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Small White Lady's Slipper - extirpated species
Silver buffaloberry
Canada thistle
The native flora of the Saskatchewanmarker includes vascular plants, plus additional species of other plants and plant-like organisms such as algae, lichens and other fungi, and mosses. Non-native species of plants are recorded as established outside of cultivation in Saskatchewan, of these some non-native species remain beneficial for gardening, and agriculture, where others have become invasive, noxious weeds. Saskatchewan is committed to protecting species at risk in Canada. The growing season has been studied and classified into plant hardiness zones depending on length of growing season and climatic conditions. Biogeographic factors have also been divided into vegetative zones, floristic kingdoms, hardiness zones and ecoregions across Saskatchewan, and natural vegetation varies depending on elevation, moisture, soil type landforms, and weather. The study of ethnobotany uncovers the interrelation between humans and plants and the various ways people have used plants for economic reasons, food, medicine and technological developments. The Government of Saskatchewan has declared 3 indigenous plants as provincial symbols.

Growing season

Saskatchewan possesses a continental climate and the seasonal variations in temperature provide a short growing season. On average the province supports 159 to 160 frost free days, in the far north that number dimishes to 85 to 95 frost free days. In 1967, Canadian scientests created a map outling Plant Hardiness Zones. The hardiness zones examine climatic gradiations such as length of frost-free period, summer rainfall, maximum summer temperatures, minimum winter temperatures, and wind speed. The harshest plant environment is 0 and the mildest is rated as 8. Corresponding data was correlated for plant requirements. Such an examination provides direction to which flora may survive the geograhical hardiness zone conditions. A development in the late 1800s encouraged homesteaders to pursue agriculture. Red Fife wheat matured 20 days before other wheats, which allowed plants to ripen before the autumn frost.

Protected and invasive species

Saskatchewan has 367 rare species of vascular plants of which 135 of these have been listed as endangered.There is listed Small White Lady's Slipper as the only local extinction, (extirpated) plant. Endangered plants include the Sand Verbena (Abronia micrantha),Western Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis), Tiny Cryptanthe (Cryptantha minima), and Hairy Prairie-Clover (Dalea villosa). Threatened plants include the Slender Mouse-Ear Cress (Halimolobos virgata). These two reports to aid in the protection of plants; Species at Risk In SK and Rare Plant Survey Guidelines. Saskatchewan has implamented the Noxious Weeds Act (NWA) to control plants introduced to Saskatchewan which have become a threat to the natural biodiversity such as leafy spurge . There are two reports in this regard; Invasive Species and Noxious Weeds of Saskatchewan.

Provincial symbols

The tree which was designated in 1988 as a symbol of Saskatchewan is the Paper Birch Betula papyrifera. Saskatchewan's provincial flower is the Western red lily Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum (a protected species) designated in 1941. Needle-and-thread grass Hesperostipa comata is Saskatchewan's provincial grass declared in 2001.

Floristic kingdom

Saskatchewan is within the Holarctic Kingdom. There are two regions within this kingdom, the Circumboreal floristic region or which provides a cool northern temperate zone and the North American Atlantic Region in Southern Saskatchewan which is part of a warmer Midwestern Plains zone. These zones are characterized by a certain degree of endemism.


An ecoregion encompasses soil types and landform similarities. The Taiga Shield ecozone in the far north includes the Selwyn Lake upland and Tazin Lake Upland ecoregion. This would have vegetation generally corresponding to the Subarctic Woodland. The Boreal Shield ecozone is further divided into the Athabasca Plain and Churchill River Upland. The ecozone Boreal Plains comprises the Mid-Boreal Upland, Mid-Boreal Lowland and Boreal Transition ecoregions. Further south is the Prairie ecozone which consists of the Aspen Parkland, Moist Mixed Prairie, Mixed Grassland and Cypress Upland ecoregions. The ecoregions are further divided into Landscape Areas.

Vegetative zones

Several biogeographic factors contribute to the richness and diversity of Saskatchewan flora. From north to south there are a variety of vegetative zones. To the far north are the Subarctic Woodland and Northern Boreal Forest. The Southern Boreal Forest is north of the treeline. The Prairie is divided into the Aspen Parkland, Moist Mixed Grassland, Mixed Grassland, Cypress Upland and Fescue Grassland. In southeast Saskatchewan are Dry Mixed Prairie of the Great Sand Hills area and the Cypress Hills.

Subarctic Woodland

Upon the Canadian Shield and in the coolest weather, are subarctic lichen woodland. The black spruce , jack pine (Pinus banksiana), and white spruce are commonly occurring trees. This area is interspersed with peatlands, bogs, fens, permafrost areas, and areas of arctic tundra. Yellow and Grey Reindeer moss (Cladonia mitis) provide ground cover. The Subarctic Woodland corresponds to Canada's hardiness zone 0a.

Northern Boreal Forest

The circumpolar boreal forest or taiga is dominated by conifers or aspen and poplar stands.
Boreal forest
Throughout this area are lakes, bogs, forest and rock outcroppings. Black spruce, jack pine once again are the main trees of the area. Forest fires are a concern in this area, and Fireweed occurs in burnt areas. Cladonia cetraria and C. tereocaulon are lichen species which provide ground cover. Feather mosses such as Stair-Step Moss and Hypnum are amongst the undergrowth. Where the rock is covered in soils, the forest takes on the characteristics and species of the Southern Boreal Forest ecozone. The plant hardiness zone would be Zone 0b.

The Athabasca Basin provides a separate ecosystem. The Athabasca Sand Hills protected by The Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Parkmarker are unique feature of the Canadian shield. The hills are located in northern Saskatchewan and border Lake Athabascamarker, which straddles the Alberta and Saskatchewan border. There is sparse plant life in the sand hills area. Blueberry, Bearberry , Sand Heather (Hudsonia tomentosa), Crowberry and grasses survive here. In this ecozone there are 10 species of endemic plants. There are unique four species of Willow

Southern Boreal Forest

Mixedwood boreal forest with jack pine, trembling aspen , white spruce, and tamarack populate the Southern Boreal Forest which also houses the forestry industry.
The ground cover is lichen and stair-step moss. Bearberry, low-bush cranberry , Red Osier Dogwood predominate the shrub layer.

Peatlands, fens, marsh complexes occur with wetter soils such as those found above the basin of the Quarternary Glacial Lake Agassizmarker in the south eastern portion of the Southern Boreal Forest. 16% of the boreal forest are wetlands which have a water table at or above ground level. The province is the world's largest producer of wild rice.
Bog Labrador Tea , Sphagnum mosses, and cloudberry flourish in the peatland areas. Bogs have a high acidic layer, high water table and low nutrients. Fens support the brown mosses such as Drepanocladus, Brachythecium , Calliergonelia, Scorpidium, Campylium. Reed Grass , Willows, marsh cinquefoil , and False Solomon's Seal gow in fen regions. Fens have a high water table with slow drainage which is rich in nutrients. Marshes are surrounded by willows and support Marsh reed grass , Kentucky blue grass , Fowl blue grass , beaked sedge , bulrush . Marshes have slow moving slightly alkaline water and are very rich in nutrient and minerals. Bogs, fens, and marshes together comprise muskeg regions. Hardiness zone 1a describes the Southern Boreal Forest.

Aspen Parkland

The Aspen Parkland corresponds to the Transitional Grassland Ecoclimatic Region with lower precipitation and a higher average annual temperature of about .
Saskatchewan Flower: Western red lily Protected species
Trembling aspen form bluffs (small islands or shelter belts) which are typical in this area. The Aspen Parkland is a transitional area between the mixed woodland and prairie grasslands. The Aspen Parkland can be divided into eastern central and western. The eastern area produces tall grass prairie featuring big bluestem and Porcupine grass . Trees in this area are Bur Oak, , Green ash , Manitoba maple , and balsam poplar as well as aspen. Fescue grasses such as Festuca hallii and western porcupine grass (Stipa curtiseta) make up the native Fescue grasslands of central Saskatchewan. The aspen tree stands are still poplar, and interspersed with willow in wetter areas.
Tree: Paper Birch
The western parkland has ground cover of plains rough fescue Needle and trhread grass . Tree groves are aspen, willows and balsam poplar. Throughout the Aspen Parkland in low lying areas with more moisture are dense shrub stands. Saskatoon , pin cherry ), choke cherry hawthorn , western snow berry , woods rose (Rosa woodsii), Wolf willow and Canada buffaloberry are a few of the shrubs of the area. The marshes and prairie sloughs of the Aspen Parkland support flora similar to the marshlands of the Southern Boreal Forest. The Aspen Parkland ranges between 1b, 2a and 2b for plant hardiness areas.

Mixed Prairie

Qu'Appelle Valley near Cutarm, Sask., circa 1910
The Mixed Grass Prairie correlates to the Arid Grassland Ecoclimatic Region and hardiness zone 2a and 3a. Big sandgrass, blue grama grass grow in the higher dry areas. At lower saline sites alkali grass , salt grass , foxtail or wild barley , and arrowgrass are found. Needle and thread grass, northern wheat grass, hair sedge , bottle sedge grow in the intermediate mesic sites, with cottonwoods and willow growing along riverbanks.

Dry mixed prairie

Southwest Saskatchewan has very dry climatic conditions. Dry mixed prairie is found south of Cypress Hillsmarker and the Great Sand Hills area near Leadermarker. Prickly pear cactus , blue gama, needle and thread grass, silver sagebrush and June grass are found in the areas.

Cypress Hills

The Cypress Hills has an elevation over , with cooler resulting temperatures and higher preciptation which are more similar to the boreal forest than the prairie grasslands.
Cypress Hills
Lodgepole Pine occurs only in the Cypress Hills area of Saskatchewan and also in the Rocky Mountain forests. Aspen, and white spruce are other trees of the Cypress Hills forests. Shining leaved meadowsweet , low larkspur , pinegrass provide ground cover.


There are many native plants of Saskatchewan which can be prepared as vegetables, teas, wine, jams, syrups and flour. Other plants have medicinal qualities. The harvest of various plants varies. Shoots, and leaves of some plants are harvested, while roots and tubers of others are picked like potatoes. When locating native plants, it is important to note which season to harvest them and what habitats to search for. Marshy pond edges reveal broad leaf cattail, or yellow pond lily .
Marsh area.
Blueberry, strawberry, dewberry, plantain, shaggy mane mushrooms, cattail, labrador tea, bearberry, strawberry blight, puffball mushrooms and wild mint can be harvested near this site.
Disturbed sites produce chickweed, and plantain . Asparagus shoots grow near roadsides. There are plants which are poisonous, and edible plants which have poisonous look alikes.

Strawberry , wild mint , and Labrador tea leaves can be steeped in boiling water for tea. Saskatoons, blueberries and other berries can be hand picked for jam, jelly, syrup and juice preparation. Blackberry, dewberry, blueberry, buffaloberry, current, huckleberry, prickly pear, raspberry, rose hips all make delicious jams, or jellies. Pies can be made of currants, blackberries, mountain ash, strawberries, for example. Hull grass seeds and grind them down into flour.

Herbal solutions used as remedies for ailments could be ingested as tea, used as ointments, or poultices or inhaled as smoke or steam from a decoction. Cow parsnip and broad leaved water plantain are two herbal remedies which were cultivated by the Cree. However, the cow parsnip does have a poisonous look alike species the western water hemlock, (Cicuta douglasii, poison hemlock).

Flora of Saskatchewan have also aided humans in other ways, trees provide wood such as birch bark for canoes, reeds could be fashioned into whistles and baskets. Sphagnum mosses were used for their insulating qualities, as well mosses were absorbant for diapers, and had antibacterial properties.


Eugène Bourgeau(1813 - 1877) was the botanist who traveled with Captain John Palliser (1817 – 1887) and Henry Youle Hind (1823 - 1908) during the British North American Exploring Expedition.
Green Spurge or Leafy Spurge invasive species
The results of these investigations between 1857 and 1861 reslted in reporting the area unsuitable for agriculture and an area of particularly dry land was named the Palliser's Triangle. John Macoun (1831-1920) was a naturalist who accompanied Sir Sanford Fleming to the prairies in 1872 and he offered agricultural possibilities for the region. Isabel M. Priestly (1893-1946) was a botanist who made botanical collecitons and formed the Yorkton Natural HIstory Society. Dr. William P. Fraser is the namesake of the W.P. Fraser Herbarium. His botanical collection was donated to the Biology Department at the University of Saskatchewanmarker where he was a professor. Later the Fraser collections were transferred to the Department of Plant Ecology in the College of Agriculture. Dr. John K. Jeglum was a research botanist with Great Lakesmarker Forestry Centre (GLFC). He received his doctorate at the University of Saskatchewanmarker his thesis on Lowland vegetation at Candle Lake, Southern Boreal Forest Saskatchewan resulted in a collection of Saskatchewan specimens.


Harvest time
Agriculture in Saskatchewan is the production of various food, feed, or fiber commodities to fulfill domestic and international human and animal sustenance needs. The newest agricultural economy to be developed in renewable biofuel production or agricultural biomass which is marketed as ethanol or biodiesel. Plant cultivation and livestock production have abandoned subsistence agricultural practices in favor of intensive technological farming resulting in cash crops which contribute to the economy of Saskatchewanmarker. The particular commodity produced is dependent upon its particular biogeography or ecozone of Geography of Saskatchewanmarker. Agricultural techniques and activities have evolved over the years. The first nation nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the early immigrant ox and plow farmer proving up on his quarter section of land in no way resemble the present farmer operating huge amounts of land or livestock with their attendant technological mechanization.
Challenges to the future of Saskatchewan agriculture include developing sustainable water management strategies for a cyclical drought prone climate in south western Saskatchewan, updating dryland farming techniques, stabilizing organic definitions or protocols and the decision to grow, or not to grow genetically modified foods. Domestically and internationally, some commodities have faced increased scrutiny from disease and the ensuing marketing issues.

Canada's production of wheat, oats, flaxseed, and barley come mainly from Saskatchewan and the prairie provinces. Saskatchewanmarker still has cattle ranching along the southwestern corner of the province, However, grain farming and growing crops such as wheat, oats, flax, alfalfa, and rapeseed (especially canola) dominate the parkland area. Mixed grain farming, dairy farms, mixed livestock and grazing lands dot the central lowlands region of this prairie province. As of 1996, March 24 to30, has been proclaimed Agriculture Week in Saskatchewan.


In the northern part of the province, forestry is significant. North of the treeline in Saskatchewan are of forests which provide resources for the Saskatchewan forestry industry. The forestry industry comprises lumber and sodium sulphate for pulp and paper resources.

Physiographic regions

Physiographic regions -with some of the area's main features"Sk Atlas">
Physiographic Region Bedrock Geology Dominant soils Natural Vegetation
Canadian Shield
Rock knob complex Igneous rocks and Precambrian Missi Series Lodzolic forest soils Lichen woodland

black spruce

Athabasca Plains Precambrian Athabasca Formation Rough rock land; bedrock exposures pine
Central Lowlandsmarker
Manitoba Lowlands Cretaceous formations Chernozemic soils Aspen


spear/wheat grass
Saskatchewan Plains Cretaceous formations Chernozemic soils Aspen


spear/wheat grass
Great Plainsmarker
Alberta Plateau Tertiary formations Regozolic and solonetzic soil mixtures spear grass / blue grama

See also


  1. Map of Ecozones and ecoregions
  2. 20
  3. []URL accessed April 6, 2007

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