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

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



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”.




Bringing Nature Home Website

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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



(Coreopsis lanceolata)

View Species


(Echinacea purpurea)

View Species


(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: 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.



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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Written by: Heather Schibli

The benefits of planting trees have been well documented. In fact, several cities have adopted policies to increase urban tree canopy percentages. However, these plantings are typically reserved to publicly owned lands. How can we best maximize the urban canopy? Planting individual trees helps, but what if we could reintroduce forests within our communities?


Trees perform one of the most effective strategies to counter the rise of carbon dioxide emissions by sequestering photosynthetic carbon. A recent study has found that the world’s forests sequestered about twice as much carbon dioxide as they emitted over the last two decades. And yet, over these same two decades, global forest cover diminished by 99,119,000 hectares. Many initiatives, inspired by global assessments of tree and forest capacity to curtail emissions, have been proposed to mitigate climate change through tree planting.


Miyawaki Forests (MF), small scale densely planted native urban forests, have been successfully grown on private properties in Japan and elsewhere for more than forty years. The Miyawaki Forest method of planting, named for the botanist who developed it,  encourages tree communities to grow upward and to share resources, while the dense structure dissuades human interference. This process of urban afforestation in tight spaces can accelerate climax forest establishment from 100+ years down to 20 years by skipping earlier stages of succession.


Consisting of late succession species planted into richly prepared soils, these forest plots boast a minimum diversity of 30 locally native species divided into four structural layer categories; Canopy trees, sub-canopy trees, arborescent trees (small understory trees), and shrubs.


The Miyawaki Method


Miyawaki Forests are not replacements for our natural forests, but rather, a means to reforest urban and ecologically degraded settings that in turn provide:


• Added greenery

• Improved air quality

• Surface stormwater runoff mitigation

• A counter to heat island effect

• Habitat

• And a reduction in noise pollution.

With support from the Landscape Architecture Foundation of Canada (LACF), and in partnership with Carolinian Canada Coalition and Green Venture, CanPlant is piloting a study on Miyawaki Forest establishment in Canada. Our study is well timed! Not only do trees abate climate change, they also benefit human health.


There is a growing body of research that supports the link between connections with nature and human wellbeing. This has become increasingly apparent during 2020 with the implementation of ‘lock-down’ policies to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.


Trends in Canada point to loneliness, anxiety and/or lethargy linked to isolation and increased indoor time. Subsequently, Canadians who reported having more exercise outdoors benefited from better mental health. This is consistent with trends in Europe, and the argument that COVID-19 should be the impetus for creating more green space in urban areas.


Our climate and biodiversity crises stem in part from our manipulation of the landscape. Be it extracting crude oil, introducing invasive species, or flattening forests, our profound alteration of our planet’s landscapes has led to astonishing outcomes. It is time we reintroduce what has been stripped by replanting our forests in an effort to heal from the ecological trauma we have caused.


Whether grown in public or private spaces, establishing Miyawaki Forests could be part of this solution. It is our hope that this pilot study will help launch a movement of these urban forest plantings across Canada.


Successes attributed to MFs include rapid growth and self-sustenance post establishment period. The proven successes of MF establishment, health, vigour, and longevity have inspired CanPlant to assist various environmental organizations test and implement Miyawaki Forest theories and practices in Canada.


If you or someone you know is considering planting a Miyawaki Forest, let us know! We would love to collaborate!

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Written by: Christina Myrdal


Known for its sweet sap and brightly coloured leaves in the fall, Sugar Maple is an abundant and ecologically unique species in the hardwood forests of eastern North America.


Sugar Maple is a relatively slow-growing, large shade tree that can grow in a variety of habitats, from forest/woodland to meadows and savannahs. This species is fairly sensitive to pollution, drought and salt, and grows best where soil water is abundant to facilitate sap production.


Sugar Maple leaves are palmate with five lobes and its flowers are yellowish-green, long-stalked dropping clusters. It can often be confused for Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), a non-native species, however Norway Maple has white sap which can be observed by pulling a leaf off at the petiole.  Here are some additional facts about Sugar Maple:

  • Form: Tree (deciduous)
  • Size: 20-35 m tall
  • Sun/Shade: Full sun to full shade
  • Soil: Sand, Loam, Humus enriched
  • Habitat: Forest, Woodland, Savannah, Forest Edge, Prairie/Meadow/Field, Riparian
  • Canadian Distribution: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (see map)


Sugar Maple

(Acer saccharum)


View Species


Sugar Maple is unique in that it requires cold winter temperatures, well below freezing, for proper dormancy. It also requires a very low temperature to initiate seed germination, approximately 1°C on average, which is the lowest of any other forest species. Its requirement for cold winters and warm summers is why it is so prevalent in eastern Canada and the northeastern US. Warming temperatures in recent years due to climate change are threatening more southern distribution of Sugar Maple that rely on these cold winters, which over time may lead to a northern shift in its geographical range.   This could potentially have devastating economic impacts to the US maple syrup industry.


Sugar Maple has always been an important economic asset to Canada, with Quebec and Ontario being two of the largest maple syrup producers worldwide. During the 2019 season, Quebec alone harvested 12 million gallons of syrup (that’s about 480 million gallons of sap!) It is no wonder why Canada is world-renowned for our maple products.


If you live in Ontario, you may be interested to know that you can find the oldest known Sugar Maple in Pelham (Niagara Region) at Comfort Maple Conservation Area. The trunk is a whopping 6 metres in diameter, and it is estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old!

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Written by: Summer Graham


Did you know you can use CanPlant to create customized species lists for your native plant projects? Once you set up an account using your email address, you can view, edit, and add species to your saved lists, and export them as either a PDF including species details and photos, or as an Excel file.


After you use our filter feature to find species with the attributes you are looking for, our customizable plant lists help you keep track of and sort species for any application you can think of! Here are just some of the many ways you can make use of the species list feature on CanPlant to help you get inspired:


  • Making a list for shopping at your local native plant garden center (start in the winter and be ready to go when spring comes around!);
  • Creating lists of common and available species for restoration projects;
  • Keeping track of native garden species for planting by habitat type (eg. Pollinator garden, boulevard planting, wetland/wet meadow restoration);
  • Make a list of rapidly establishing native species to stabilize a recently cleared area;
  • Creating study sets to help learn and review species names and ID;
  • Keep a list of species you identified in a natural area you visited;
  • Create a “wish list” of native species you are looking for as donations towards a low budget or charity planting project;
  • Help a friend or neighbour make a list of native species to replace non-native/invasive species in their garden;
  • Create a “watch list” of unwanted invasive species in your province;
  • Develop a list of “acceptable species” to distribute to homeowners adjacent to a sensitive natural area;
  • And so much more!


TIP: If you are going to create multiple lists, make sure to give each a unique name and use the “description” section to add a brief note on what the list will be used for!


Now that you have some inspiration for creating species lists in CanPlant, head to our species page and start planning your next native species planting today! 




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Written by: Mary Anne Young



What’s not to like about a plant that flowers while other plants are shutting down for the season?


American Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), is an understory shrub of North America’s eastern deciduous forests. Although it does have interesting wavy leaves which add character in the forest, or woodland landscape design, throughout the summer, its real beauty is in the late fall when its yellow fall colour drops and it begins to bloom. Few native plants in North America flower in this season, so it is always a delight to me to find a Witch Hazel in full bloom when other plants are winding down for the winter.




The flowers are unique, consisting of twisted thread-like petals with a pleasant scent. It also has an interesting seed dispersal mechanism where the woody seed capsules slowly mature over the course of a year and when it dries to a certain extent splits open to shoot 1-2 black seeds explosively up to 6m (20 feet) in every direction.




Here are some additional details about this fascinating species:


Form: Woody plant, medium to large shrub
Size: 3 – 4m tall and wide
Sun/Shade: Partial shade to full shade
Soil: Clay, Sand, Loam
Habitat: Deciduous forests, stream banks, clearings
Canadian Distribution: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (see map above, from VASCAN)




American Witch Hazel

(Hamamelis virginiana


View Plant



Witch Hazel is probably most popularly known for its use in medicine historically and today, where its leaves, bark, and twigs are used to make extracts and tinctures. Its tendency to grow along stream banks may have led to the myth that underground water could be found using a forked Witch Hazel branch (water witching).


Understory shrubs of the eastern deciduous forest have a tendency to be overlooked in favour of the delicate spring flowering wildflowers underfoot, or the towering trees overhead. However I challenge you to keep an eye out for Witch Hazel this fall as it puts on a show unrivalled by other forest plants at this time of the year.

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Written by: Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel


Honey Mushroom


One of the greatest adversaries to garden and wild plants is the great host of pathogens that regularly attack them. These organisms can belong to a variety of groups, including; fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and viruses. As human beings, we often consider the economic costs these organisms have on our economy, particularly in the agricultural, garden, and forest industries. However, pathogens also play natural roles in our ecosystems, killing sick plants and controlling the population growth of certain species that could otherwise dominate a community.


With the growing concern and insight into climate change, understanding how these understudied groups may affect plants and ecosystems is becoming increasingly important. One of the most noticeable of these groups is fungi!


Fungi attack their plant hosts in a variety of ways, some may first kill their hosts and feed on dead material (necrotrophs), which enter their hosts through wounds and natural openings. Other fungi feed on living tissue (biotrophs) which often enter their hosts in more specialized ways (Doehlemon et al. 2017).


Ulmus americana

Necrotrophs can sometimes be very destructive, especially when they are invasive species. A well-known example is Dutch Elm Disease (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi), which has severely reduced Elm tree abundance in North America. In this case, the fungus attacks trees with the aid of insects like the Native Elm Bark Beetle (Hylurgopinus rufipes) and the introduced European Elm Bark Beetle (Scolytus multistriatus). Dutch Elm Disease is believed to have originally been introduced from Asia, and so our native Elm trees have evolved little resistance to the fungus (Hubbes 1999). American Elm (Ulmus americana) and Rock Elm (Ulmus thomasii) have suffered the worst with Red Elm (Ulmus rubra) being slightly more resistant. The disease is spread to Elm trees when the beetles feed on twigs in spring time entering and slowly spreading into the trunk of the trees, blocking vascular tissues and eventually killing the host. The beetles are attracted to the diseased elms for breeding and subsequently bore holes into the infected Elms. Eggs are laid inside infected Elms where newly hatching beetles pick up spores and continue the cycle. 



Chrysomyxa pyrolae

Biotrophic fungi require living hosts in order to feed and have evolved specifically to interact with a living organism rather than a dead one. One of the most visible groups of these plant parasites are the rust fungi, which is one of the largest orders of fungi containing more than 8000 species worldwide (Lorrain et al. 2018). Some rusts cause little damage to their hosts whereas other species are better referred to as hemibiotrophs, which start off as seemingly benign biotrophs but eventually kill their host and act as necrotophic fungi (Koeck et al. 2011).





Some hemibiotrophic rusts are known to cause devastating damage to crops. Other species of rusts are rarely seen but have complex lifestyles like Chrysomyxa pyrolae seen here (right) on American Pyrola (Pyrola americana), which cycles between its Pyrola and Spruce (Picea spp.) hosts. Although this species does not necessarily kill its hosts, it has been observed to negatively affect seed crop in spruce trees (Sutherland et al, 2011).


There is still much to learn about the complex interactions between fungal pathogens and their plant hosts. Although with the continuous increase in scientific knowledge and technology, our understanding of these interactions is becoming clearer. Citizen science apps (like EDDMapS Ontario and iNaturalist) have also helped document the occurrence of these species, and may serve to help record the distribution of invasive species and maybe even prevent the spread of early invasions.





Doehlemann G, Ökmen B, Zhu W and Sharon A. 2017. Plant Pathogenic Fungi. Microbiol Spectr. 2017



Hubbes M. 1999. The American elm and Dutch elm disease. Forest. Chron. 75:265–273.


Koeck M, Hardham A. R.  and Dodds. 2011. The role of effectors of biotrophic and hemibiotrophic fungi in infection. Cell Microbiol. 2011 Dec; 13(12): 1849–1857. Published online 2011 Sep 14. 


Lorrain C, Gonçalves dos Santos K.C, Germain H, Hecker A and Duplessis S. 2018. Advances in understanding obligate biotrophy in rust fungi. New Phytologist (2019) 222: 1190–1206.


Sutherland R, Hopkinson S and Farris S.H. 2011. Inland spruce cone rust, Chrysomyxa pirolata, in Pyrola asarifolia and cones of Picea glauca, and morphology of the spore stages. Canadian Journal of Botany 62(11):2441-2447 · January 2011


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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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