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Wildflowers of Ontario

There are approximately 550 common wildflower species in Ontario.

Approximately two thirds of Ontario’s flowering species are native and arrived between approximately 14,000 (after the Laurentide ice sheet melted) and 7,000 years ago (after the last glaciers retreated towards the north). The remainder of Ontario’s flowering plants were introduced intentionally via European settler introduction, or accidentally via imported dirt and mud on shoes, animal waste or long-distance forms of transportation such as trains and ships.

Many introduced species have become naturalized in Ontario such as wild carrot. Many pose little to no threat to native species. Other species are considered invasive because they threaten the existence of native plant species. Garlic mustard, brought by European settlers as an edible plant, is today considered an invasive species and is one of the greatest threats to many forests.

Plants in the Weed and Wildflower Garden

Plants in the Weed and Wildflower Garden

(Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Wildflowers have an ancient connection with human culture. Whether used as a food source, herbal remedy or usefulness in everyday human activity these plants were and still are valued. St. John’s wort was used by the Druids in religious ceremonies and is useful today as a sedative. Bouncing Bette now just a roadside wildflower was once used as a source of soap for centuries. Coltsfoot flowers can be eaten in a salad or made into a tea. Eating wildflowers can be hazardous if misidentified. Wild carrot which has use as an herb looks fairly similar to water hemlock and poison hemlock which are highly poisonous if ingested.

Native wildflowers can also be an attractive addition to home gardens. Favourites include columbines, blazing star and foam flower.

The weed and wildflower garden at the Ridgetown campus, University of Guelph is a collection of some of the many plants that make up the flora of Ontario. Agricultural fields, roadsides, lawns, parks, vacant lands, perimeter areas of woodlots and right of ways are some of the many areas these plants inhabit. This collection also contains some of the noxious, poisonous and invasive plants found in Ontario.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once described a weed as “A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered”.

In other words: One person’s weed is another’s wildflower.

Plant samples in the Weed and Wildflower Garden

Plant samples in the Weed and Wildflower Garden

Page reviewed 12/12/2017