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Written by: Summer Graham

 

Plants and animals within an ecosystem interact with each other through a variety of mechanisms. Some plants and animal species become so dependent on one another that they can co-evolve , meaning that one species can affect another species’ evolutionary adaptations because of the reproductive success gained by interacting with one another. These natural interactions between species gained over thousands of generations can be interrupted by replacing native flora with non-native flora, and can negatively impact the wildlife that rely on these relationships for success. Here we will examine different types of interactions between plants and animals and discuss some of the evolutionary traits that have become apparent as a result.

 

Herbivory

One of the most common interactions between plants and animals is herbivory. The pressures of herbivores consuming plants over thousands of generations may result in plants evolving compounds that deter wildlife (such as toxins in leaves or spicy fruit). Although herbivory is often seen as beneficial to wildlife and detrimental to plants, partial grazing by herbivores can also benefit plant communities. For example, Tent Caterpillars grazing on leaves in canopy trees in a forest can lead to an increase of sunlight in the sub-canopy, shrub layer or forest floor, which can benefit the growth of these lower species.

 

A classic example of a close relationship between herbivore and plant species are the Monarch Butterfly and Milkweed (Asclepias sp.). Monarch larvae only eat Milkweed species, so adult Monarchs will seek out these plants specifically to lay eggs on so that caterpillars will have easy access to their food source when they hatch. Because Milkweed provides larval Monarchs with their only food source, this interaction is critical to the success of Monarch reproduction. Unfortunately, adult Monarchs can mistake European Swallowwort (Vincetoxicum rossicum) as native Milkweed and mistakenly lay eggs on this invasive, non-native species resulting in larvae that are unlikely to survive.

 

Mimicry

Another interesting type of  plant and wildlife      interaction is mimicry. This  occurs when wildlife  evolves to mimic physical  traits of plants that occur  in their environments,  allowing them to  camouflage  and hide from predators or easily hunt unsuspecting prey. In Canada, the Common Walkingstick (a.k.a stick bug) and many species of Katydids have evolved to resemble branches and leaves of the plants they live and feed on.

 

Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination and seed dispersal are similar interactions that allow wildlife to aid in the reproductive cycle of a plant species.

Pollination involves the transfer of pollen from one plant to another plant of the same species, allowing the plant species to successfully reproduce while providing the animal with a delicious snack. While some plants rely on wind for this to occur, others have evolved closely alongside native animal pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, birds, and bats. Many plants have evolved certain traits such as flower size, shape, smell, and colour to attract the specific animal needed to have successful pollination occur.

 

Seed dispersal occurs after successful pollination when the fruit and seed have developed in a plant. In order for seeds to successfully produce a new plant, they often need to be moved away from the parent plant. Similar to pollination, some plants rely on seed dispersal via wind, while others rely on wildlife to disperse seed in the following ways:

  1. By sticking to animal fur to be deposited at a new location (Burdock, aka burs, have evolved to be great at this!) and,
  2. By having edible fruit that is consumed and expelled in a new location after it is passed through an animal’s digestive system; or seeds that may be otherwise discarded in a new location after the fruit is eaten.

These are only a few different ways that plants and wildlife have evolved to interact together, and the relationships between them may be more complex than we currently know. From what we do know, it is clear that a shift from native to non-native vegetation can result in impacts to wildlife that have evolved to rely on critical interactions with native flora, making it all the more important to plant native species when we can!

 

Additional Reading

Brooklyn Botanic Garden - Plant/Animal Relationships

Plant Life - Animal Plant Interactions

British Ecological Society - Direct interactions between invasive plants and native pollinators: evidence, impacts and approaches

 

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Written by: Bianca Marcellino

 

 

The continued human population increase has pushed the world into a state of rapid urbanization; these urban areas can create local pockets of increased CO2 and heat, creating an urban heat island (UHI) effect where the urban area is noticeably warmer than nearby areas with more green spaces.

 

The concept of green infrastructure, specifically green roofs, has been gaining momentum in recent years as a climate mitigation and adaptation strategy. Green roofs are a specialized roofing system that uses a layer of light soil followed by plants and vegetation on top of a waterproof membrane. Within the past few decades, the use of green roofs on buildings within urban environments has been increasing. In some Canadian municipalities, such as Toronto, by-laws have been developed to require and govern the construction of green roofs. Green roofs carry many public benefits such as:

 

  • Urban heat island mitigation
  • Improved air quality
  • Buffering of storm water and improved runoff quality by posing as a natural filter
  • Reduce carbon emissions through the absorption of CO2 and release of O2
  • Absorb dust and smog
  • Aesthetic improvements
  • Provides habitat for insects, migratory and breeding birds
  • Place for urban food production
  • Increase thermal efficiency of buildings enabling reduced heating and cooling costs
  • Reduces noise pollution
  • Low maintenance option that lasts longer than a regular roof

 

Aside from the benefits that cumulatively demonstrate green roofs as a tool to mitigate the effects of climate change; perhaps the greatest benefit is that they can be installed on residential homes as well as urban buildings. This way, the average household can reap the benefits enjoyed by this green infrastructure strategy, while knowing that they are actively combatting climate change on an individual level. In order to learn more and find resources about professionals who can consult on and construct green roofs, visit Green Roofs for Heathly Cities

 

 

References

 

Boscarino, J. E. 2015. Paving the way or crowding out? The impact of the rise of climate change on environmental issue agendas. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 5:99-110.

 

GRHC [Green Roofs for Healthy Cities]. 2014. About Green Roofs. Toronto, ON.

Li, Y. and R. W. Babcock Jr. 2014. Green roofs against pollution and climate change. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 34:695-705.

 

Partridge, D. R. and J. A. Clark. 2018. Urban green roofs provide habitat for migrating and breeding birds and their arthropod prey. PLoS ONE 13:e0202298. 

 

Sangkakool, T., K. Techato, R. Zaman and T. Brudermann. 2018. Prospects of green roofs in urban Thailand – A multi-criteria decision analysis. Journal of Cleaner Production 196:400-410

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Written by: Summer Graham 

 

Management of invasive species is a topic that often comes up when discussing natural environments and native plants. Maybe you are looking to restore an area, but Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) currently dominates the site. Or, maybe you want to convert your garden into a native plant sanctuary, but already established non-native species like Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) are giving you a hard time.

 

GoutweedLuckily, there are a variety of techniques that can be used to tackle these invaders, clearing the way for native species to once again thrive. Please note that effective strategies, timing, and appropriate disposal varies for different invasive species, so be sure to check the best management practices for the species you are trying to manage. In this blog, we cover some of the most common methods for tackling invasive species. Take a look to get some ideas, and then refer to the resources below for some species-specific best management practices!

 

 

Management Techniques - 

 

Prevention/early detection-

Prevention and early detection is the most effective and economic way of controlling invasive species. This method involves managing an area to prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive species. Prevention might include asking hikers to clean off their boots at a trail head, to prevent any non-native seed from being introduced to a natural area. Early detection and rapid response (EDRR) is the next best option, with some organizations using citizen science like EDDMaps to help with early detection of invasive species.

Pros: stops infestations before they begin; often the most economical option

Cons: requires ongoing monitoring and planning to prevent introduction/establishment of invasives

 

Mechanical-

This method uses mowing or cutting of an invasive plant to limit seed Periwinkleproduction and spread. This method needs to be repeated a couple times a year, and timing varies by plant. Overall, this can be less labour-intensive than other methods while still achieving desired results.

Pros: reduces seed production; relatively easy if accessible by mower

Cons: restricted by timing windows; won’t always kill plants but will reduce spread through seed

 

Cultural/ Competition-

Includes re-vegetating and promoting establishment of a healthy ground or crop cover to help hold off invasive species. Helps to establish native plant communities, which is ideal for projects that aim to not only remove invasive species, but also restore native habitat.

Pros: long term management; good for environmentally sensitive areas; introduces native plants to the site

Cons: site and soil can be unfavourable; can be labour-intensive and costly

 

Manual-

Works well with single plants and small infestations, and populations can often be removed completely (rather than just managed/reduced in the long term). This method involves manually pulling plants out (when soil is loose and moist) repeatedly and removal from the site. Works well for species such as Garlic Mustard if repeated annually before plants flower and seed.  You can also dig out the plant (including roots) to remove them from the site.

Pros: can be used in sensitive areas; can manage small patches or single plants; persistent pulling can manage perennials

Cons: can be labour and time intensive; limited to small populations; many invasives reproduce through rhizomes which are hard to remove; specific timing window for removal due to seeds; must be done repeatedly

 

Biological-

Biological control involves the introduction of a predator (often an insect) to control the invasive species by attacking or feeding on it. Invasive species are often considered invasive due to the fact that they were introduced to an area without their natural predators to keep them in check, this method aims to restore the natural balance between species.

Pros: uses natural predators for control; good for environmentally sensitive areas

Cons: slow progress; takes many years to develop and test biological control species; doesn’t “eradicate” the species; aren’t available or approved for most prevalent invasives; introduced control species can also become problematic in an ecosystem

 

Chemical-

Note: only certified and licensed individuals should undertake spraying of pesticides to control invasive species. All provincial and federal laws, pesticide regulations, and pesticide best management practices and safety protocols should be followed.

Chemical treatment involves spraying of pesticides and herbicides to control invasive species populations. This can often be effective in combination with other methods such as cutting and mowing, to reduce the amount of chemical needed.

Pros: often effective; can be targeted to certain plants/types of plants (e.g. herbaceous vs. woody); less labour than mechanical/manual methods

Cons: precautions need to be taken to limit the effects on surrounding non-target plants; limited use in sensitive environments; concern from public/community groups

 

Resources:

Canadian Council on Invasive Species

Ontario Invasive Plant Council (ON)

OIPC Best Management Practices

Yukon Invasive Species Council (YT)

Coastal Invasive Species Committee (BC)

Alberta Invasive Species Council (AB)

PEI Invasive Species Council (PEI)

New Brunswick Council of Invasive Species (NB)

Invasive Plant Species Identification Guide (SK)

Invasive Species Council of Manitoba (MB)

 

 

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Written by: Summer Graham

 

In part 1 of our climate change blog, we covered the basics of climate change and global warming, and the negative impacts they can have on our environment. But the impacts of a changing climate don’t stop at impacting us physically, it has started to take a toll on our mental health as well.

 

Climate Depression

If you’ve ever read an article about the impacts of climate change and global warming without being brought down by the doom and gloom, I’d be surprised. Even if reading this blog series on climate change has impacted your mood or made you feel depressed and pessimistic about the future of the Earth, you aren’t alone. Climate Depression and Eco-anxiety, caused by worrying about the ever-looming threat of climate change, is experienced by many. 

 

One survey conducted found that 71% of millennials and 67% of generation Z feel that climate change has negatively impacted their mental health. In fact, many young people are choosing not to partake in certain life-changing events due to their uncertain future. Four out of five people surveyed in the 18-23 age group report that they are not planning to have children of their own due to climate change. Even in a sample size of 2,000 people, that 80% statistic is staggering.

 

Although constant depression, stress, and anxiety are not necessarily desirable, this response to climate change is not unwarranted. Just like how our body has stress responses when we are in a dangerous situation, Eco-anxiety is our response to a real threat that is becoming more prevalent every day. The main difference is that this threat has not suddenly appeared, it has been steadily growing stronger through decades of being ignored, and the path to effectively dealing with it is not clear. There is no “fight or flight”. The only option in combatting climate change is to fight, but how do we fight something so large?  

 

What We Can Do

When looking into what you can do to help stop and reverse the effects of climate change, it is important to remember that this issue was not created by a single person, and it won’t be solved by the actions of a single person, but rather the actions of a collective global community. Your actions will not single-handedly solve the climate crisis, but will contribute to the movement by inspiring other people to make a change. Suggestions from organizations like Reset, David Suzuki Foundation, and Earth Day Org include some simple changes that can help reduce our impact on the planet: 

 

1. Change your diet – meat and dairy can account for up to 12-17% of global greenhouse emissions. Start with one meatless day a week (check #meatlessmonday on your social media for ideas!), or commit to ordering a vegetarian or vegan option when eating out.


2. Avoid plastic and cut down on your waste – single use items take a toll on our resources no matter what they are made of, but plastic especially harms our planet from start to finish! It is created from fossil fuels and remains in the environment long after it’s been disposed. Check here for 7 easy way to cut down on plastic.


3. Green your commute – walk, bike, and take public transit where possible.
Switch to renewable energy, and invest in it if you can! Divest from the fossil fuel industry, and support banks and organizations that are doing the same.
Be a conscious consumer – buying less, and only what we need, can greatly reduce our impact on the environment. When a purchase does need to be made, research products and brands that are environmentally focused and sustainably sourced.


4. Fly less – and when you do, offset your carbon emissions


5. Vote, march, and spread the word! These efforts only do so much when done by a single person. Magnify your impact by inspiring friends and family to join you, and vote for policies and politicians that will implement real change.


6. Once you’ve made some of these changes in your own life, look into volunteering or working for an organization combating climate change on sites like GoodWork.  

 

Now that you know the basics, continue to educate yourself about the impact climate change is having on our planet today. While you continue to learn, implement some changes in your life today so we can have a better tomorrow

 

Additional Reading:

Washington Post - Eco-Anxiety is Overwhelming Kids: Where's the Line Between Education and Alarmism?

New Yorker - How to Combat Climate Depression

David Suzuki Foundation - Top 10 Ways to Stop Climate Change 

 

 

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Written by: Summer Graham 

 

Climate change – it’s a big subject, one that is regularly discussed, debated, and often feared. In the next two posts we will try to break down the topic, covering some key terms, the impacts of climate change, and what can still be done about it.

 

Climate vs. Weather

“It’s cold and snowing here – climate change/global warming can’t be real!”

 

This is a typical argument used during discussions on climate change, and it often stems from a misunderstanding between two key terms – climate and weather.

 

Weather is the atmospheric conditions that occur over a short period of time (minutes, hours, and days), whereas climate is the long-term regional and global average of these weather events. Climate considers the average temperate, humidity, and rainfall over the span of seasons, years, or even decades. While climate change may result in a shift in weather events, such as stronger rains, prolonged periods of drought, or more severe thunderstorms, a single weather event cannot be used to prove or disprove climate change.

 

 

Global Warming vs. Climate Change

The terms “global warming” and “climate change” are often used interchangeably, however here we will be distinguishing between the two. Global warming refers to the long-term heating of the global climate that has been observed since the pre-industrial period (1850-1900). This warming is primarily driven by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels which increase heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, and is measured as the average increase in Earth’s global surface temperature.
Global temperatures have increased by an estimated 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times, and are continuing to increase by approximately 0.2 degrees per decade. 

 

Climate change, on the other hand, encompasses the long-term changes observed in average weather patterns on a local, regional, and global scale. Where global warming is primarily caused by human activities, climate change also acknowledges the variation in climate caused by natural processes.

 

Although global warming and climate change are widely debated topics even today, there is overwhelming evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide has exceeded historic levels within the past century, causing a variety of impacts on our climate and environment.

 

Impacts of a Changing Climate

Warming temperatures and extreme changes in the Earth’s climate have wide-ranging negative impacts on the environment, which in turn impact the flora and fauna of our planet. One of the changes expected to occur over time is the shifting of natural ranges of plants and wildlife as they adapt to a new, warmer climate. Additional impacts include warming ocean temperatures which contribute to coral bleaching and species die off, shrinking ice sheets, retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, more frequent and extreme weather events (e.g. flooding in some areas and drought in others), and an increase in the frequency and severity of forest fires.

 

Impacts due to climate change are not only a concern for the natural world.  Unpredictable climate and severe weather patterns can also have major impacts to communities and economies. For example,  a changing climate can lead to reduced crop yields and food insecurity in certain areas. Urban cores can be impacted by higher temperatures in concrete-dominated landscapes resulting in increased cooling costs and health problems. Flooding in cities that lack proper infrastructure can result in large-scale death and destruction, with high economic costs to recover. Check out this photojournalism peice by the Toronto Star about extreme flooding in the city in  August 2018, and the impacts it had on the people who live there. Vectors for certain illnesses (such as tick-borne Lyme disease) can also shift their range to new areas causing more people to be susceptible to disease.

 

As humans, we are more reliant on and intertwined with the natural world than many people are aware of. It is imperative that we learn about and realize these connections so we can start healing our Earth. But where do we start? Part 2 of this blog will be posted in a couple weeks, where we will discuss the impacts climate change can have on our mental health, and ways to help combat it.    

 

To be continued…

 

Additional Reading:

NOAA - Climate Change Impacts 

Climate Reality Project - How Climate Change is Affecting Canada

Government of Canada - Climate Change Causes and Effects

Humans and Nature - What Happens When We See Ourselved as Separate from Nature

 

 

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Written by: Summer Graham

 

 

Title: Bringing Nature Home - How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (updated and expanded)

Author: Douglas W. Tallamy, forward by Rick Darke

Length: 360 pages (paperback)

Formats Available: paperback, audiobook, and E-book

 

 

 

 

I first encountered a reference to Douglas Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home” while I was reading an article on the issue of invasive Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) dominating the unique ravine ecosystem in Toronto, Ontario. As someone who feels as though they are constantly struggling to find the right words to explain the threats invasive and non-native species pose to the environment, the book quickly went to the top of my “must-read” list. In this updated and expanded version of his book, Tallamy sets out to inspire the every-day, suburban gardener to look critically at the species they use in their gardens, and then make changes to support our native wildlife.

 

Tallamy is a professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. He has authored over 80 research publications and lectured on a variety of topics for 36 years, including insect taxonomy, insect ecology, humans and nature, and behavioral ecology. In “Bringing Nature Home” Tallamy shares much of his knowledge on one of his primary research goals, understanding the way insects interact with vegetation and how this can determine and impact wildlife communities.

 

Although covering fairly heavy topics such as habitat loss, urban development, and drastic declines in species populations, Tallamy writes in a tone that is light and easy to read even though it is based on facts and scientific studies. The numerous, colourful photographs depicting native flora and fauna help to inspire the reader with visions of what their garden could be, and the wildlife it could support, with just a few easy changes. Tallamy also writes of personal experiences and his work transforming his own property, which in my opinion gives him even more credibility on the topic (if any is needed!).

 

One of my favourite sections is the final one, “Answers to Tough Questions”. Here you can find content addressing those tricky questions, ones you might come up against when trying to explain to your Aunt why she shouldn’t plant a Norway Maple in her back yard, or convincing your father of the importance of removing European Common Reed (Phragmites australis australis) from the pond in his woods. Believe me, once you have read “Bringing Nature Home” and start making changes in your own backyard, 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”.

 

Resources

 

Bringing Nature Home Website

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Written by: Nicole White

 

A big part of CanPlant's mandate is asserted in its motto: 'Connecting People With Plants'. From the beginning, we envisioned using the concept of 'Plant People' to shine a light on individuals and groups doing exceptional work. I'm going to profile one such group today, and keep your eyes open for more in the future.

 

As I reflected in this website's World Wildlife Day post, lately I've been noticing a phenomenon that, although not new, is gaining traction and visibility: smart people are doing vital work with plants that stems from an understanding that an intrinsic, fundamental connection exists between plants and traditional human cultures—and that our future depends on taking practical action in a way that's informed by this knowledge.

 

The Young Seedkeepers Garden takes ideas of seed saving, cultural knowledge, and empowerment of coming generations, and intends to bring them to fruition in a way that's practical and accessible. Although located in Southern Ontario, their work and philosophy informs a globally-relevant praxis that's worth your time to consider.

 

The Young Seedkeepers garden is also an applicant for the Gardens for Good grant program, which awards $5,000 to 21 winning entries across the US and Canada. Voting is open until April 7, 2021. If this project speaks to you, consider voting for them. Voting is limited to one vote per email address, so tell your friends too!

 

 

THE PLANTS, PEOPLE, and LAND of YOUNG SEEDKEEPERS GARDEN

 

 

Proposed location of the Young Seedkeepers Garden. Graphic by Shabina Lafleur-Gangji.

 

I first met Shabina Lafleur-Gangji in the late aughts.  In the subsequent decade-and-a-bit, her work as an herbalist, educator, writer, and activist has soared ever-upward. It seems like she's always working on something exceptional, and I have so much admiration for her dedication and integrity as a community leader.

 

Shabina is part of a brand-new venture launched by a group of Black, Indigenous, or racialized (BIPOC) parents and friends, located in Guelph, Ontario, called The Young Seedkeepers Garden. The vision for this project was developed when these parents decided to address a lack of culturally appropriate, affordable children's programming they'd identified during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Shabina Lafleur-Gangji, one of the founders of the Young Seedkeepers Garden.

 

The group plans to facilitate weekly hands-on workshops for kids, sharing traditional plant cultivation skills and teachings from elders and knowledge keepers of diverse cultures and backgrounds. This will enable children to learn about plants, share their cultures with each other, and have fresh-grown food to take home each week.

 

The project also has an aim of treating the stress, insecurity (both personal and financial), and isolation brought on by living through a pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting underserved communities. The workshops are being offered at a sliding scale. And, they'll be located in an outdoor space that's able to accommodate physical distancing requirements while also letting kids socialize and learn together.

 

As a non-parent, it makes me so glad to know that something like this is being created by and for families. Another aspect of this project that really impressed me is that it's taking place on only a half-acre of land in a city. So much can be done with even a small area, when the right skills, knowledge and attitudes are brought to it.

 

  • A selection of links to Shabina's other work can be found here.

  • To read more about The Young Seedkeepers' Garden's grant application or vote for them, check out their entry on the Gardens for Good page by clicking the button below.

 

 

 

WANT TO CONNECT?

 

Stewardship of cultural plant knowledge is work that defies measure—if cultural plant knowledge is lost, it's lost—but when communities can perpetuate their knowledge, a radically transformative legacy is created for future generations.

 

  • If you think this organization, or any others featured in CanPlant's blog or social media are doing great work, consider donating to them—or, find where this kind of work is happening in your area and give those plant people your support.

 

  • If you've got your own inspiration for a new project, check out the CanPlant Community Grants page, a living document where we provide resources for anyone looking to make the world a better place by connecting with plants.

 

  • Finally, if you know someone who deserves to be profiled in this space, let us know! We're looking forward to connecting with anyone doing interesting things with plants.
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Written by: Bianca Marcellino

 

Pollinators are organisms that feed on flowering plants and in return, help plants to reproduce by spreading pollen from flower to flower and aiding in plant fertilization; this interaction is arguably the most important mutualism relationships on Earth. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, some beetles, birds and bats. Pollinators help to sustain ecosystems and produce natural resources such as many forms of produce for human and animal consumption. The protection of the world’s pollinators and all the ecosystems they service is of global importance, as pollinators are responsible for pollinating more than 180,000 plant species and 1200 crops, which can be broken down to 1 in every 3 bites of food you take relying on pollinators. Quantitatively, they contribute over 217 billion dollars to the global economy, in addition to providing the world with non-monetary ecosystem services as described above. 

 

Unfortunately, pollinators, particularity bees, have been on an alarming decline in recent years. Currently, there is thought to be no single cause for their decline, but a synergism of effects that each contribute including habitat loss, pesticide use, pathogens and intensive farming practices such as mono-cropping limiting pollinators’ food source diversity.

 

Although it seems like these issues will require large-scale, commercial solutions and ample funds to resolve, backyard flower planting is one way that everyday Canadians can help to ensure pollinators have food sources in urban areas. By planting a variety of flowering plants, it allows pollinators to have access to a diverse food source, fostering healthy immune systems. Opting to plant native plant species is often a good option as they are already a known, stable food source for the pollinators and other native insects and wildlife species.

 

Late summer to early fall blooming plants are important to pollinators so they can store enough food for themselves to successfully overwinter. Some native later-blooming garden flowers include:

 

Black-eyed Susan

(Rudbeckia hirta)

View Species


Tall Goldenrod

(Solidago altissima)

View Species

 

Zig Zag Goldenrod

(Solidago flexicaulis)

View Species

 

Tickseed

(Coreopsis lanceolata)

View Species


Coneflower

(Echinacea purpurea)

View Species


Sunflower

(Helianthus divaricatus)

View Species

 

Not only do flowers help pollinators to survive, but they make wonderful additions to any garden!

 

Additional Reading 

 

Pollinator Partnership - 7 Things You Can Do for Pollinators

 

Seeds of Diversity - Protecting Pollinators

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Written by: Summer Graham

 

After a long and cold Canadian winter, our thoughts are likely turning towards warmer days for bird watching, hiking, or gardening. But enjoying wildlife and nature doesn't have to wait for spring. When you garden with native plants you might find that wildlife visits your yard year-round as they rely on the seeds and berries from native plants to help them through the winter!

 

Depending on where you are in Canada, here are some native garden species that either produce food or create habitat for wildlife during the winter months:

 

White Spruce

(Picea glauca)

 

View Plant
 

White Spruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bur Oak

(Quercus macrocarpa)

 

View Plant
 

 

Bur Oak

Gray Dogwood

(Cornus racemosa)

 

View Plant
 

 

Gray Dogwood

Common Snowberry

(Symphoricarpos albus)

 

View Plant
 

 

Common Snowberry

Eastern White Cedar

(Thuja occidentalis)

 

View Plant
 

 

Eastern White Cedar

Hackberry

(Celtis occidentalis)

 

View Plant
 

 

Hackberry

Winterberry

(Ilex verticillata)

 

View Plant
 

 

Winterberry

 

Note that not all fruit and seed producing native plants offer winter support to wildlife. The species listed above are unique in that fruit will ripen and persist on the plant through the cold season, rather than fall to the ground and decompose before wildlife can use it. 

 

In addition to a properly maintained bird feeder (frequently washed and refilled to reduce the spread of disease) consider adding some native species to your yard and enjoy watching wildlife year-round!

 

 

Additional Reading:

 LEAF – Six Native Species Ideal for Winter Wildlife Habitat 

Love your Landscape – Support Winter Wildlife With These 6 Berry-Producing Plants 

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Written by: Nicole White

 

World Wildlife Day logo - Stylized globe with silhouettes of plants and animals

 

This year's UN World Wildlife Day celebrates forest-based livelihoods worldwide with the theme  'Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet'.

 

I grew up a family who hunted, fished, and worked in the woods. Later, like many young Canadians, I laboured as a piecework tree planter in the Boreal Forest. But even people I know who have lived their lives in Canada's most urban neighbourhoods feel a connection to woodlands—for example, my Torontonian friends who feel a sense of integration when they visit High Park, the ravines of the Don River, or the Rouge Valley.

 

Forests are a cornerstone of Canadian life.  Everywhere, plants, microbes, birds, fish and a myriad of other creatures—including us—exist as part of a rich biological schema including forests. In Canada, forests sustain our culture, economy, spirituality, and livelihoods in ways that make this land and its people what they are.

 

Thirty-nine percent of Canada's land is forest, and this represents 9% of the world's total forests. The future is unwritten, but these numbers tell us that state of Canadian forests is a major variable in how climate change will play out worldwide.

 

Of course, it's a given that the changes we're already seeing—including severe wildfires, loss of ecological diversity, and the proliferation of invasive species that threaten tree populations—are expected to become more extreme in the coming years.

 

Adding to this, economic changes due to the pandemic, evolving consumer demands (for example, the decline of print newspapers and magazines), and international competition show that the preexisting commercial relationship between Canadian forests and people won't be the way of the future.

 

World Wildlife Day 2021 poster by Gabe Wong - Illustration of Indigenous people, plants, and animals from different cultures

 

Increasingly, many Canadians are recognizing what forests give them, and asking what they can do in return. To me, this year's World Wildlife Day theme (and this inspired illustration for the event by Gabe Wong) expresses a hope that our global communities are affirming their relationships with forests and finding constructive ways forward that honour our interdepedence.

 

What's happening right now in Canada to support this? Our country's issues are diverse and so multifaceted, but these are a few trends I've noticed recently:

 

Indigenous Forestry

Indigenous forest management systems offer expertise informed by thousands of years' experience working with this land. The most recent Canadian census reported that 70% of Indigenous people in Canada live in or near forests. (I've also seen similar statistics for other parts of the world, and globally.) Increasingly, Indigenous people are reclaiming portions of their original territories and asserting their right to participate in self-governance, including forest management.

 

Indigenous involvement in sustainable natural resource management is helping to bring socio-economic benefits to communities and maintain cultural, recreational, and spiritual connections to the land. As reported beautifully in the National Observer, residents of B.C.'s Tŝilhqot'in Nation are using clean energy to develop a new land, water, and wildlife management area, supporting self-determination within their communities.

 

Coastal Guardian Watchmen also provide a model for what responsible land stewardship can look like in Haida Gwaii.

 

It's exciting to see collaborative efforts undertaken to synergize traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and settlers' science-based understanding of nature as complementary information systems.

 

In a recent lecture, Indigenous scholar and assistant professor Myrle Ballard at the University of Manitoba described how Indigenous expertise can inform scientific work.

 

The viewpoint has also been expressed poetically in the best-selling Braiding Sweetgrass, by botanist Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, who espouses radical gratitude to nature by asking that humans consider the question, 'What can I  give in return for the gifts of the earth?'

 

Designing for Forest Health

Landscape architects and horticulturalists are inventing and adapting design models that enhance vitality for people and forests.

 

Miyawaki Forests: Image of tree with captions: Stores carbon, Feeds life, Builds soil, Counters climate change, Cools heat island, Improves health, Cleans air, Dampens sound pollution, Intercepts rainfall, Offers habitat

 

Planting individual trees is great, but what if you could fast-track the growth of a mini forest community in your neighbourhood? CanPlant is piloting a new project on using the Miyawaki Forest technique to do just that in Canada.

 

Wise Use of New Technology

Emerging technologies have their place in this work:

 

Remote sensing and artifical intelligence can give us new eyes in the sky to monitor our expansive Boreal Forest for extreme wildfires.

 

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis and interpretitive web cartography are being used to understand and educate Canadians about the value of our northern peatlands.

 

Ex-situ conservation methods carried out in sterile labs are providing hope for at-risk species, with researchers developing tissue culture and seed banking methodologies to preserve genetically unique local flora.

 

Education

I think that Gen Z will grow up more attuned to ecological issues than any previous generation. One educational resource I noticed recently is this kid-friendly website, which includes a colouring book, advocating for the conservation of Wisqoq (Black Ash) populations in our eastern forests.

 

Black Ash

(Fraxinus nigra)

Black Ash is native to Eastern Canada and is used in traditional basket weaving. Populations are currently under threat due to the proliferation of Emerald Ash Borer.

 

View on CanPlant

Black Ash

 

This blog post is a snapshot of my personal reflections, and I'm sure I don't have all the pieces of the puzzle. Maybe you have something to add about how Canadians and forests can work together, or where this is all going.  Do you know of something I should have mentioned here? Let us know!

 

For more information about World Wildlife Day events, which include a film festival, check out the offical website.

 

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