8 Things To Know About Native Plant Lists
There are many reasons why you may be searching for a list of native plants. Perhaps you are planting a native plant garden, or creating a restoration seed mix, or describing plant communities, or evaluating a project’s impact on native plant diversity. Before you begin your search for a native plant list, here are some things you should know…
If you have ever searched for ‘plant lists’, then you know that you need to refine your search of over 1.2 billion results. For plant lists, there are two main ways to refine the search to make the results more relevant: where you are going to use the plant list (i.e., location), and how it is going to be used (i.e., application).
Often the device that you are using to perform the search has already refined it for you based on its global positioning system (GPS) and your patterns of use (…unsettling). To refine the results based on location, it is useful to use a general region or jurisdiction, such as plant hardiness zone, ecozone, natural region, or province/territory/state (results reduced to 58.5 million by adding ‘Alberta’ to the search).
In this blog, the focus is on native plants; therefore, adding the word ‘native’ to the search will further customize the results. From these results, you then start assessing each plant list to determine if it is relevant for your use. To determine its relevance, you should understand the origin and reason for which the list was created (raison d’être). Plant lists are created for different purposes; therefore, the plant species and associated information provided in each list varies. Subsequently, so does its relevance for any specific use. To illustrate this, I have provided eight scenarios using eight different native plant lists in Alberta:
#1 – Check the Native Plant Source List
Anyone growing a native plant garden may want to check out the Alberta Native Plant Council’s (ANPC’s) Native Plant Source List. You can check out the list by opening the Excel spreadsheet and viewing the tab named ‘AB NATIVE SPECIES LIST’, which shows a list of plant species. Each plant species is correlated to plant suppliers that often stock it. If you see a plant that you like, scroll right to the ‘Origin’ heading to check that it says ‘Native’. Next view the ‘SUPPLIERS’ tab, where you can then apply a filter to view the list of suppliers in your area. This is the process that you might use if you were entering Alberta Native Plant Council’s (ANPC’s) Native Plant Pollinator Garden Challenge
#2 – Select a Regionally Appropriate Plant Community Guide
Vegetation Specialists designing a reclamation/revegetation/restoration seed mix to mimic a native plant community can select a regionally appropriate plant community guide. Generally, plant community descriptions list the most common and/or dominant plant species in that community, along with their percent cover. As a Vegetation Specialist you likely already know the moisture, nutrient, and sunlight conditions of the restoration site; therefore, you would select the relevant plant community from the appropriate guide and design your seed mix based on the plant species listed for your target community. As a Vegetation Specialist you would be aware of how to substitute similar, available species; combine seed proportions for each desired native plant species based on its ecology and seed characteristics;factor in the ecology of succession;and design to meet the needs of land use at your site.
#3 – Download Plant Lists for Plant Identification
Professional or recreational botanists identifying plants can Download Plant Lists from Alberta Conservation Information Management System (ACIMS). ACIMS collects and stores information on plants found in Alberta and makes them available to the public through a suite of tools. Of particular interest to you is ACIMS’ List of Elements in Alberta – Vascular Plants, which is a spreadsheet that lists all vascular plant species known to occur in Alberta. This list also identifies the ‘Origin’ of each plant as Native or Exotic. To learn how to use this list in the field, check out SALMTEC’s Biophysical Bootcamp Training Course, where participants will learn or refresh basic plant identification skills, amongst other field skills. Does not include horticultural plants, unless they have escaped cultivation and have been identified as ‘problem’ plants for cultivation and reclamation or have been documented as occurring in natural or naturalizing areas.
#4 – Download the Alberta Wetland Plant List
Wetland Practitioners in Alberta identifying and delineating a wetland can download the Alberta Wetland Plant List, from ANPC’s Alberta Plant Lists This list can be used if you are determining the edge of a wetland in the field and documenting plant species and percent cover at various plot pairs along the suspected ecological boundary. This list identifies the wetland indicator status of wetland plants. Indicator status indicates the probability for a plant to occur in a wetland. This list would be used in conjunction with other tools, such as the Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive.
Note: If you are an ANPC member, then you will be able to access a recent webinar that describes the Alberta Wetland Plant List and how to use it. Stay tuned, as this webinar will be available through the ANPC Members page. In the meantime, you can access it for a limited time by clicking HERE.
#5 – Download the Alberta Wetland Classification System Document
Wetland Practitioners in Alberta classifying a wetland can download the Alberta Wetland Classification System (AWCS) document. As a Wetland Practitioner, you are likely familiar with the plant lists in this tool, where each wetland classification (i.e., combination of wetland class/form/types) has a list of typical or diagnostic plant species, which are helpful when classifying a wetland.Ducks Unlimited Canada has created a more digestible version of these plant lists in their AWCS Field Guide.Note: The AWCS plant lists are not comprehensive,nor blanketly relevant to every wetland. In many cases classification requires the practitioner’s professional judgement to guide the classification.A wetland’s classification consists of a wetland class (i.e., bog, fen, swamp, marsh and shallow open water), plant form (e.g., graminoid, shrub, coniferous tree), salinity type (e.g., freshwater, brackish) and either water permanence type (e.g., temporary, seasonal) or acidity-alkalinity type (e.g., acidic, moderate-rich) depending on the wetland class.
#6 – Review the Alberta Wildlife Regulations
Planners, land managers, or Rare Plant Specialists ensuring proposed land use activities follow all applicable provincial and federal Species-at-risk (SAR) Regulations can review the Alberta Wildlife Act’s Wildlife Regulation (Schedule 6) and Canada’s Species-at-risk Act, as these documents include lists of native plant species that may require special management. The listed plant species are designated as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern, based on degree of rarity or magnitude of threat. Also worth mentioning is the COSEWIC list of plants, which also includes species recommended for inclusion on SARA.
 Does not include horticultural plants, unless they have escaped cultivation and have been identified as ‘problem’ plants for cultivation and reclamation or have been documented as occurring in natural or naturalizing areas.
 A wetland’s classification consists of a wetland class (i.e., bog, fen, swamp, marsh and shallow open water), plant form (e.g., graminoid, shrub, coniferous tree), salinity type (e.g., freshwater, brackish) and either water permanence type (e.g., temporary, seasonal) or acidity-alkalinity type (e.g., acidic, moderate-rich) depending on the wetland class.
#7 – Aim to Reduce Impacts on Plant Biodiversity
Planners, land managers, or Rare Plant Specialists aiming to reduce impacts on plant biodiversity from a land use activity can download ACIMS’ Vascular Plant Tracking List, made available through the ACIMS Download Data webpage. This listincludes plant species that are being tracked because they are either considered rare or of conservation concern for other reasons, such as rapid population decline or habitat loss. The Tracking List includes all vascular plant species listed in Alberta’s Wildlife Regulations, in Canada’s SARA, and by COSEWIC, as well as many other plants deemed potentially rare based on their provincial conservation status rank:S1 (Critically Imperiled), S2 (Imperiled) or S3 (Vulnerable). Click here to find out more about conservation status ranks.For more information on ACIMS tools, check out SALMTEC’s ACIMS Online Short Course.
#8 – Identify Rare Plants in Alberta
Rare Plant Specialists identifying rare plants in Alberta are likely aware of ANPC’s Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta to me, but did you know that The Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta 2nd Edition will soon be available? Anticipated availability date is June 2022, just in time for field season, so you may want to pre-order This book provides a comprehensive list of Alberta’s rare vascular plants, including regulated and tracked plant species, and provides a visually appealing compendium of Alberta’s rare plants including, range maps, plant and habitat descriptions, line drawings, and high quality photos.This book is a must for rare plant surveyors in Alberta and surrounding provinces, territories, and states!
Editor’s Note: SALMTEC is a proud supporter of this legacy book that will substantially contribute to the effective management of Alberta’s natural diversity for decades to come