On the coast of Georgian Bay, like many places, native plants have adapted to survive harsh conditions, from -30 winters to +30 summers. This area is full of unique and diverse animal species that are very special, but it is also home to some pretty amazing plant species.

There are too many cool and interesting plants to list them all. In fact, the Biosphere’s iNaturalist project lists over 400 native plant species observed! Here are a few staff favourites, are any of these your favourite too?

Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed grows in shallow water along the shores of many wetlands, rivers, and lakes in the Biosphere. It is also a favourite snack to moose and deer! If you see munch marks that could be a sign you have deer and moose around.

Aquatic plants are really important to overall water and ecosystem health! They help cycle nutrients and keep them balanced so life can thrive.

Black-eyed Susan

A common favourite in meadows and along roadsides, but how we see these flowers isn’t how bees see them! Bees can see ultra violet light! As humans we can only see visible light (which makes up all the colours of the rainbow) but bees can see a ultra violet light as well. Over millions of years, these flowers have adapted to the bee’s bonus vision and made themselves more enticing by creating what looks like bull-eyes to get the bees to drink their nectar and spread their pollen.

Pitcher Plants

These interesting plants live in swampy locations, normally on bog mats. Bog mats are like small islands but they are plant based and actually float on top of the water. If you were to step on it your shoes will definitely get soaked!

The most unique thing about these plants is that they are carnivores! These plants are not content with getting their energy from the sun, they will also consume insects and even small amphibians!  Then they slowly digest them with in the sticky liquid at the bottom of their pitchers.

Photo: Ontario Parks

Eastern White Cedar

You have definitely seen these trees around, but you might not know their significance.

These trees are one the four sacred medicines in Anishinaabe culture. The Anishinaabemowin word for cedar is giizhik.

The bark of the tree is also rich in vitamin C and can be boiled into a nutritioius tea!

Warning: Poison Ivy

Keep an eye out while you are hiking or camping as this plant is very hardy and capable of growing almost anywhere: deep forest, road sides, sunny rocks, and wet swampy areas.

Contact with poison ivy will result in redness itchiness and blistering. It is important to note that the first time you come into contact with it you may not react strongly, but then when you encounter it again your body will recognize the chemicals and you can get a stronger reaction. This reaction is your body protecting you, even though it may not seem that way. 

What to look out for:

  • Woody red stems
  • Three leaves
  • Short and close to the ground

If you want to learn more about the species you find, take photos of plants and animals and upload them to iNaturalist where scientists confirm your identifications.

Activity: Photosynthesis Experiment

Plants make oxygen through a process called photosynthesis, want to see it in action?

For this experiment, you will need: a bowl of water, a few small rocks, and a leaf freshly picked off a tree (remember to only take what you need, the tree needs its leaves).

  1. Fill your bowl with water.
  2. Place the leaf in the bowl and weight it edges down with rocks.
  3. After waiting a few minutes you should begin to see air bubbles on the leaf! That is the oxygen the leaf is making!

Flower & Leaf prints

For this art project go outside and collect different leaves on the ground.

  1. Layout newspaper on your table, this could get a little messy!
  2. Grab some paint and a tray or cup to put the paint on, some brushes and paper.
  3. Take one of your leaves and paint one side of it, then put it paint side down on the paper.
  4. You can either press it down or paint a different colour on top of it to outline the edges and on to the paper.

Note: There is no wrong way to do this so have fun making your leaf/flower art prints!