Published in The Edmonton Sun - June 2011
While the international community might recognize the maple leaf as a national Canadian symbol, the individual provinces and territories all maintain a floral emblem. Since our provinces and territories of Canada stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, and extend from temperate climates to the northern Arctic habitats it leaves behind a rich diversity of plant life in their paths.
School children selected the Wild Rose as the symbolic flower of Alberta in 1930. Native inhabitants once used the plant to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from colds to blindness. The fruit, known as the rose hip, is known for its high vitamin C content and is widely used in teas and nutritional supplements.
Adopted in 1956, the Pacific Dogwood is the official flower of British Columbia. Current laws in the province prohibit cutting down or digging up the trees. The white flowers, renowned for their beauty, are actually composed of clustered white leaves surrounding 30 to 40 very small green flowers.
Local school children selected the Prairie Crocus as the flower of Manitoba in 1906. The plant and its relatives are highly toxic. Some native inhabitants used extracts of the plant to terminate pregnancies or induce childbirth. Extracts are still used to treat minor ailments related to reproductive health.
Upon the suggestion of The New Brunswick Women’s Institute, the Purple Violet was adopted as the provincial flower in 1936. This small flower grows in wetland areas and forests west to Ontario and as far south as the state of Georgia in the United States.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The official flower of Newfoundland and Labrador is the Pitcher Plant. It was adopted in 1954. Pitcher Plants obtain nutrients from insects that become trapped in the "pitcher" created by the leaves of the plant. The insects drown in the moisture and rainwater that has collected at the base of the pitcher.
Adopted in 1901, the Mayflower serves as the provincial flower of Nova Scotia. The Mayflower is named after the famous ship that carried settlers to the New World. It is also one of the first flowers to appear in the spring. These fragrant flowers are primarily found growing in woodland areas.
The White Trillium was adopted as the representative flower of Ontario in 1937. The odorless plant is comprised of only three petals and three leaves. Due to its commercial popularity, the plant has been harvested from the wild, leading to conservation concerns.
Prince Edward Island
The emblematic flower of Prince Edward Island is the Pink Lady's Slipper. Adopted in 1947, this beautiful orchid is often found growing beneath pine and spruce trees. It is endangered in many areas.
Selected in 1999 to replace the White Lily, the Blue Flag serves as the floral emblem of Quebec. This native iris is found growing in the wetland areas of Quebec and is considered poisonous to humans and animals.
The Western Red Lily was adopted as the symbolic flower of Saskatchewan in 1941. This plant prefers wooded thickets and moist lowlands. The stunning orange-red flowers bloom between June and August.
The official flower of the Northwest Territories is the Mountain Avens, adopted in 1957. This hardy flowering plant can grow on rocky grounds at high altitudes. The rooting branches are horizontal, allowing the plant to grow along the face of rocky terrain.
Adopted in 2000, the Purple Saxifraga serves as the flower of the Nunavut Territory. This small purple flower can be found growing in a mat-like formation over gravel and rocky terrain. The petals of this plant are edible and have a semi-sweet flavor.
The Fireweed was adopted in 1957 as the representative flower of the Yukon Territory. This relatively tall plant grows in natural clearings and alongside roadways. The plant earned its name because it is the first plant to grow in an area after a fire.