Enthusiast Tour

Introduction: Plants at Risk in Saskatchewan

The flora of Saskatchewan consists of over 1,450 native or naturalized vascular plant species occurring in eleven ecoregions. Unfortunately, because of several factors including habitat loss, climate change, some biological factors of the plants, and limited population numbers, approximately 400 of those species are ranked as vulnerable, threatened, endangered, or even extirpated from Saskatchewan.

The goal of the Virtual Gallery of Species at Risk in Saskatchewan is to provide quality information on all 418 provincially endangered, threatened, or vulnerable plants, which—along with the other vascular plants in Saskatchewan—contribute to the biodiversity and natural heritage of this province. The gallery provides information on the characteristics, habitat, and rarity status of each species, in an attempt to raise awareness and promote community involvement in their conservation. In addition, we provide information on how to distinguish the rare plants from other, closely related species.

If you happen to come across one of the plants you see in the virtual gallery, please leave it in its natural environment and report the occurrence to the W. P. Fraser Herbarium (SASK Herbarium).

If you have questions about these or other plant species in Saskatchewan, or about searching the rare plant database, contact the Herbarium at the address below.

The SASK Herbarium (W. P. Fraser Herbarium)
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Saskatchewan
51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A8, Canada
(306) 966-4968
sask.herbarium@usask.ca

Ecoregions of Saskatchewan

Ecoregion descriptions and map based on material developed by Environment Canada. © Copyright Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by Environment Canada, 2008. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

An ecoregion is a relatively large area of land that contains a geographically distinct pattern of recurring ecosystems. Each ecoregion is associated with characteristic combinations of soil, landforms, and the associated plant and animal communities. There are 11 ecoregions in Saskatchewan.

Ecoregions of Saskatchewan

Tazin Lake Upland: This ecoregion stretches north from Lake Athabasca to beyond the east arm of Great Slave Lake. It is marked by cool summers and very cold winters, and has a subhumid, high boreal ecoclimate. Vegetation in the ecoregion is characterized by medium to tall, closed stands of trembling aspen and balsam poplar with white spruce, balsam fir, and black spruce occurring in late successional stages. Poorly drained fens and bogs are covered with low, open stands of tamarack (Larix laricina) and black spruce (Picea mariana) and have localized permafrost. North of the East Arm Hills and in the southern one-third of the ecoregion, ridged to hummocky crystalline bedrock forms broad, steeply sloping terrain. The East Arm Hills, formed of down-faulted and folded, differentially eroded sediments and gabbro sills, dip southerly, forming broad cuestas as much as 275 m above Great Slave Lake, the surface of which is about 150 m above sea level (asl). The intervening valleys are flooded by arms of Great Slave and other lakes. Upland elevations are dominated by bedrock exposures with discontinuous veneers of sandy till, whereas the lowlands are covered by level to gently undulating organic deposits. The ecoregion contains numerous small lakes, often linked by fast-flowing streams that eventually drain into Great Slave Lake. Strongly glaciated rock outcrops are common, and Dystric Brunisols are the dominant soils. Significant inclusions are Turbic Cryosols on permanently frozen sites and Organic Cryosols in poorly drained, peat-filled depressions. Permafrost is extensive and discontinuous with low ice content and sparse ice wedges throughout most of the ecoregion, with the exception of the west side between Lake Athabasca and Great Slave Lake towards the Slave River. Wildlife includes moose, black bear, woodland caribou, wolf, beaver, muskrat, snowshoe hare, and spruce grouse. Land uses include limited local sawlog forestry, outdoor recreation, wildlife trapping and hunting, and fishing.

Selwyn Lake Upland: This ecoregion extends northwest from Churchill River in Manitoba to the East Arm Hills at the eastern end of Great Slave Lake. Most of the ecoregion is above 500 m asl. At the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border the surface gently slopes towards the Hudson Plains ecozone at 150 m asl. This ecoregion is marked by cool summers and very cold winters. The ecoregion is classified as having a low subarctic ecoclimate. It is part of the tundra and boreal forest transition extending from Labrador to Alaska. Black spruce (Picea mariana) is the climatic species, and open stands of low, stunted black spruce with dwarf birch and Labrador tea, and a ground cover of lichen and moss, are characteristic. Bog-fen sequences composed of stunted black spruce, ericaceous shrubs, and mosses dominate poorly drained wetlands. Wetlands cover 25-50% of the southeastern part of the ecoregion in Manitoba. Ridged to hummocky crystalline, massive rocks that form broad, sloping uplands and lowlands are covered with discontinuous acidic, sandy tills. Significant shallow, clayey lacustrine deposits occur at lower elevations. Prominent sinuous esker ridges and lakes are common throughout the region. Permafrost is extensive and discontinuous with low to medium ice content and sporadic ice wedges throughout most of the ecoregion, but grades to sporadic discontinuous with low ice content along the southern edges. Dystric Brunisols and Organic Cryosols are the most widely distributed soil types. Gray Luvisols occur as inclusions on exposed clayey sediments. Characteristic wildlife includes barren-ground caribou, black bear, wolverine, marten, timber wolf, arctic fox, mink, snowshoe hare, red-backed vole, and various bird species. Land use activities are limited to trapping and hunting, and recreation.

Athabasca Plain: This ecoregion extends south from Lake Athabasca to Cree Lake in northwestern Saskatchewan, and is roughly coincident with the flat-lying Proterozoic sandstones. It is marked by short cool summers and very cold winters. This ecoregion is classified as having a subhumid high boreal ecoclimate. It forms part of the continuous coniferous boreal forest that extends from northwestern Ontario to Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. Stands of jack pine with an understory of ericaceous shrubs and lichen are dominant. Some paper birch, white spruce, black spruce, balsam fir, and trembling aspen occur on warmer, south-facing sites. Forest fires are common in this ecoregion, and most coniferous stands tend to be young and stunted. Bedrock exposures have few trees and are covered with lichens. Wetlands are extensive in the western third of the ecoregion. Local areas of eolian sandy Regosols occur along the southern shore of Lake Athabasca. Wildlife includes moose, black bear, woodland caribou (important winter range), lynx, wolf, beaver, muskrat, snowshoe hare, waterfowl (including ducks, geese, pelicans, and sandhill cranes), grouse, and other birds. Resources in the southern section of the ecoregion are used for local sawlog forestry. Trapping, hunting, fishing, and industrial activities associated with uranium mining are the dominant uses of land in this ecoregion.

Churchill River Upland: This ecoregion is located along the southern edge of the Precambrian Shield in north-central Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It is marked by cool summers and very cold winters. This ecoregion is classified as having a subhumid high boreal ecoclimate. The predominant vegetation consists of closed stands of black spruce and jack pine with a shrub layer of ericaceous shrubs and a ground cover of mosses and lichens. Black spruce is the climatic climax species. Depending on drainage, surficial material and local climate, trembling aspen, white birch, white spruce, and to a lesser extent balsam fir, occupy significant areas, especially in the eastern section. Bedrock exposures have fewer trees and are covered with lichens. Closed to open stands of stunted black spruce with ericaceous shrubs and a ground cover of sphagnum moss dominate poorly drained peat-filled depressions. Permafrost is distributed throughout the ecoregion, but is widespread only in organic deposits. Although local relief rarely exceeds 25 m, ridged to hummocky, massive Archean rocks form steeply sloping uplands and lowlands. Small to large lakes compose 30–40% of the ecoregion and drain northeastward via the Churchill, Nelson and Seal river systems. In the western part of the ecoregion, uplands are covered with discontinuous sandy acidic tills, whereas extensive thin clayey lacustrine deposits and locally prominent, sandy fluvioglacial uplands are common in the eastern section. Exposed bedrock occurs throughout the ecoregion and is locally prominent. Wildlife in this ecoregion is very diverse. Trapping, hunting, fishing, and tourism are the dominant uses of land in this region; a pulpwood and dimension lumber industry operates to a limited extent in the southern part of the ecoregion.

Mid-Boreal Upland: This ecoregion occurs as 10 separate, mostly upland areas, south of the Canadian Shield, stretching from north-central Alberta to southwestern Manitoba. It includes remnants of the Alberta Plateau in Alberta, several prominent uplands known locally as the Thickwood, Pasquia, and Porcupine Hills in Saskatchewan, and the Duck and Riding Mountains in Manitoba. The climate has predominantly short, cool summers and cold winters. The ecoregion is classified as having a predominantly subhumid mid-boreal ecoclimate. These uplands form part of the continuous mid-boreal mixed coniferous and deciduous forest extending from northwestern Ontario to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Medium to tall, closed stands of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and balsam poplar with white spruce (Picea glauca), black spruce (Picea mariana), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) occurring in late successional stages, are most abundant. Deciduous stands have a diverse understory of shrubs and herbs; coniferous stands tend to promote feathermoss. Cold and poorly drained fens and bogs are covered with tamarack and black spruce. Consisting for the most part of Cretaceous shales, these uplands are covered entirely by kettled to dissected, deep, loamy to clayey-textured glacial till, lacustrine deposits, and inclusions of coarse, fluvioglacial deposits. Elevations range from about 400 to over 800 m asl. Associated with rougher morainal deposits are a large number of small lakes, ponds, and sloughs occupying shallow depressions. Permafrost is very rare and found only in peatlands. Well-drained Gray Luvisolic soils are dominant in the region. Significant inclusions are peaty-phase Gleysols and Mesisols that occupy poorly drained depressions. Dystric Brunisols occur on droughty, sandy sites. In Alberta, the ecoregion slopes gently and drains northward via the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers and their tributaries, whereas in most of Saskatchewan and Manitoba the uplands slope gently and drain northeastward via the Churchill and North Saskatchewan river systems. Characteristic wildlife is very diverse. Bird species include common loon, red-tailed hawk and neotropical migrants. Pulpwood and local sawlog forestry, water-oriented recreation, hunting, and trapping are the main land use activities. Agricultural activities are significant in southern parts of the ecoregion, particularly in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Mid-Boreal Lowland: This ecoregion occupies the northern section of the Manitoba Plain from the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg to the Cumberland Lowlands in Saskatchewan. The climate is marked by short, warm summers and cold winters. The ecoregion is part of the boreal mixed coniferous and deciduous forest, extending from Lac Seul in northwestern Ontario to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It is a relatively flat, low-lying region with extensive wetlands covering approximately half the area. The cold and poorly drained fens and bogs are covered with tamarack (Larix laricina) and black spruce (Picea mariana). The mixed deciduous and coniferous forest is characterized by medium to tall, closed stands of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and balsam poplar with white spruce (Picea glauca), black spruce (Picea mariana), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) occurring in late successional stages. Permafrost occurs in isolated patches in peatlands and is more prevalent in the region’s northeastern section. Underlain by flat-lying, Palaeozoic limestone bedrock, the ecoregion is covered almost entirely by level to ridged glacial till, lacustrine silts and clays, and extensive peat deposits. Eutric Brunisols developed on extremely calcareous, loamy glacial till and Mesisols on forest peat are codominant, and are associated with local areas of limestone bedrock outcroppings and Gray Luvisols on loamy to clayey-textured lacustrine deposits. Wildlife is very diverse. Pulpwood and local sawlog forestry, water-oriented recreation, and wildlife trapping and hunting are the dominant uses of land in this region, although seed grains, oilseeds and forage crops are produced where soils and drainage are suitable.

Boreal Transition: This ecoregion extends from southern Manitoba to central Alberta. It marks the southern limit of closed boreal forest and the northern advance of arable agriculture. The ecoregion is classified as having a subhumid low boreal ecoclimate, characterized by warm summers and cold winters. As part of the dominantly deciduous boreal forest, it is characterized by a mix of forest and farmland. A closed cover of tall, trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) with secondary quantities of balsam poplar, a thick understory of mixed herbs, and tall shrubs is the predominant vegetation. White spruce (Picea glauca) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) are the climax species, but are not well represented because of fires. Poorly drained sites are usually covered with sedges, willow, some black spruce, and tamarack (Larix laricina). Associated with the rougher morainal deposits are a large number of small lakes, ponds, and sloughs occupying shallow depressions. Well- to imperfectly drained Gray Luvisols and Dark Gray Chernozemic soils are predominant. The region provides habitat for white-tailed deer, black bear, moose, beaver, coyote, snowshoe hare, and cottontail. It also provides critical habitat for large numbers of neotropical migrant bird species, as well as ruffed grouse and waterfowl. Over 70% of the ecoregion is farmland; spring wheat and other cereals, oilseeds, and hay are the dominant crops. Other land uses include forestry, hunting, fishing, and recreation.

Aspen Parkland: This ecoregion extends in a broad arc from southwestern Manitoba, northwestward through Saskatchewan to its northern apex in central Alberta. The parkland is considered transitional between the boreal forest to the north and the grasslands to the south. The climate is marked by short, warm summers and long, cold winters with continuous snow cover. The ecoregion is classified as having a transitional grassland ecoclimate. Most of the ecoregion is now farmland, but in its native state the landscape was characterized by trembling aspen, oak groves, mixed tall shrubs, and intermittent fescue grasslands (Festuca). Open stands of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and shrubs occur on most sites, and bur oak and grassland communities occupy increasingly drier sites. Poorly drained Gleysolic soils support willow and sedge species. This broad plains region, underlain by Cretaceous shale, is covered by undulating to kettled, calcareous, glacial till with significant areas of level lacustrine and hummocky to ridged fluvioglacial deposits. Associated with the rougher hummocky glacial till, landscapes are numerous tree-ringed, small lakes, ponds, and sloughs that provide a major wildlife habitat, particularly nesting waterfowl. Because of its favourable climate and fertile, warm black soils, this ecoregion represents some of the most productive agricultural land in the Prairies. It produces a wide diversity of crops, including spring wheat and other cereals, oilseeds, forages, and several specialty crops.

Moist Mixed Grassland: This ecoregion comprises the northern extension of open grasslands in the Interior Plains of Canada and is closely correlated with semiarid moisture conditions and Dark Brown Chernozemic soils. The mean annual temperature is approximately 2.5°C but can reach 5°C in some areas of southwestern Alberta. Native vegetation is relegated to nonarable pasturelands, dominated by spear grass (Stipa comata), wheat grass (Agropyron spp.), and a variety of deciduous shrubs including buckbrush (Symphoricarpus occidentalis), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), wolf willow (Eleagnus commutate), and saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia). Patches of scrubby aspen (Populus tremuloides), willow (Salix spp.), cottonwood (Populus deltoides), and box-elder (Acer negundo) occur to a limited extent on shaded slopes of valleys, on river terraces, and ringing nonsaline depressional sites covered with meadow grasses and sedges (Carex spp.). Local saline soil areas support alkali grass (Distichlis spicata), wild barley, red sampire (Salicornia rubra), and sea blite (Suaeda calceoliformis). The region is composed of upper Cretaceous sediments and covered almost entirely by hummocky to kettled glacial till and level to very gently undulating, sandy to clayey lacustrine deposits. Although Dark Brown Chernozemic soils are dominant, significant areas of Solonetzic soils occur, particularly in eastern Alberta. Intermittent sloughs and ponds provide habitat for waterfowl. White-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, coyote, rabbit, and ground squirrel are common in the region. Spring wheat and other cereal grains are produced by employing a wheat or other grain-fallow rotation. Oilseed crops are also becoming increasingly important. Minor irrigation of these crops occurs near Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan and in southern Alberta. Waterfowl hunting is common, and recreation is important around several large reservoirs.

Mixed Grassland: This semiarid grassland ecoregion in southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta forms part of the shortgrass prairie in the Great Plains of North America. The natural vegetative cover is dominated by spear grass (Hesperostipa), blue grama grass (Bouteloa gracilis), and wheat grass (Elymus). June grass and dryland sedge are significant associates. Blue grama and spear grass predominate on drier sites, along with dwarf sedges. A variety of shrubs and herbs also occurs, but sagebrush is most abundant, and on the driest sites yellow cactus and prickly pear can be found. Scrubby aspen (Populus tremuloides), willow (Salix spp.), cottonwood (Populus deltoides), and box-elder (Acer negundo) occur to a limited extent on shaded slopes of valleys and river terraces. Local saline areas support alkali grass, wild barley, greasewood, red sampire, and sea blite. The region is composed of upper Cretaceous sediments and is covered almost entirely by dissected to kettled, loamy glacial till, undulating to dissected, loamy lacustrine sediments, and hummocky sandy eolian deposits. The region skirts the Cypress Hills, with the area to the south being drained by the Missouri River system, and the area to the north by the South Saskatchewan River. The soils are mainly Brown Chernozemic with significant areas of Solonetzic soils. Pronghorn antelope, deer, sage grouse, short-horned lizard, western rattlesnake, coyote, rabbit, and ground squirrel are common species in the region. The production of spring wheat and other cereal grains occurs by employing a grain-fallow rotation. Flaxseed and durum wheat are also grown. About half of the region is cultivated with the remainder being used for pasture or rangeland. As part of the North American waterfowl migratory flyway and with its diverse wildlife habitat, the region provides opportunities for hunting and recreation.

Cypress Upland: This rolling upland in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan is an outlier of the montane vegetative zone that occurs on the lower slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The climate is cooler and moister than the surrounding Mixed Grassland ecoregion. This ecoregion is unique. The Cypress Hills, rising abruptly 400–500 m above the surrounding plains, are composed of a mix of dissected Tertiary and Cretaceous sediments covered with glacial till, or with loessial deposits on unglaciated upper plateau sections. The Cypress Hills slope eastwards from a maximum elevation of 1,465 m asl at the west side. Natural vegetation ranges from fescue and wheatgrass grasslands below 1,000 m to a mixed montane-type open forest of lodgepole pine, deciduous trees, and shrubs at upper elevations. Numerous species, including larkspur, death camas, and wild lupine, are not found elsewhere on the prairies. Chernozemic Black and Dark Brown soils are dominant. The ecoregion slopes eastward and is drained by deeply incised Frenchman River, and Battle and Swift Current creeks. Physical conditions allow free-range livestock grazing and limited production of cereals on smoother lower slopes. Wildlife hunting and recreation are also important uses on rougher upper slopes.