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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

See to purchase online and to find a list of locations where its sold. You can also contact Sharon at 780-624-6324 to order direct or to find out about presentations, events and educational resources. Or, email

For pronunciation of the Cree names, download this app: KTCEA Elders Speak

It is -32°C as I write this and choose images for this issue. There is an esoteric beauty in the cold, mingled with a wistful sense of the certainty of spring. Here are some of my favourites of the season, which the Beaver First Nation call dǫ́’ę (a hungry time). ~ Sharon Krushel

Early Blue Violet -- Viola adunca

French: Violette à éperon crochu

I call this image “Violet Courage.” These flowers always make me smile. You can purchase seeds for these edible beauties, and they grow well in gardens. Sprinkle a few flowers on your salad along with the leaves, which are very high in Vitamins A and C.

Photo by Sharon Krushel


Prairie Crocus -- Pulsatilla nuttalliana

French: Pulsatille des prairies

The earliest I’ve seen a crocus blooming in the Peace River valley is March 27. I often lead a community crocus hunt by mid-April, so others can search for the fuzzy buds and kiss a fuzzy purple crocus. Once the crocus is fully opened, its saucer-shaped sepals create an ideal solar heating spot. The crocus offers shelter from the cold for the little bugs, the first spring nectar, pollen to the pollinators as well as a long-awaited hope for humanity.

Photo by Sharon Krushel


Big Red Stem Moss -- Pleurozium schreberi

Beaver: níízųl (moss on trees) | tsáátl zís (moss bag for babies)

Cree: askiya (moss) | French: Hypne dorée

I visited a black spruce bog northeast of Nampa with Melanie Bird, the moss expert at the Centre for Boreal Research. Together we meandered with my macro camera lens through the mini realm of a myriad of moss species. I then read Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer and have come to see that mosses have super powers. Some can absorb 20-30 times their weight in water. Without them, much of the water from rain and dew would drain away or quickly evaporate from the landscape.

Photo by Sharon Krushel


American Robin -- Turdus migratorius

Beaver: ts’íhk’áhi | Cree: pihpihcô | French: Merle d’Amérique

Most American robins spend their winters in the US and Mexico. However, they prefer to have their babies in Canada and are one of the earliest birds to lay their eggs upon returning to their summer home. The robin is also among the earliest birds to sing at dawn. The lyrics go something like this: “Cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up…”

Photo by Sharon Krushel


Black Bear cubs -- Ursus americanus

Beaver: sas | Cree: maskwa | French: Ours noir

Black bear mamas come out of hibernation with their cubs around mid-April.

From a young age, the cubs can scamper up a tree faster than you can say, “12-Foot Davis was a gold miner!”

Photo by Ron Marceau


Coyote pups -- Canis latrans

Beaver: ch’uunée | Cree: miscâkanisak

Coyotes breed in February and March and their young are born in April or May in litters of five to seven pups. Dens are typically dug in steep banks in dense vegetation and have multiple entrances. Coyotes prefer eating meat (mostly small rodents), but they also eat fruit, and the pups especially like grasshoppers.

Photo by Ron Marceau


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

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