Staff and volunteers have worked hard over the years to create and maintain garden spaces around the Schoolhouse and featuring indigenous species of grasses and flowers. Take the time to explore the grounds and brush up on your plant ID skills before going into the Park. Below is a sampling of what you might see.
Blue Grama Grass
Blue Grama, 20-50 cm tall, is an erect densely tufted perennial growing from fibrous roots and is common in the dry prairie habitat. Each stem has two, sometimes three, flower heads. When the heads first emerge they look like miniature combs and upon maturing, they resemble false eyelashes.
This tall perennial shrub has brownish-yellow flowers that appear in May-June. The bright red berry is harvested and used to make jelly. First Nations used this berry as a cure for stomach problems.
Chokecherry is a common shrub or small tree that often forms thickets. The white flowers appear May-June. The ripe fruit is a deep purple to black small cherry about 5 mm in diameter and has a large pit. As the name implies, the fruit is very bitter, but is used for jelly, syrup and wine.
Northern bedstraw has white flower heads and stands 20-50 cm high. It was once used for stuffing mattresses and pillows because of its faint fragrance. When dried and roasted, the seeds of this plant can make a coffee substitute because this plant belongs to the same family as the coffee plant. First Nations used the roots of the northern bedstraw to produce a strong red dye for staining porcupine quills.
Found across all manner of habitats from grassland to boreal forest to sand dunes, the harebell is identifiable by its thin stem and 5-lobed, purple-blue bell shaped flowers that bloom from July-September. These slender perennials grow from 10-80 cm tall, and the blossoms are turned down to protect the pollen and nectar from the elements. The harebell is also known as the Bluebell of Scotland, and the roots are said to have been used in compresses to treat swelling by Cree peoples.
Artemisia Frigida Willd
Pasture sage is found in the dry grasslands. It is known to the Cree Nation as mostosowikask, and to the Blackfoot Nation as askaksamis which is translated to “she sage”. It is called this because women ritually used this plant during their menses.
Pincushion Cactus (Ball Cactus)
This small perennial cactus grows low to the ground and can often be missed when not flowering. These plants prefer rocky or sandy soil and south-facing hills. Flowering after rains, flowers are pink in hue and last briefly
This plant grows to be 30-90 cm high with hairy leaves and flower heads that range from yellow to almost orange. The flowers have distinct backward-bending strap-like florets and a cone-shaped brown centre. The prairie coneflower blooms in June till September on open, dry land. It is a native species from Ontario to British Columbia. This flower is an important nectar plant and will attract butterflies. First Nations used the fresh smelling leaves for tea or even as perfume.
Often the first flower to bloom in the spring, crocuses grow between 8-12cm tall. The leaves and stem are covered in a white fuzz which helps protect the plant from cool weather. The flower is typically a light purple with a bright yellow stamen.
Flowers from June-July with numerous showing blossoms with a distinct waxy lemon/yellow colour. The blossoms produce an edible spicy-sweet berry. This cactus grows on the open dry prairie and is edible. The prickly-pear cactus was used for medicinal purposes by First Nations.
A common bushy shrub that can reach a metre or more in height. Yellow flowers appear frpm June through August. The flowers measure 20 to 25 mm in diameter and have five petals. Some field guides refer to Shrubby Cinquefoil as Potentilla fruticosa.
This perennial woody shrub is a true sign of the prairies. Small dusty yellow flowers that bloom in July and August. The feathery achenes give the plant an over all woolly appearance. Flowers appear in August. Sage is distinguished by its distinctive aroma. Historically, First Nations throughout the Plains considered sagebrush an important ceremonial plant. The leaves were burned as incense to drive away bad spirits and evil influence.
Solidago Mollis Bartl
The velvety goldenrod is common on dry prairie land and roadsides growing 20-50 cm high. The entire plant is covered with very fine, short velvety hairs.
This member of the legume family is common across the dry prairies. With grey-green pinnate leaves and clusters of purple flowers that start blooming in June, these plants are a burst of colour on the plains
Wild Blue Flax
This drought-resistant perennial produces narrow stems and dark blue-green leaves. It flowers in June-July, with multiple pale blue flowers blooming on each stem. The flowers only last one day, but flax continually produces flowers for weeks.
Pink flowers appear in June-August. The wild rose produces a fruit called a rose-hip. The rose-hip becomes bright red when it is ripe. This low branching shrub grows in uncultivated areas throughout the prairies. The wild rose was commonly used by First Nations as a medicine and emergency food.
This perennial low growing shrub blooms in June with tiny fragrant blossoms. Produces a silvery mealy berry containing a large seed. Grows in the moisture draws of the prairie.
Three Flowered Aven
This wildflower is a low, colony-forming perennial with soft hairy stems. In May-June the torch-like flowers are pink to purple produced in group of three per plant at the ends of the stems. It is also known as prairie smoke. Traditionally, the Blackfoot made tea from the entire plant.
This biennial plant grows 30-45 cm tall. Grows occasionally with a purplish stem. Flowers appear in July-September. Needs good moisture conditions to flourish.
This is a low growing plant with salmon coloured flowers. The leaves are green-grey and hairy. The scarlet mallow is commonly found in dry waste places and on roadsides. The mucilage in the leaves and roots is a medicine that helps the throat, lungs, kidneys, urinary tubules, and the digestive tract.