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Endangered Plants in Canada

By Sophie Johnson ; Updated September 21, 2017

Like other developed countries, Canada's native species face survival challenges arising from human practices. Habitat destruction, chemical use, pressure from non-native species--these are main reasons some Canadian plant species are at risk of disappearing from the wild, though some specimens might survive in cultivation. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) defines endangered species as those in immediate danger of extinction or extirpation. (Extirpation means a species has been lost to Canada, but is found elsewhere.) At the end of 2009, the Canadian Encyclopedia listed 214 plants as endangered. Including those, about 1,000 species are rare.

Prairie Fringed Orchid

The prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) is endangered in Canada and rare throughout the world. It's native to the plains of the United States and Manitoba, Canada where its population is decreasing. Decline is a result of habitat destruction from real estate development and conversion of the habitat to farmland, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Meanwhile, the orchid's reproduction method worsens the threat. The orchid needs specific pollinators to reproduce. The population of orchids varies widely from year to year, so the orchid's representation in Manitoba is not known for certain, according to the IUCN. The orchid is protected in Canada.


There used to be a vast forest in Ontario, rich with plant life unique to the area. As farming, settlement and industry came in, the forest, bit by bit, began disappearing. Some extinctions resulted, but other plants are managing to hold on, though they are endangered. This includes the goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), which faces pressure not only from habitat loss, but because the plant is used medicinally. Because of the demand for goldenseal, cultivation of the plant might ease some of the pressure on the remaining populations in the wild.

Thread-Leaved Sundew

In Canada, the thread-leaved sundew (Drosera filiformis) is found only in Nova Scotia on the Atlantic coastal plain. It survives in just five wetland bogs there, according to the Wildlife Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. The sundew is endangered due to human impact on wetland bogs. The plant is carnivorous, catching bugs on sticky, hairlike growth covering the slim stems of the plant.

Prototype Quillwort

In New Brunswick, a new and already endangered species is found only in one lake there: the prototype quillwort, which was declared a new species in 1991. Living on the bottom of the cold lake bottom, the plant has clusters of dark green, needlelike leaves. The quillwort is primitive and related to ferns. Like ferns, they don't produce seeds, instead multiplying by way of spores. Besides New Brunswick, the plant has been found in Maine and Nova Scotia.


About the Author


Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.