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Do You Know Your Boreal?

Species found in the book Mother Earth: Boreal Beauty of the Peace Country by Sharon Krushel


French: fleurs sauvages | Cree: wapôkwâniy | Beaver: jije

I love this quote by artist Georgia O’Keeffe:

“In a way nobody sees a flower really;

it is so small, we haven’t the time

and to see takes time,

like to have a friend takes time.” (p.55)

We have 83 species of wildflowers featured in the Mother Earth book, as well as photos of 19 species of plants with the blossoms and berries they produce.

~ Sharon Krushel

Western Wood Lily -- Lilium philadelphicum

French: Lis de Philadelphie

This photo features several boreal wildflowers in addition to the Western Wood Lily: the yellow Groundsel - Senecio (French: Séneçon commun); the purple Vetch - Vicia americana (F: Vesce d’Amérique); and the white Northern Bedstraw - Galium boreale (F: Gaillet boréal).

This photo can be found on page 54 of the Mother Earth book along with a story about what inspired me to capture this image on a rainy day in June.

Photo by Sharon Krushel


Three Flowered Avens -- Geum triflorum

French: Benoîte à trois fleurs

This is one of the first plants to show its bright green leaves coming up through the sod in early spring. I often find them close to the first crocus buds.

It seems the term “three-flowered” is more of a guideline than a rule. I have photographed Three Flowered Avens with one flower, two flowers and four flowers. I wonder… If you find a Four Flowered Aven, will it bring you good luck?

This species is also referred to Old Man’s Whiskers or Prairie Smoke. And, indeed, when they go to seed, they look like three sisters on a bad hair day! (p.62-63)

Photo by Sharon Krushel


Wild Blue Columbine -- Aquilegia brevistyla

French: Ancolie à styles courts | Cree: askihtakwâpakwaniy (blue flower)

I have only seen this delicate, intricate wildflower in two places where I hike in the hills north of the town of Peace River. Accordingly, my family refers to one of these wildlife trails as “Columbine Trail.”

My friend, Bailey Robinson, told me that the name “columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove.”

It appears that five of them have come together for a circle dance (p.64-65).

I will be leading a hike in June, once the wild Columbine are in bloom. Follow us on Facebook at Mother Earth Book or email to find out about these hikes and other events.


Yellow Lady's Slippers -- Cypripedium parviflorum

Cree: wâpakwaniy | French: Cypripède jaune

Yes, we have wild orchids in the Peace Country, including purple Calypso Orchids and Round Leaf Orchids that look like little white fairies wearing purple polkadot dresses!

I met Garret McKen at an Alberta Native Plant Council (ANPC) meeting at the Centre for Boreal Research when I was still designing the Mother Earth book. I was deeply delighted when he agreed to have nine spectacular species featured on pages 150-151.

I’ve seen Striped Coral Root Orchids at Wilderness Park and Round Leaved Bog Orchids in the Chinchaga Wilderness, and I’ve heard there are orchids that bloom in the Sand Lake Natural Area south of Hines Creek.

Note to plant nerds: The Peace River chapter of the ANPC meets the first Thursday of each month. Contact Melanie Bird at to be informed of meetings and hikes.

Photo by Garret McKen


Fireweed -- Chamaenerion angustifolium

Beaver: gųs | Cree: ihkapaskwa | French: Épilobe à feuilles étroites

This vibrant flower is often the first to bloom after a forest fire. It is a pioneer species that begins the long chain of events leading to the restoration of a biodiverse ecosystem.

It’s one of my favourite flowers because it gives hope for recovery and for the beauty that can grow out of difficulty (p.80-81).

And it’s edible! Add a few fresh, young blossoms to your salad, or you can purchase Fireweed and Wild Mint tea at Peace Country Co-op.


Brittle Prickly Pear Cactus -- Opuntia fragilis, Oponce fragile

While sitting down on the grass for a picnic in the hills near the old airstrip on Shaftesbury Trail, I inadvertently found a Brittle Prickly Pear Cactus! I hadn’t seen them in bloom, so I was delighted to see Wanda Watts’ photos of these beauties on Misery Mountain. Be careful where you sit on these potentially prickly hills! (p.73)

Photo by Wanda Watts


See for online purchase and a list of outlets in the Peace. Contact Sharon at 780-625-6324 to order or to find out about presentations, events and educational resources. Email:

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