Prairie smoke, Carden Alvar, Ontario (Photo by NCC)
Wildflowers of Ontario
More than 2,700 flowering plants, including woody trees and shrubs, grow uncultivated across Ontario. Over 2,200 of these are herbaceous species, about 1,100 of which are rare or hard to observe due to their location. There are approximately 550 common wildflower species in Ontario.
Approximately two thirds of Ontario’s flowering species are native and arrived between approximately 14,000 (after the Laurentide ice sheet melted) and 7,000 years ago (after the last glaciers retreated towards the north). The remainder of Ontario’s flowering plants were introduced intentionally via European settler introduction, or accidentally via imported dirt and mud on shoes, animal waste or long-distance forms of transportation such as trains and ships.
Many introduced species have become naturalized in Ontario and pose little to no threat to native species. Other species are considered invasive because they threaten the existence of native plant species. Garlic mustard, brought by European settlers as an edible plant, is today considered an invasive species and is one of the greatest threats to the Happy Valley Heritage Forest.
Where each species of wildflower grows is dependent on temperature, precipitation, soil, topography and geology. In Ontario, wildflowers grow in all habitats, from ponds and wetlands to alvars and rock barrens.
Carden Alvar and Happy Valley Forest are two striking landscapes in spring, awash with wildflowers of every colour, including beautiful seas of trilliums (Ontario’s provincial flower since 1937) at Happy Valley.
For more information, or for help identifying Ontario’s wildflowers, visit: