activity, or remain a carbon sink through increased vegetation growth.


The question arises - is it possible to plant native Arctic plants, which are well adapted to the current Tundra climate, as a mitigation strategy to help combat the “Carbon Bomb”? This could act to support Artic herbivores and their subsequent food webs, and potentially help to limit their displacement to more Northern areas, but may be impractical given the scale of the Canadian arctic and the limitations in our knowledge of how arctic ecosystems are being impacted by climate change.


This uncertainty clearly identifies the need for further study of Canada’s arctic in order to find the best tools to combat the carbon bomb.



Additonal Reading


National Geographic - Tundra Threats Explained

The Narwhal - Arctic tundra is 80 per cent permafrost. What happens when it thaws?

Sciencing - Plant Adaptations in the Tundra 




Deslippe, J. R., M. Hartmann, W. W. Mohn and S. W. Simard. 2011.  Long-term experimental manipulation of climate alters the ectomycorrhizal community of Betula nana in Arctic tundra. Global Change Biology. 17:1625-1636.


Gilg, O., K. M. Kovacs, J. Aars, J. Fort, G. Gauthier, D. Grémillet, R. A. Ims, H. Meltofte, J. Moreau, E. Post, N. M. Schmidt, G. Yannic and L. Bollache. 2012. Climate change and the ecology and evolution of Arctic vertebrates. The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology 1249:166-190.


Steiglitz, M., A. Giblin, J. Hobbie, M. Williams and G. Kling. 2000. Stimulating the effects of climate change variability on carbon dynamics in Arctic tundra. Global Biochemical Cycles 14:1123-1136.


Treat, C. C. and S. Frolking. 2013. A permafrost carbon bomb? Nature Climate Change 3:865-867.


UC Berkeley Biomes Group, S. Pullen and K. Ballard. 2004. The Tundra Biome. Berkeley University of California.  Berkeley, CA, USA.

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Written by: Summer Graham


Do you spend hours each week mowing your lawn to keep it maintained? Are you tired of spending money on herbicides to keep weeds at bay, or fertilizers to keep grass growing? Do local water use restrictions stop you from watering your yard, leaving it dry, brown and crispy in the summer? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, a naturalized yard might be for you!


Naturalization is more than just “letting your yard go”, it’s a way of

reducing the amount of effort needed to maintain an area by replacing a manicured lawn with native plants that are allowed to grow naturally. Native plants are selected and planted in a way that mimics naturally occurring habitat (e.g. woodland, wetland, or prairie), and the end result can provide a wide variety of benefits, including:



no-mow naturalization As mentioned before, naturalizing your lawn is more than just not mowing it. So, what if you lack the resources or time to fully naturalize your yard, but you still want to replace some of your lawn? Most people aren’t ready to completely give up the benefits and ease of a low, consistent ground cover, or maybe they can’t naturalize the front of their yard due to local restrictions. Luckily, there are plenty of native species that can be substituted for grass! These species can be substituted for lawn and will remain fairly short and low to the ground, maintaining the open, clean look a grass lawn provides. Native sedge species are particularly easy and attractive grass replacements, forming dense, soft mats perfect for lounging or playing frisbee on! 


Graminoid Species  


Pennsylvania Sedge

(Carex pensylvanica)


View Plant

Pennsylvania Sedge



Ebony Sedge

(Carex eburnea)


View Plant

Ebony Sedge



Rosy Sedge

(Carex rosea)


View Plant

Rosy Sedge


Woody Species  


Creeping Juniper

(Juniperus horizontalis)


View Plant

Creeping Juniper




(Cornus canadensis) 


View Plant





(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)


View Plant





(Galutheria procumbens)


View Plant



Other Native Options  


Woodland Strawberry

(Fragaria vesca)


View Plant


Woodland Strawberry



Barren Strawberry

(Geum fragarioides) 


View Plant

Barren Strawberry



Common Cinquefoil

(Potentilla simplex)


View Plant

Common Cinquefoil



Native Mosses 





Advice from our staff with natural yards:


Heather – “I find the best method [for naturalization] is to put cardboard overtop of grass and then cover with leaves and/or mulch. The dying grass contributes nitrogen and the cardboard adds carbon. I cut into the cardboard and plant right into it. “


Zack – “I’m a big fan of Strawberry as a groundcover for lawn replacement. I’ve got a big patch of Fragaria vesca that has taken over a shaded section of my lawn. My Carex pensylvanica is also creeping out of my garden in to the shaded lawn areas and will probably outcompete grasses in these spots.”


strip of native lawn plantingJim – “Stopping mowing or abandoning cultivation is one route [to lawn naturalization] but it generally triggers a 2-3 year burst of annual/biennial ‘weeds’ (lots of clovers, Dandelions, Queen Anne’s Lace, Evening Primrose, Canada and Bull Thistles, Common Milkweed, Oxeye Daisy, Black Medic and Bird’s-foot Trefoil) until the Goldenrods get established and spread, which they will do just about anywhere in southern Ontario whether in urban backyards or in hardscapes. Most people are fearful of letting things succeed naturally, so amending with seed mixes containing some favorite native wildflowers is worthwhile but doesn’t eliminate the weedy cycle.

Also, it is worth mentioning that most meadows eventually attract woody species (native and non-native) as meadow is not normally a permanent state here, and intervention (i.e. at least one annual mowing) is required to keep these species in check. The speed that woody species move in depends on available seed sources, which aren’t always of desirable species in urban areas, and increasingly are dominated by Buckthorn.


When searching the CanPlant database for good groundcover species for your yard, select your province in Native Rage and then “ground cover” under Growth Form. If you have any furry friends or young children that like to play in your yard, be sure to do a little more research and use native species known to be non-toxic to kids and pets!


Resources and more reading

Naturalized Lawns Reduce Need for Mowing and Trimming

Naturalized Gardens

Naturalize Your Backyard

Edmonton Pushing for Lawns to Go Natural

Groundcovers and Lawn Alternatives

Gardening with Native Plants – BC



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CanPlant Blog
November 29, 2021
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