An Introduction to the Plants of the Qu'Appelle Valley

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Presented here is not a complete inventory of all plants in the Qu'Appelle Valley. Instead, for each stop along the Fort Qu'Appelle Geolog Tour we have included lists of the most prominent or interesting species. Please do not be disappointed if you take the Valley tour and do not see all the species on the list - over the course of the growing season different plants flower at different times. Depending on when you go some plants may be in bloom while others may have already finished or have not yet started. Also, some plants may be harder to see than others due to their size or distribution, so it may require some searching to find a species.

Plants are identified using a plant key such as Budd's Flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces or Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland. Once you feel confident in your identification, you can verify it through the use of a herbarium such as the G.F. Ledingham Herbarium at the University of Regina. A plant key uses the plant's features (such as leaves, stems, flowers and seeds) to identify a plant. A herbarium is a compilation of collected plants that have been dried and pressed in order to preserve them. A herbarium acts as a great resource to verify the identity of the plant. The internet is another resource for the verification of plants. The plants in this collection have been identified to the best of our abilities using the above resources. Our apologies for any errors.

The Importance of Plants

Plants have created the world as we know it. Plants colonized the world early in the Earth's history and made this world habitable for almost all other life forms. Plants have the capability to harness the sun's energy, something animals and insects cannot do. Through photosynthesis, plants then use this energy to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates (usable energy) for higher life forms to attain. As a by-product of photosynthesis, plants release oxygen into the atmosphere so that humans, animals and insects can breath. Besides these absolutely life-dependent actions, plants provide so many more services:

  • Plants provide humans and animals with essential nutrients we need to live
  • Plants have medicinal values
  • Plants feed our food
  • Plants are a source of commercial industries, such as farming, lumber, floral and herbal medicines
  • Plants provide homes for insects, birds, and wildlife
  • Plant roots break up soil and rocks - a process of physical weathering
  • Plants decompose when they die and return nutrients to the soil
  • Some plants convert nitrogen from the air (which is unusable by other plants) into a usable form and creates a healthier soil
  • Plants, especially on hills and in windy locations, hold down the top soil. This helps prevent erosion and mudslides
  • Plants create a beautiful world for us to live in

In the descriptions we have provided for each plant species, we have included the common names and Latin names. The common names used are those most well-known in Saskatchewan, although in some instances there will be two common names. A Latin name has three parts: the first part is the family that the species belongs to, the second part identifies it as a separate species, and the third part will be an abbreviated name or initial. The name or initial signifies the person who discovered the species. For example, if a Latin name has an L. at the end, this is Carl Linnaeus. Occasionally, there will be a variety name added to separate the species further. The Latin species name will be either italicized or underlined as it is in a foreign language.

Some of the plants in the collection have been described as introduced. This term is given to species that are not native to an area, and that have been brought in from other locations. This is usually done for cultivation or for a flower garden. Many times these plants escape from where they were planted and spread across their new environment. Unfortunately, many of these introduced species compete with our native species and replace them on the landscape. One such plant is Purple loosestrife; a very common roadside plant that has been rapidly moving westward across North America.

For the other species in our collection if they are not noted as introduced, they are considered to be native to this area. Some plants were introduced so long ago and have been here for so long that they are now considered to be naturalized.

Some species have been described on our web site as weeds. When we use the term weed on this web site, we are referring to the plant's invasive and quick establishing capabilities. However, the term weed is subjective as many people see some of Saskatchewan's native species as weeds, although these are the species that are really meant to be here. Native plants are highly productive and are well suited for the climate and soil conditions of Saskatchewan, unlike many of the species which are grown here for agriculture. Many native plants have been on the brink of extinction due to agriculture and forestry practices such as prairie cultivation, over grazing, and clear cutting. Some native plants have become so isolated they only grow in a few pockets of the province. It is important to have areas that protect these species.

In each plant description, we have attempted to provide information on the usefulness of the plant. It is our hope that after using this web site, you will look at the prairies with a new perspective: not just as a boring flatland, but as a land of high diversity that deserves protection.

**Note: Any of the plants that were physically collected were obtained from sites where picking is allowed, such as roadsides and ditches.

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Page last updated on 2004-10-08
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