How NCC is protecting globally rare species
Alpine glacier poppy (Photo by GlacierNPS/Wikimedia Commons)
As a northern land that was mostly covered with thick glaciers only 10,000 years ago, Canada is not as species-rich as southern nations. Yet the conservation of globally imperilled Canadian plants and animals is essential to protecting the richness of global species diversity.
In April 2017, the NatureServe Canada network released a report highlighting globally rare species that live here in Canada. These plants and animals are globally rare due to their restricted ranges, small numbers and declining populations, or face imminent extinction due to human activities. For many unfortunate species, several of these factors are occurring all at once.
Protecting rare species is one of the fundamental drivers of nature conservation. Here are just some of the 100-plus globally rare species that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is working to protect and manage habitat for across Canada:
Dwarf alpine glacier poppy
Also known as the pygmy poppy, the alpine glacier poppy has a limited population, with just over 20 known locations between British Columbia, Alberta and Montana.
By helping conserve BC’s Flathead watershed, NCC is working to protect this rare flower, which is often found in sparsely vegetated and rocky soil on exposed slopes.
In Canada, American ginseng can be found in southwestern Quebec, near Montreal, and in eastern and southern Ontario. It is considered to be rare in most of its North American range and is threatened by habitat loss and poaching.
American ginseng is found on some NCC properties in Quebec and southern Ontario, where its habitat remains undisturbed and intact.
Boreal felt lichen
Nicknamed the panda bear of lichens due to its rarity, the boreal felt lichen is an ancient and critically endangered species found in a few pockets of cool, moist coastal forests of Atlantic Canada. In Nova Scotia, this green large-lobbed species with pink and red dots has decreased by close to 35 per cent in the last decade.
Boreal felt lichen is found and protected on two NCC properties in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Dakota skipper is a small to medium-sized butterfly native to North America, with golden wings adorned with toasted-brown markings.
This rare butterfly species is found in southern Manitoba.
In Canada, this butterfly is known to reside in southern Ontario in marshy areas with long grasses.
The Dukes` skipper was documented on an NCC property near Point Pelee National Park.
Sometimes called Pitcher’s thistle, this species has narrow gray-green hairy leaves that are protected by strong spines and silvery hairs. When in bloom, the species produces a flower head ranging from white to light pink. Dune thistle is endemic to shorelines along the upper Great Lakes.
This species can withstand harsh conditions, such as full sun and open, windswept surfaces of sand dunes. It can be found on several NCC properties along the coast of Lake Huron in Ontario.
Dwarf Lake iris
Endemic to the Great Lakes region, Dwarf Lake iris is a small, perennial iris that grows in shallow and well-drained soil in openings typically within the eastern white cedar or balsam fir forest canopy.
Dwarf Lake iris is present on NCC’s Crane River Tract in Ontario, which is considered a vital wildlife corridor and critical habitat for rare and vulnerable species.
Eastern foxsnake, the second-largest snake in Ontario, is generally confined to shoreline areas around the Great Lakes — habitat that is quickly disappearing due to development pressures.
By protecting habitat where the eastern foxsnake lives, including the coastlines of the Western Lake Erie Islands and the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast, NCC is addressing one of the greatest threats facing this snake species.
Eastern prairie white-fringed orchid
This species can reach up to a metre tall, with long lateral leaves and a top with 10 to 40 white flowers with fringed petals separated into three parts.
NCC is working to protect eastern prairie white-fringed orchid habitat in central Ontario.
Gastony’s cliffbrake is a globally rare fern that grows only the sides of cliffs and ledges, from British Columbia to Manitoba.
It can be found in BC, and was discovered on an NCC property near Columbia Lake.
Ghost tiger beetle
No bigger than a dime, the ghost tiger beetle is so well camouflaged against its surroundings that it is sometimes easier to see its shadow. On hot days, this species can often be observed doing a little dance, rocking back and forth from foot to foot to keep cool. It is predatory, flying and running to catch its prey.
The ghost tiger beetle can usually be found in sand openings, often referred to as sand barrens. Sand barrens are important habitats within the tall grass prairie communities of the Rice Lake Plains, where the species can be found on NCC properties.
In Canada, goldenseal is native to southwestern parts of Ontario. This perennial herb has three leaves, one at the base and two near the top of the stem, ending with a distinctive flower with showy white stamens.
NCC has protected this species, on its properties, from threats such as habitat loss and illegal harvesting.
Grand Coulee owl-clover
Grand Coulee owl-clover is an annual herb found in south-central BC, specifically in the Okanagan Valley. The species has very showy flowers at the tips of yellow-green leaves that are pollinated primarily by bees.
This species tends to grow in dry, open sagebrush areas and is extremely vulnerable to introduced species. NCC is working to protect this species in BC.
This bird’s chicken-like body is brownish-grey on top, and its tail is black and white. Adult males have a white band on a black breast and a collar of pointed white feathers, along with a pointed tail. Both sexes sport a black belly, although it is larger on the male.
In Saskatchewan, NCC staff have volunteered their time to participate in greater sage-grouse surveys led by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment in the southwest portion of the province. Greater sage-grouse can be found on the Wideview Complex property that NCC recently protected.
Green mountain maidenhair
In Canada, this rare fern species is found only on serpentine rock outcrops in Quebec. This species has long compound leaves with finger-like segments that may droop, depending on whether the plant is in a shaded or sunny area.
It is considered globally threated due to restricted habitat, some of which is protected by NCC in Quebec.
Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster
This fleshy annual plant has elongated leaves rounded at the ends and small flowers ranging from whitish to pinkish in colour. The Gulf of St. Lawrence aster produces dry seeds called achenes, which resemble the seed head of a dandelion.
There are only 29 known populations of this species, whose range is limited to Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. In New Brunswick, this species occurs on an NCC property, where its population is protected by degradation and human impacts.