Protected plants: Flora safeguarded by Canadian law

By: Dru Gary

Published on: September 26th, 2023

Canada is home to diverse and unique flora. The country comprises a wide array of plant species that contribute to its rich biodiversity. To preserve and protect these natural beauties, certain plants are protected under Canadian law.  

Among these protected species is the iconic Trillium, a symbol of Ontario’s natural heritage. The Trillium appears on many legal and official documents Ontarians would be familiar with, most notably, the Ontario Health Card.  

Plant protection plays a vital role in safeguarding Canada’s ecological balance, preserving native plant species, and maintaining healthy ecosystems. Legal protection ensures that threatened or endangered plants receive the necessary conservation needed to prevent their decline and extinction. These measures help maintain biodiversity, protect natural habitats, and preserve the beauty and ecological value of Canada’s landscapes. 

Protected plants in Canada include: 


The Trillium is a beautiful flower with three petals and three leaves. It is usually a bright white colour with yellow pollen in the centre. This flower holds deep significance in Canadian flora. It is a protected species in several provinces, including Ontario.  

The Trillium is considered an indicator of healthy forests and serves as a valuable food source for certain wildlife species. The protection status of Trillium helps prevent over-harvesting, destruction of habitats, and ensures its preservation for future generations to enjoy. 

The Trillium can be seen blooming in early spring all over Ontario. Many hiking trails in the less urban areas of the province are good places to catch a glimpse of the natural beauty of the Trillium bloom.  

Eastern Mountain Avens 

The Eastern Mountain Avens only grows in two habitats in the world, one of those being Brier Island in Nova Scotia. The flower is a very delicate yellow petaled plant that grows at the edge of bogs and other wetland habitats. It is small and fragile and not very well known, but it is also one of the most endangered plants in Canada. 

The Eastern Mountain Avens is listed provincially and federally as an endangered species. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is working hard to educate and inform Canadians about the importance of protecting this plant and its ecosystem. 

Western Prairie Fringed Orchid 

Native to the tallgrass prairies of western Canada, the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid is a rare and fragile flowering plant. The flower is beautiful and otherworldly, it is white and has petals that look like tree roots. 

 It is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act and various provincial legislation. Habitat loss and fragmentation have threatened its existence, and protective measures are in place to conserve this beautiful orchid and its prairie ecosystem. 

Newfoundland Pitcher Plant 

The Newfoundland Pitcher Plant is a unique carnivorous plant native to bogs and wetlands in eastern Canada. The flower has a curved stem and blooms downward. It looks like a small hat or umbrella made of deep red petals.  

 It is protected in multiple provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador. Its protection status helps preserve its specialized habitat and ensures the longevity and continued existence of this fascinating insect-eating plant. 

Showy Lady’s Slipper  

The Showy Lady’s Slipper is a unique orchid found in various provinces across Canada. It is protected under provincial legislation, including in Ontario and Quebec. The top petals of the flower are white in colour and the bottom part, which is pouch shaped, is bright magenta.  

 Showy Lady’s Slippers are at risk due to habitat decline and illegal collection. Their protection promotes conservation efforts to safeguard their habitats and maintain the balance of ecosystems in which they grow.  

American Ginseng 

American Ginseng is a medicinal plant valued for its healing properties. It is protected under federal legislation and provincial regulations. The American Ginseng has large, lush green leaves and then a cluster of little bright crimson berries in the centre of the leaves.  

Overharvesting and habitat loss have significantly impacted its population. By protecting American Ginseng, Canada contributes to its conservation, ensures sustainable harvesting practices, and supports the long-term viability of this culturally significant plant. 

Canada has shown that as a country it is committed to plant protection. This reflects the nation’s dedication to conserving its natural heritage and protecting the fragile ecosystems that support diverse plant life.  

Canada continues to recognize the importance of maintaining biodiversity, supporting ecological balance, and preserving unique plant life for future generations of Canadians. The government of Canada has the full comprehensive list of all at risk plants and animal species that is available here. 

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