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Written by: Bianca Marcellino

 

Phenology can be described as the timing of key life history events that occur in a plant’s life such as emergence, reproduction or leaf drop.

 

A spring-blossoming tree bud

 

Factors such as warmer temperatures in the spring or day length (photoperiod), govern the timing of leaf emergence, bud burst, and leaf drop. Plants are highly adapted to these cues in their respective regions. When shifts occur due to factors like climate warming, it can result in an earlier emergence of spring, forcing plant phenological events to occur earlier in the year.

 

 

There is much diversity in the phenological responses of plants. Some may adapt their life history events to occur earlier in response to climatic shifts, while others may not. This can be problematic for ecosystem health if non-native plants adapt to this change and native plants do not. This scenario could reduce or eliminate introduced species’ native competitors, and could easily foster non-native propagation.

 

Earlier flowering of non-native species has been linked to their improved geographic spread. This allows the nonnative species the opportunity to establish itself in the new ecosystem and to more efficiently disperse its seeds, gaining a competitive advantage over native species.

 

 

Phenologically-assisted invasions by non-native species are often very difficult to control once they've become well-established within an ecological community. However, there are some strategies gardeners and the general public can employ to help prevent this. These strategies fall into two main categories:

 

Planting Strategies

  • Plant only native plants in your garden
  • Remove non-native/invasive plants when you come across them
  • Advise others to plant native species

 

Climate Change Response Strategies

  • Turn to renewable energy sources
  • Buy food from local, sustainable sources
  • Reduce the amount of waste you produce by opting to reuse more of your items
  • Recycle where possible

 

Prevention is often the best strategy when dealing with invasive species management. By choosing to plant native species, you are helping to prevent local establishment of non-native competitors. In this way, you're contributing to the maintainance and restoration of ecosystem balance in your community.

 

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Written by: Mary Anne Young

 

A small boulevard garden on a residential street in Guelph, Ontario

 

Summer is upon us in most of Canada (notwithstanding the snowfalls in my area of Ontario over the first week of May, and the recent hailstorm in Calgary) and many people's minds have turned to gardening. As such we're going to start peppering our blog entries with gardening and landscape design tips. One of CanPlant's staff received a question recently about boulevard gardens:

 

"Hey wondering if you might have recommendations on what to plant in a Boulevard. We had a crazy weed to take over that area, so it has now been dug out, and new soil is going in there. So, we are starting from fresh soil. As you know it would need to be very sun/heat tolerant, and obviously has dogs stepping on it and sometimes kids, as people walk by. One landscape friend suggested creeping thyme with lavender (for height and interest). Any other ideas?"

 

Boulevard gardens may seem easy at first – it is an open strip of land, free for the planting! However, in practice they can be a bit tricky due to difficult growing conditions and municipal restrictions.

 

First of all, it may seem obvious but I'm going to answer the question “what is a boulevard”?  Technically the word boulevard refers to a wide, tree-lined street. But in the context of this article the boulevard is the no-man's-land between the curb and the sidewalk on many urban and suburban streets. This area is within what is known as the road right-of-way, which is usually municipally owned land on either side of the road that is used for utilities (aboveground or underground). Boulevards are heavy-use areas which may be used for everything from piling snow, foot traffic, car drop-off areas, and dogs' rest stops.

 

Vegetation in boulevards usually consists of grass and generally one tree per property. There is a growing trend across Canada of residents planting boulevard gardens, thereby beautifying the street, providing additional nectar sources for pollinators, and contributing to heat island mitigation. Cities with growing boulevard garden traditions include Victoria, Vancouver, Kitchener, Toronto, and Halifax.

 

A newly planted and mulched boulevard garden in a residential neighbourhood

 

Boulevards tend to be difficult places to grow plants – the soil conditions are often poor, there is little shade, and there can be high salt levels from winter maintenance or pets. Therefore, plants should be chosen accordingly. The municipality may need at some point to dig up the bed, so woody plants like trees and shrubs should be avoided; this leaves hardy annual and perennial plants as the ideal boulevard species. You can also consider hard landscaping like rocks if they are small enough to be moved in the aforementioned occasional dig.

 

A boulevard garden on a busy urban streetCreating a new urban boulevard garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some sample native plant palettes that will work in boulevards in different places across Canada. These are all full sun gardens, have yellow or blue/purple colour palettes, and have maximum bloom later in the season:

 

Calgary

Alpine Aster

(Aster alpinus)

 

View Plant
 

Alpine Aster

Prairie Blue-eyed-grass

(Sisyrinchium campestre)

 

Photo by Peter Gorman under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

View Plant
 

Prairie Blue-eyed-grass

Silver Prairie Sage

(Artemisia ludoviciana)

 

Photo by Matt Lavin under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

View Plant
 

Silver Prairie Sage

Wild Bergamot

(Monarda fistulosa)

 

View Plant
 

Wild Bergamot

 

Toronto

Little Bluestem

(Schizachyrium scoparium)

 

View Plant
 

Little Bluestem

Silverweed

(Potentilla anserina)

 

Photo by ekenitr under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

View Plant
 

Silverweed

Sand Coreopsis

(Coreopsis lanceolata)

 

View Plant
 

Sand Coreopsis

Small Pussytoes

(Antennaria howelli)

 

View Plant
 

Small Pussytoes

Vancouver

Tufted Hairgrass

(Deschampsia cespitosa)

 

View Plant
 

Tufted Hairgrass

Philadephia Fleabane

(Erigeron philadelphicus)

View Plant
 

Fleabane

Pearly Everlasting

(Anaphalis margaritacea)

View Plant
 

Pearly Everlasting

Shrubby Cinquefoil

(Dasiphora fruticosa)

 

View Plant
 

Shrubby Cinquefoil

 

Before planting, you should have a utility locate completed to make sure you won't be digging into underground utilities (this is a free service in many areas) and call or check your municipality's website to see if there are any boulevard planting restrictions or free resources.

 

Native plant species within an urban boulevard garden

 

Have questions about using native plants in your gardening or landscape design project that you'd like to see highlighted in a future blog post? Send us a note using the form on the Contact Us page. We love hearing from our users.

 

Links

 

New Westminster

• ASK PAT: Bees and Boulevards

https://patrickjohnstone.ca/2019/07/ask-pat-bees-and-boulevards.html

 

Kitchener

• Recommendations for boulevard plantings in the City of Kitchener (PDF)

https://www.lovemyhood.ca/en/resourcesGeneral/Documents/CSD_NDO_Toolkit_Plant-List.pdf

 

Halifax

• Halifax council to discuss guidelines for boulevard gardens

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/boulevard-gardens-halifax-council-1.5327721

 

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Written by: Nicole White

 

Be on the lookout for native plant species at your supermarket garden centre: In Ontario, Loblaws has partnered with Carolinian Canada and the World Wildlife Foundation's In the Zone initiative to bring native plant stock into 35 stores across the province. This is exciting news, because it makes ecologically-sound gardening a little more accessible for our plant people in the Carolinian Zone!

 

Plants at a Zehrs garden centre

In the Zone plants sighted at a local Zehrs garden centre. Photo courtesy of Sofia Becerra.

 

We love initiatives like this, which make it easier to get locally-grown, ethically-sourced plants into the hands of gardeners. By supporting pollinators and other wildlife, and existing as an alternative to potentially invasive ornamentals, these plants can make a real contribution to the health of urban areas.

 

If you live in Southern Ontario, head out to one of these participating stores and demonstrate that there's consumer demand for native plant stock in mainstream retail outlets by buying some plants. Or if you arrive and they're all sold out, this might be a great time to ask when they'll be getting more!

 

CanPlant isn't affiliated with any of the businesses involved -- we just think that small steps like this could represent a positive shift in how Canadians relate to plants.

 

Here's an interactive map you can explore to find a participating store, and check out the nurseries that are supplying them.

 

 


Are you curious about what plants are available and what you can do with them? Check out CanPlant's species pages for a few of the plants being offered:

 

 

 

 

Pearly Everlasting

(Anaphalis margaritacea)

 

Great for:
Rooftop (drought tolerant/shallow rooted), Butterfly, and Prairie/Meadow gardens

 

View Plant
 

Pearly Everlasting

Swamp Milkweed

(Asclepias incarnata)

 

Great for:
Pond Edge/Wetland, Pond/Standing Water, and Butterfly gardens

 

View Plant

 

Swamp Milkweed

Prairie Smoke

(Geum triflorum)

 

Great for:
Butterfly and Prairie/Meadow gardens

 

View Plant

 

Prairie Smoke

Monkeyflower

(Mimulus ringens)

 

Great for:
Butterfly gardens

 

View Plant

 

Monkeyflower

Blue Lobelia

(Lobelia siphilitica)

 

Great for:
Pond Edge/Wetland and Woodland gardens

 

View Plant

 

Blue Lobelia

Maidenhair Fern

(Adiantum pedantum)

 

Great for:
Woodland gardens

 

View Plant

 

Maidenhair Fern

Woodland Sunflower

(Helianthus divaricatus)

 

Great for:
Woodland and Rooftop gardens (drought tolerant/shallow rooted)

 

View Plant

 

Woodland Sunflower

Wild Columbine

(Aquilegia canadensis)

 

Great for:
Rooftop (drought tolerant/shallow rooted), Bird, and Woodland gardens

 

View Plant

 

Wild Columbine

Switch Grass

(Panicum virgatum)

 

Great for:
Rooftop (drought tolerant/shallow rooted), Bird, and Prairie/Meadow gardens

 

View Plant

 

Switch Grass

Virginia Bluebell

(Mertensia virginica)

 

Great for:
Woodland and Prairie/Meadow gardens

 

View Plant

 

Virginia Bluebell

 

If you'd like to share what's going on in your own zone to help people engage with ecologically-friendly gardening practices, please Contact Us and let us know!

 

Further Reading:

 

• Where to Find Native Plants - In The Zone

 

• Loblaws In The Zone Species List

 

• CanPlant Blog: Why Choose Native?

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Written by: Nicole White

Kiki Dann is a lifelong gardener, workshop instructor, and passionate native plant lover. Project coordinator for Polli-Patches, a pilot project of Yorklands Green Hub that aims to get East Guelph, Ontario, residents involved and excited about our pollinator species, by planting, maintaining, and observing a mini-native plant pollinator garden (and creating nesting sites/habitats for pollinators).

 

During a socially-distanced backyard visit,  Kiki told me all about what's growing and living in her fabulous urban garden!

Photo of Kiki with a sunflower

 

 

Q: How did you become interested in gardening and using native plants?

 

A: I'm a lifelong gardener. I started getting into native plants when I was working with an organic gardening company who tried to get their customers to garden with purpose as opposed to just having something that looked nice.

 

I really love native plants. They're very beautiful and a lot of them have species of wildlife and insects that depend on them. These are called specialists – for example: some bees will only eat the nectar of specific flowers, and monarch butterflies only use milkweed as host plants for their caterpillars. Ants, beetles, and flies can also be pollinators!

 

Q: What's growing in your garden and what benefits does it provide?

 

A: I have some Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger) growing here. See how the flowers lay flat on the ground: this is so ants and other insects can walk right in! It's also a spreading groundcover that's really good in deep shade, so it's a great alternative to hostas, or to invasives like Periwinkle and Goutweed.

 

Wild Ginger will take dry shade very well, but it does prefer moisture. It's drought tolerant to a degree, and it fills up a place slowly and steadily without being too aggressive.

 

The blossom of Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)

Wild Ginger

 

View Plant

 

I just planted some Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) today. These are slow to establish, but once they flower, they're beautiful bright orange. They also smell good!

 

Newly transplanted and watered Butterflyweed plants in a mulched garden bed

Butterflyweed

 

View Plant

 

Another plant in my garden that smells great is Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells), which is one of my favourite spring flowers.

 

I have some Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) growing on my walkway. It's seemed to have popped up randomly around this Hosta and is jumping up everywhere!

 

Close-up of Jack in the Pulpit in bloom

 

Jack in the Pulpit

 

View Plant

 

I've also planted some Anthoxanthum nitens (Sweetgrass), which I remember my grandma braiding when I was little. I'm told with the right amount of moisture and sun this plant can get a little aggressive, but I don't think that will happen where I've planted it.

 

A small patch of Sweetgrass

 

Sweetgrass

 

View Plant

 

Q: What else have you done to create habitat in your backyard?

 

I'm trying to make sure there are nesting sites for pollinators in my garden. I have areas that I try to keep muddy because most of our native bees are ground-nesting, and some of them like to nest in mud. Mulch is good because you can conserve water and keep down weeds, but if you leave some areas bare close to foraging sites, it provides habitat for the bees and other insects.

 

Usually toward the back of my garden I'll allow weeds to grow a little bit and leave it undisturbed within reason.

 

A person holding a friendly snake

A friendly backyard visitor!

 

What are the challenges and rewards of growing native plants?

 

You can't really grow natives in a heated greenhouse like you would geraniums or tomatoes. Some plants need to be seeded in the fall, some need a cold stratification period, and in some cases, using fertilizer can damage them.

 

A small Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry) shrub

 

Nannyberry

 

View Plant

 

One reason some people don't get into natives is that they don't want to rip out their entire garden and replace it with all native species. That's not really affordable for a lot of people and natives aren't always as easy to find or as showy. People want their garden to look pretty and be low-maintenance – which native plants can be – but, it means more work at the beginning: my Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry) is two years old, and it's still very small. One reason people love gardening is because of the joy it brings, so I think it's fine to mix in your favourites along with natives.

 

Tell me about Polli-Patches!

 

A: Polli-Patches is a pilot project I'm coordinating in Guelph with Yorklands Green Hub. It's aiming to get people involved in native plant gardening with an emphasis on pollinators and wildlife support.

 

Potted plants to be used in the Polli-Patches project

 

We give participants five to seven pollinator plants, including a shrub. We also give people information and recommend resources like Bumblebee Watch and iNaturalist. Then they can start observing the pollinators that are coming around.

 

The challenge we give them is to figure out where they can fill in the gaps in their garden next year, how they can expand their garden, and how they can add things to their garden to benefit wildlife or even themselves. For example, some people are getting Saskatoon Berry shrubs. Those are great!

 

I think this is where CanPlant is helpful – I want people to understand where they can fill in those gaps – so, for example, if they have nothing blooming in August, they can research and explore species blooming in August that support pollinators and are native to their region.

 

Thanks to the generous donation of Pollination Guelph, we got a grant to do this community project. We're completely maxed out on participants right now. We'd love to do more!  Next year we're hoping to get more funding and expand the project.

 

I'd love to do what B.C. did and make a pollinator pathway – so, throughout the whole city there could be little gardens and resting places for pollinators. The biggest issue pollinators face is habitat loss. They need water and someplace to rest. You can put a bowl in your yard and fill it with marbles, rocks, or even a floating leaf so they can drink water and get through the city.

 

I never thought I'd like native plants – I always liked very showy ornamentals – but native plants are just something else! They're very beautiful and I just love watching the variety of visitors.

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By: Summer Graham

 

The topic of shifting native plant ranges touches on many of the themes that have been (or will be) covered on the CanPlant blog page. What classifies a plant as “native”? How is the climate changing, and what does this change mean for ecology? What is the connection between native wildlife and native plant species? Each of these topics can be difficult to dissect on their own. Mix them together, and the picture becomes even more blurred.

 

Let’s start with what we know. As the climate changes and global temperature warms, it might be expected that species will move “up” (north and/or to higher elevations) to remain in environments that suit their traits. A study in California found just that, but they also found some more concerning evidence. While both plants and animals were found to be shifting their ranges, wildlife was doing so at a much faster rate (Wolf et al. 2016).

 

Over the past century, only 12% of native plant species are moving ranges upwards at a significant rate (Wolf et al. 2016). Even more alarming, a greater proportion of non-native and invasive species (27%) were on the move, causing concern that as native species move upwards, they will find would-be suitable habitats already colonized by non-native species (Wolf et al. 2016). This combination of factors means that the faster moving wildlife will find themselves in potentially unsuitable, non-native habitat, and this breakdown of ecological relationships could have unknown consequences for species survival.  

 

Current (1971–2000) versus projected (2071–2100) climate suitability zone of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides). Image courtesy of Natural Resources Canada.

Current (1971–2000) versus projected (2071–2100) climate suitability zone of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides). Image courtesy of Natural Resources Canada.

 

The results of a warming climate may not be consistent across the globe, however. Bezeng et al. (2017) found that in parts of South Africa, climate change may actually result in a reduction of area suitable for current invasive species that are present on the landscape. However, there were some species that showed potential to expand ranges due to changes, and there is also the opportunity for new invaders to appear when shifts occur (Bezeng et al. 2017). 

 

So, where do we go from here? If we accept that species (especially native ones) might not be able to move and adapt fast enough to survive the current shift in appropriate habitat, what (if anything) can we do?

 

Assisted migration is the human-assisted movement of species (plants or animals) to more suitable habitats, and it is a widely debated topic in terms of risk, viability, resources, and ethics. In Canada, many provinces and territories already have seed transfer guidelines for planting of seed from certain regions to ensure genetics are suitable for an area (NRC 2016). B.C. and Alberta are two examples of jurisdictions that have modified these guidelines by extending seed transfer zones 200 metres higher in elevation, effectively taking a small step towards assisted migration (NRC 2016).

 

Assisted migration can be done on multiple scales, each with their own level of risk. The lowest risk option is assisted population migration, where species are only moved within their historic or known range. Then there is assisted range expansion, where species are established just outside their established range, but to areas that would feasibly be expanded to through natural dispersal methods such as wind, water, or dispersal by animals. The highest risk is associated with assisted long-distance migration, where species are moved to areas far outside a “natural” dispersal area.

 

Regardless of the scale on which it is implemented, assisted migration should be backed by research on species genetics, viability in an introduced area, natural dispersal, and the risk posed by introducing or moving certain species. Although this process may be slow, it is likely still faster than allowing species to move at a natural pace, and we may reduce the risk of important native species being left behind.

 

Additional Reading:

Climate Central. “Climate Change is Leaving Native Plants Behind.”

 

National Geographic. “Half of All Species are on the Move – And We’re Feeling It.”

 

Yale Environment 360. “As World Warms, How Do We Decide When a Plant is Native? “  

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Written by: Summer Graham

 

Spring has sprung, and it is once again time to turn our thoughts to flowers, gardens, and warmer days. Spring may not arrive locally just yet depending on where you are in Canada, but it is likely a highly anticipated event for most “plant people”, with keen eyes watching for the first flowers to bloom.

 

These early-blooming species are often called “heralds of spring”, with their appearance on the landscape often accepted as a sure sign that warmer temperatures are just around the corner. In Nunavut, it is the territorial flower of Purple Mountain Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia; Inuit name: 'aupaluktunnguat.’) that often blooms first.

 

Some species bloom early to take advantage of the higher levels of sunlight available while trees are still budding and have not formed full canopies yet. These species are often quick to fade after blooming. Others coordinate their flowers to match up with the activity of key pollinators and play an important role in supporting these wildlife species as they become active after the long winter.

 

Here are 10 native plants from across Canada that bloom early in the season:

 

1. Bloodroot

(Sanguinaria canadensis)

Distribution in Canada:
MB, ON, QC, NB, NS
Bloom-time: March–May

 

View Plant
 

Bloodroot

2. Western Skunk Cabbage

(Lysichiton americanus)

Distribution in Canada:
BC
Bloom-time: March–June

 

Photo by Scott Darbey (used with modification, CC BY 2.0)

 

View Plant

 

Western Skunk Cabbage

3. Flowering Currant

(Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum)

Distribution in Canada:
BC
Bloom-time: April–May

 

View Plant

 

Flowering Currant

4. Yellow Trout Lily

(Erythronium americanum var. americanum)

Distribution in Canada:
ON, QC, NB, NS
Bloom-time: April–May

 

View Plant

 

Yellow Trout Lily

5. Blue Cohosh

(Caulophyllum thalictoides)

Distribution in Canada:
MB, ON, QC, NB, NS
Bloom-time: April–June

 

View Plant

 

Blue Cohosh

6. Jack-in-the-Pulpit

(Arisaema triphyllum)

Distribution in Canada:
MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PE
Bloom-time: April–June

 

View Plant

 

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

7. Round-lobed Hepatica

(Anemone americana)

Distribution in Canada:
MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PE
Bloom-time: May–June

 

View Plant

 

Round-lobed Hepatica

8. Blue-eyed Grass

(Sisyrinchium montanum)

Distribution in Canada:
BC, AB, SK, M, ON, QC, NB, NS, PE, NF, YT, NT
Bloom-time: May–July

 

View Plant

 

Marsh Marigold

9. Bearberry or Kinnikinick

(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Distribution in Canada:
BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PE, NF, YT, NT, NU
Bloom-time: May–July

 

View Plant

 

Bearberry or Kinnikinick

10. Purple Mountain Saxifrage

(Saxifraga oppositifolia)

Distribution in Canada:
BC, AB, MB, ON, QC, NS, NF, YT, NT, NU
Bloom-time: May–August

 

View Plant

 

Purple Mountain Saxifrage

 

If you're able to get outside, see if you can spot any of these early bloomers appearing in natural areas near you! Or if quarantine is keeping you indoors, use the CanPlant Database or check out the links below to virtually explore spring plants.

 

Additional Resources:

 

• Ontario Wildflowers – Species Blooming in Spring

 

• Owlcation – Spring Wildflowers in Southwestern British Columbia

 

• Destination Nunavut – Flora

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Written by: Nicole White

 

The COVID-19 outbreak is an exponential crisis, where each of us can literally save lives in our communities by heeding the precautions recommended by the WHO and Health Canada to reduce its spread.

 

We hope you're all doing your best to stay safe and healthy. A connection to nature can help reduce stress and enhance mental health, so we've prepared a list of resources and recommendations to help us all get through this time.

 

Books

Any book you can dream of can be ordered online in hard copy or ebook form. Also, while your local library may be closed, you may still be able to check out ebooks or digital audiobooks on their website. Here are a couple of our reading recommendations:

 

An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Johnathan Silvertown
Seeds piqued my interest while I was working as a lab technician to help develop seed bank technology in Nova Scotia. This book about the evolution, genetic beauty, and surprising diversity of seeds will be compelling to home gardeners and scientists alike.

 

 

Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces by Tara Nolan

Janel says, 'Mari-Ann is currently using her extra time to read our friend Tara Nolan’s newly released book and is loving it.'

 

Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants by Nichlas Harberd
The author uses a diary format to follow a single Arabidopsis thaliana (a common weed often used in scientific studies) specimen throughout its entire lifecycle. Sketches and storytelling are used to illuminate plant biology and meditate on the beauty of natural processes.

 

Bringing Nature Home by D. W. Tallamy

Summer says: 'Once you have read “Bringing Nature Home” and start making changes in your own back-yard, you will soon want to buy a copy for every friend and family member to help your efforts multiply. The review on the front of the book says it all, If you have a backyard, this book is for you.'

 

 

Online Resources

While museums and botanical gardens may be closed, you can still delve into natural history for free online:

 

Emily Dickenson's Herbarium
The reclusive poet was also a skilled gardener who independently studied plants at a time when women were excluded from the scientific community. Harvard has made a high-quality digital version of the herbarium she created in her youth here.

 

Emily Dickenson's Herbarium


The Cotton MS Vitellius C III

CanPlant cannot help you find which plants grow best in dragon's blood, but this Old English manuscript, made available by the British Library, can do that and then some. An interesting view for those interested in botany and medieval history.

 

The Cotton MS Vitellius C III

 

Create a Plant List with CanPlant
Create a free account on the CanPlant website, filter and search to find the right plants for where you are, and develop your own custom plant lists. Lists can be saved, downloaded, and printed!

 

Videos

The National Film Board of Canada
The NFB has many high-quality plant films and documentaries going back over five decades! All of these are available to stream for free in your browser.

 

Kingdom of Plants 3D
This David Attenborough documentary features as much diversity as an episode of Planet Earth, but it's all shot in a single location -- the world-class Kew Gardens in London.

 

Activities

Get Outside

Note: Please check the recommendations of your public health professionals for this one! In some cases, it may be advisable to stay indoors.

 

Christina says, 'Nature is one of the few things is still open for enjoyment. Go for a solo hike or jog in your favourite natural space. Studies have shown that immersing yourself in nature helps to reduce stress and improve mental health (something we all could use right now!)

 

Not only that, but maintaining physical activity and getting some good ol’ Vitamin D is important while we are all cooped up inside for the near future. Make it a time to reflect and be calm, or exert pent up energy or anxiety that many of us are feeling these days.

 

Hiking in Western Canada

 

AllTrails is a great (and free!) app that shows you trails in your area, and allows you to filter for less popular spots as we all try and maintain social distancing. As a safety precaution, be sure to carry your cell phone and have a friend or family member aware of your whereabouts if you do endeavour out alone.'

 

Forest (App)

Summer says, 'I personally find it very hard to “unplug” especially at a time like this when you want to constantly check the news for updates, not healthy! I use this app to temporarily lock my phone to stop me looking at it, it grows a virtual tree that will die if you stop before your time is up. Bonus, you get points that can be redeemed to purchase a real tree the company will plant through a tree planting initiative! '

 

Submit Photos to CanPlant

Do you have any photos in your collection of plant species you've identified? If you want to help CanPlant's mission, now would be a great time to see if you can help us fill in the gaps in our database. Use the Submit a Photo form, or Contact Us directly if you have a larger collection you'd like to share.

 

Join the Conversation

Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram, leave a comment, and let us know how you're connecting with plants and nature during this time.

 

Take care of yourself and your loved ones. And if you can, let a connection to nature help you be resilient.

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Written by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

 

The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day celebration is “Sustaining All Life on Earth,” which recognizes biodiversity as a key component in protecting natural life.

 

To this end, it is important to acknowledge all species, including those that are often ignored or seen as not having any economic value to humans. We need to take a holistic perspective and recognize the interconnectedness of all living things. Although many plants are valued by people, many other species remain ignored but nonetheless have intrinsic worth and act as key components of ecosystems.

 

Here in Canada, we are still discovering and learning about our own plant communities. During Ontario Botanists' Big Year 2019 on iNaturalist, Kevin Gevaert discovered a plant that is new to Canada: Slender Three-seeded Mercury (Acalypha gracilens) -- surprisingly within the urban boundary of Caththam-Kent.

 

This past fall, while I was out exploring a section of the Niagara Escarpment with fellow ecologists Tristan Knight and Jose Maloles, Tristan discovered a moss growing on the cliff face which he identified as Fan Moss (Forsstroemia trichomitria). This species was rediscovered in Quebec in 2011 after not being seen in North America since the late 1800s. Since then, it has only been observed once in Ontario and once in Quebec.

 

Fan Moss: Photo by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

Photo by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

 

Tristan’s discovery marked the second modern record for Ontario and fourth extant record in North America.

 

Jennifer Doubt, a botanist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, is currently documenting Fan Moss distribution and abundance in Canada, to help understand its conservation status.

 

Another recent discovery in northeastern North America is the Tall Beech Fern (Phegopteris excelsior), seen for the first time in 2019. Although it hasn’t been documented in Ontario yet, I believe it is only a matter of time before some keen observer is able to separate it from the closely-related and better-known Broad Beech Fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera).

 

 I am often amazed in the ability of healthy, mature forests and plant communities to support substantial fungi and lichen communities, with many species still completely under the radar. Here too, there are likely many discoveries yet to be made.

 

For example, while recently exploring a swamp in Hamilton, I found a species of Chaenothecopsis fungi growing on Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) which appears to be new to science based on previous collections in Ohio. Another new species of lichen was recently discovered in swamps near Toronto, a stubble lichen (Chaenotheca selvae), which seems to have an affinity for stumps of mature Maple trees.

 

Photo by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

 

I think that these discoveries underscore how much we have yet to learn, even in places that are generally well-surveyed and emphasize the need to continue to study our ecosystems.

 

Discoveries like these also highlight the need to protect natural areas, which maintain biodiversity at both the local and global level.

 

Many wildlife observations today come from citizen science initiatives, which gather the unique experience and knowledge of individuals into centralized databases. These include eBird, created by Cornell University and the Audobon Society, and iNaturalist, offered by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

 

These apps make it easy for anyone to contribute to our understanding of biodiversity. This can create newfound appreciation and positive momentum towards sustaining our natural world. One of our big dreams for CanPlant is to use this kind of technology and public participation to enhance our understanding of Canadian plants and landscapes.

 

Are you an intrepid botanizer who would like to participate in CanPlant's work? You can use our Submit a Photo form to contribute your plant photos, or Contact Us directly if you have a larger collection you'd like to share.

 

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Written by: Summer Graham

 

Monarch caterpillar on Swamp Milkweed

 

Every time you decide to plant something in your garden or yard, you have the opportunity to make an important choice.

 

You can either choose a native species, one that can support a greater abundance of native wildlife (particularly insect herbivores) (Burghardt et al. 2010), or you can plant a non-native species that is less likely to have this benefit, and can even potentially become invasive.

 

This choice can have huge, bottom-up impacts on wildlife populations, especially now that Canadian landscapes are increasingly becoming more urbanized. Native nesting bird species often rely on insect populations to feed their young, so the amount of native or non-native vegetation on a landscape can directly impact the diversity and abundance of bird species in the area (Burghardt et al. 2009; Narango et al. 2010).

 

This is quantified by Douglas W. Tallamy, wildlife ecology professor at the University of Delaware:

Black-capped Chickadee

"...But there are serious ecological consequences to such choices, and another exercise you can do at home makes them clear. This spring, if you live in North America, put up a chickadee nest box in your yard. If you are lucky, a pair of chickadees will move in and raise a family. While they are feeding their young, watch what the chickadees bring to the nest: mostly caterpillars. Both parents take turns feeding the chicks, enabling them to bring a caterpillar to the nest once every three minutes. And they do this from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. for each of the 16 to 18 days it takes the chicks to fledge. That’s a total of 350 to 570 caterpillars every day, depending on how many chicks they have. So, an incredible 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars are required to make one clutch of chickadees."

 

In addition to not supporting native wildlife, some non-native plants can actually seriously threaten certain species. For example, consider the relationship between the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and native Milkweed species.

 

The Monarch has evolved so closely with native Milkweed species that it now feeds exclusively on them, and so relies on Milkweed as a host plant to lay its eggs on. European Swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum rossicum, a.k.a. Dog-strangling Vine) is a non-native member of the milkweed family that is considered invasive due to its rapid spread and highly prolific nature.

 

Monarchs can mistakenly lay their eggs on Swallow-wort plants, believing them to be native milkweeds. The caterpillars that hatch on these plants will die, as they are unable to feed on the non-native species (NCC, 2019).

 

So, what can you do? First, choose native! Use available resources like the CanPlant Species Database to choose species listed as native to your region that will help to support local wildlife and contribute to the ecosystem.

 

Learn more about milkweeds and where they fit in your garden by checking out these recommended species:

 

Purple Milkweed

(Asclepias purpurascens)

 

View Plant

 

Purple Milkweed

 

Swamp Milkweed

(Asclepias incarnata)

 

View Plant

 

Swamp Milkweed

 

Butterflyweed

(Asclepias tuberosa)

 

View Plant

 

Butterflyweed

 

Common Milkweed

(Asclepias syriaca)

 

View Plant

 

Common Milkweed

 

Showy Milkweed

(Asclepias speciosa)

 

View Plant

 

Showy Milkweed

 

 

Second, control and manage invasive, non-native species on your property that pose a threat to native biodiversity. Visit the Ontario Invasive Plant Council website to learn more about managing invasive plant species.

 

Additional Resources & Further Reading

• Ontario Invasive Plant Council “Grow Me Instead” Guide

• Opinion: In Your Garden, Choose Plants That Help the Environment

Douglas W. Tallamy, The New York Times

 

References:

Burghardt, K. T., Tallamy, D. W. and W.G. Shriver. 2009. Impact of Native Plants on Bird and Butterfly Biodiversity in Suburban Landscapes. Conservation Biology, 23: 219-224. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01076.x

 

Burghardt, K. T., D. W. Tallamy, C. Philips, and K. J. Shropshire. 2010. Non-native plants reduce abundance, richness, and host specialization in lepidopteran communities. Ecosphere 1(5):art11. doi:10.1890/ES10-00032.1

 

Narango, D.L., Tallamy, D.W.  and P.P. Marra. 2010. Native plants improve breeding and foraging habitat for an insectivorous bird. Biological Conservation: 213, Part A, ISSN 0006-3207. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.029.

Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC). 2019. “Dog-strangling Vine”. Available online at: http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/invasive-species/dog-strangling_vine.html

 

Photo: Black-capped Chickadee. Photo by Mark Daly, courtesy of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

 

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Written by: Nicole White

 

People used to view wetlands as a waste of space: they can't be built, they can't be easily traversed by boat, and they aren't profitable for most types of agriculture. So why are wetlands so important?

 

Now we're learning that wetlands are some of the most biologically productive sites on our planet. They hold water in times of flood or drought, purify the environment, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. I've heard them called 'Nature's Kidneys'. They sustain life by providing essential year-round or seasonal habitat for many species of fish, birds, and other animals. They are also home to plant communities found nowhere else, and have a breathtaking beauty all their own.

 

Events like World Wetlands Day (Sunday, February 2) work to shift these attitudes, and effect change.

 

As a small celebration of World Wetlands Day, I conducted an informal poll of my ecologist colleagues to find out what everyone's favourite wetland plant was. The results were fun and I hope our appreciation of these plants inspires you to learn more about them:

 

Marsh Marigold

(Caltha palustris)

'I love Marsh Marigold because the flowers are like little bursts of sunlight when walking through a wetland or swampy woods.'

 

View Plant

Marsh Marigold

Turtlehead

(Chelone glabra)

'Mostly because it looks like a turtle!'

 

View Plant

Turtlehead

Bog Buckbean

(Menyanthes trifoliata)

'Bog Buckbean looks like a giant clover, and I've found it in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.'

 

View Plant

Bog Buckbean

 

Buttonbush

(Cephalanthus occidentalis)

'The flowers are just so striking... and look like pom-poms or fireworks. They're such a lovely surprise to find.'

 

View Plant

Buttonbush

Skunk Cabbage

(Symplocarpus foetidus)

'Foul-smelling but a very reliable groundwater seepage indicator; quite unusual in that its flowers can actually melt the snow so that it can get a head start on flowering and pollination by flies and beetles in the early spring.'

 

View Plant

Skunk Cabbage

Any Type of Bladderwort

(Utricularia cornuta shown here)

'They have beautiful flowers, they float on the water surface and they eat bugs. I think that's pretty neat.'

 

View Plant

Horned Bladderwort

 

Cranberry

(Vaccinium macrocarpon)

'It reminds me of Thanksgiving at my family cottage.'

 

View Plant

Cranberry

Common Pipewort

(Eriocaulon aquaticum)

'Stands of common pipewort look like drifts of delicate white pompoms hovering over shallow water. The flower is intricate and the plant is unassuming. Quite lovely.'

 

View Plant

Cranberry

Pitcher Plant

(Sarracenia purpurea)

'Carnivorous -- the story last year that a population in Algonquin consumes salamanders was a bit disconcerting but cool!'

 

View Plant

Pitcher Plant

 

We hope you're inspired to learn more about the strange and wonderful plant life growing in our country's wetlands. Check out the links below, or visit the CanPlant Search Page to discover more species.

 


Recommended Further Reading:

 

• World Wetland Day 2020: Official Page
Find a World Wetlands Day event near you, learn more about wetlands, get free educational materials and infographic cards to share on your social media accounts.

 

• The Secret World of Bog
This photojournalist's foray into West Coast coastal temperate rainforest bogs was published in 2016 and won a gold award in the Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The photos in this beautiful piece show the area's flora on all scales, from peat moss fasicles to forests of stunted pines and cedars.

 

• Pitcher plants discovered snacking on baby salamanders in Ontario park
A recent CBC stories shows that our native carnivorous plants are more voracious than we might think.


• Treasured Wetlands of Nova Scotia 2019 Story Map

An interactive look at wetland habitats in Nova Scotia. If you're not on the East Coast right now, here's a way to visit these sites virtually!
 

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