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References for Identification in the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada National Collection of Vascular Plants

The following is a slightly modified version which appeared in the Canadian Botanical Association Bulletin 39(1): 13-19. 2006.

Accurate plant identification, particularly in relation to biodiversity protection, alien invaders, and commercial collecting of wild plants, is of immense importance. Researchers, agricultural advisers, students and many others asked what literature is used by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Vascular Plant Herbarium to identify plants. To be practical, a list of identification aids must be relatively short and selective. The objective is to indicate the important, available sources, rather than provide an overwhelmingly complete list. The following is a subjective selection, representing the references used most frequently.

Included are the most complete, current, and useful references for identifying plants in Canada as a whole, and in specific geographical areas. In listing those we consider most relevant, we have often excluded works of narrow coverage. We have included, despite narrow coverage in some cases, texts that are particularly useful for a particular group or a limited area that is otherwise not covered in the major comprehensive works available. For example, for the province of Ontario, which has no comprehensive identification manual, we have listed several sources with relatively narrow coverage, and we have also included a reference to the adjacent Michigan flora. In contrast, for British Columbia, which has a recent authoritative flora, we have not cited several works of narrower scope, despite their excellence.

References listed below include not only books with identification keys, descriptions, and illustrations that are useful for identification, but also major lists of plants. These lists help to indicate what is present, so that a larger floristic guide covering a broad area can be conveniently used (by simply eliminating the species that are not listed for a given region).

Geographically based texts are not the only kinds of identification aids that are available. Others include special bibliographies, vascular plant herbaria and their staff, expert systematists, guides to collecting, and information organized in subject categories such as cultivated plants and poisonous plants. Examples of these kinds of aids are outlined in the concluding section "Additional kinds of identification aids". Also included in this section is a listing of special information sources that will assist with identifications, determining correct names, and related information. Finally, we present information on the importance of plant identification that may assist those working in this area to encourage the increasing support that is needed to do the job.

Following is a compendium of resources:

Notes on Criteria

Various aspects that influenced our choice of identification aids are indicated below in the following list. We emphasize that none of these was essential for inclusion.

  1. Quality and date of publication: accuracy of information. (Classic treatments, although dated, often remain useful, and some outstanding examples are included.)
  2. Quantity: inclusion of a substantial number of species in Canada.
  3. Coverage: all of the species of a relatively large area. (In cases where regions are not adequately treated in a comprehensive flora, local floras are cited.)
  4. Exclusivity: only or mostly the species of a relatively large area. (Floras from adjacent United States (U.S.) states are included only when, in the absence of adequate Canadian floras, they substantially assist in identification of Canadian plants.)
  5. Complementarity: references such as simple lists of species and guides to nomenclature that, in combination with other works, assist in identification and provision of correct names.
  6. Inclusion of identification keys.
  7. Inclusion of information (additional to keys) assisting in identification: illustrations, distribution maps, descriptions.
  8. Guides to plants of distinctive, widespread habitats in Canada: northern plants, aquatic plants, weeds.
  9. Guides to plants of large and economically important or popular Canadian families or genera: grasses, sedges, ferns.
  10. Guides to extremely important classes of economic plants in Canada: trees, toxic plants, cultivated plants.
  11. Information on where identification aids can be located for foreign plants of potential danger to Canada as introduced weeds, alien invaders, commodity contaminants, illicit drugs, et cetera.
  12. Key bibliographic tools of assistance to researchers in locating extensive information needed to clarify problems in classification. (This information will be important primarily to specialists, but occasionally plants are encountered that simply cannot be satisfactorily identified using guides such as listed here, and it will be necessary to search out very specialized publications or locate an expert for help.)

Guides to Large Areas of Canada

Aiken, S.G. and S.J. Darbyshire. 1983. Grass genera of Western Canadian cattle rangelands. Monograph number 29. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 173 pages [One of several useful tools for identifying Canadian grasses.]

Best, K.F. and J.B. Campbell. 1971. Prairie grasses identified and described by vegetative characters. Publication 1413, Canada Department of Agriculture, Ottawa, Ontario. 239 pages [This guide includes a vegetative key, and describes and illustrates 104 grass species characteristic of rangelands of the Prairie Provinces. For each, details of the top of the leaf sheath are shown.]

Boivin, B. 1966-1968. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provancheria (Mémoires de l'Herbier Louis-Marie, Université Laval, Quebec) no 6. Irregularly paginated. [An authoritative compilation of Canadian plant species, with an indication of their provincial distribution and references to related classification literature. Also published in Naturaliste Canadian volumes 93 and 94.]

Boivin, B. 1967-1981. Flora of the Prairie Provinces. Provancheria (Mémoires de l'Herbier Louis-Marie, Faculté d'Agriculture, Université Laval). 5 volumes [Lacking illustrations (except for part 5) and distribution maps, nevertheless the most complete flora for the Prairie Provinces.]
Part 1 (1967). Pteroids, ferns, conifers and woody dicopsids. Provancheria 2: 1-202. (Reprinted from Phytologia 15: 121-159, 329-446; 16: 1-47).
Part 2 (1968-1969). Digitatae, Dimerae, Liberae. Provancheria 3: 1-185. (Reprinted from Phytologia 16, 17, 18).
Part 3 (1972). Connatae. Provancheria 4: 1-224. (Reprinted from Phytologia 22, 23).
Part 4 (1979). Monopsida. Provancheria 5: 1-189. (Reprinted from Phytologia 42, 43).
Part 5 (1981). Gramineae. Provancheria 12: 1-107.

Boivin, B. 1992. Les Cypéracées de l'est du Canada. Provancheria 25: 1-230. [A guide to the sedge family of Canada, with all species illustrated.]

Budd, A.C., J. Looman, K.F. Best, and J. Waddington. 1987. Budd's flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces. (Latest revision.) Research Branch Publication 1662. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 863 pages [Includes many illustrations but not distribution maps.]

Cody, W.J. and D.M. Britton. 1989. Ferns and fern allies of Canada. Publication 1829/E. Agriculture Canada Research Branch, Ottawa, Ontario. 430 pages [Includes illustrations and distribution maps. Also issued in French as Les fougères et les plantes alliées du Canada.]

Crow, G.E., and C.B. Hellquist. 2000. Aquatic and wetland plants of northeastern North America: a revised and enlarged edition of Norman C. Fassett's A manual of aquatic plants. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Winsconsin. 2 volumes [A useful and current text with keys and numerous line drawings.]

Darbyshire, S.J. 2005. A key to the common grasses of southeastern Canada by vegetative characteristics. Can. Bot. Assoc. Bull. 38: 58-63. [A very useful tool for identifying grasses.]

Darbyshire, S.J., M. Favreau, and M. Murray. 2000. Common and scientific names of weeds in Canada / Noms populaires et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Research Branch Publication 1387/B. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 132 pages [A valuable list giving accurate scientific and one selected common English name and one French name for 1130 taxa of weedy plants.]

Farrar, J.L. 1995. Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd., Markham, Ontario, and Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources, Ottawa, Ontario. 502 pages [Includes useful line drawings, colour photographs, and distribution maps.]

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, New York. 1632 pages [One of the most useful floras ever produced and still very useful despite its age. Page 6 notes that this guide covers "the area south of the Straits of Belle Isle and from Anticosti Island westward along the 49th parallel of latitude in Quebec to the northwestern corner of Minnesota". This includes the southern tip of NF-LAB; all of NF-NFLD, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick; southern, central, and northwestern Ontario; and southern Quebec; useful for southern Manitoba, but not intended to cover this region. The 1970 printing includes corrections.]

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Oxford University Press, New York, New York. [Eight of the 30 volumes planned to cover the entire flora of North America are currently available as outlined below. There is much variation in the quality of the treatments in this work, but many are written by world authorities and include the most current taxonomic decisions. In press and expected in early 2006 are the following: Volume 19, Magnoliophyta: Asteridae, Part 6: Asteraceae, part 1; Volume 20, Magnoliophyta: Asteridae, Part 7: Asteraceae, part 2; and Volume 21, Magnoliophyta: Asteridae, Part 8: Asteraceae, part 3. Scheduled for publication in late 2006 is Volume 7 (Magnoliophyta: Dilleniidae, part 2). Scheduled for publication in 2007 are Volume 6 Magnoliophyta: Dilleniidae, part 1), and Volume 8 (Magnoliophyta: Dilleniidae, part 3; and Rosidae, part 1). Most of the information is available online on the Flora of North America web site.]
1993. volume 2, Pteridophytes and Gymnosperms. 475 pages
1997. volume 3, Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. 590 pages
2000. volume 22, Magnoliophyta: Alismatidae, Arecidae, Commelinidae (in part), and Zingiberidae. 352 pages
2002. volume 26, Magnoliophyta: Liliidae and Orchidales. 723 pages
2002. volume 23, Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Cyperaceae. 608 pages
2003. volume 25, Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Poaceae, part 2. 783 pages [This volume covers over half of the grass family in North America north of Mexico. It and vol. 24 (containing Poaceae, part 1, still in preparation) differ from the other Flora of North America volumes in that they were originally intended for publication under a separate title within a single volume - a successor to Hitchcock's classic Manual of Grasses of the United States. With identification a key focus, this volume has many more illustrations than other Flora of North America volumes: almost every species is illustrated. Also included are species known only from cultivation, and species that are considered serious threats to American agriculture but which are not yet established.]
2003. volume 4, Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 1. 559 pages
2005. volume 5, Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 2. 656 pages

Frankton, C. and G.A. Mulligan.1987. Weeds of Canada (revised). North Carolina Press Ltd., Toronto, and Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 217 pages [A guide to 230 weedy species of Canada, mostly illustrated.]

Gleason, H.A. 1968. The new Britton and Brown illustrated flora of the Northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Hafner, New York, New York. 3 volumes [This very useful, illustrated manual is superseded by the combination of Gleason and Cronquist (1991) + Holmgren (1998).]

Gleason, H.A. and A. Cronquist. 1991 (7th printing, 2004). Manual of vascular plants of Northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd edition. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 993 pages. [Covers Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, southern Quebec, southern and central Ontario; useful for northwestern Ontario and southern Minnesota, but not intended to cover this region. Page numbers in this non-illustrated manual correspond to the illustrations on the matching page numbers in Holmgren 1998, listed below. The 7th printing, 2004, includes corrections and other changes, outlined in Foreword on page v).]

Hitchcock, A.S. 1971. Manual of the grasses of the United States. 2nd edition. Dover, New York. 2 volumes (1051 pages). [A much-used tool for identifying grasses. Abundantly illustrated.]

Hitchcock, C.L. and A. Cronquist. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle. 730 pages. [An authoritative flora with illustrated keys. Includes "an indefinite fringe of British Columbia".]

Hitchcock, C.L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J.W. Thompson. (Editors). 1955-1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Compositae. University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington. [A classic and popular flora that includes "an indefinite southern fringe of British Columbia". Has excellent descriptions, illustrations and keys. Hitchcock and Cronquist (1973), listed above, is a condensed version.]
1955. Part 5, Compositae. 343 pages
1959. Part 4, Ericaceae through Campanulaceae. 510 pages
1961. Part 3, Saxifragaceae to Ericaceae. 614 pages
1964. Part 2, Salicaceae to Saxifragaceae. 597 pages
1969. Part 1, vascular cryptogams, gymnosperms and monocotyledons. 914 pages.

Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 937 pages. [This is the illustrated companion to the most current floristic guide to northeastern North America (see Gleason and Cronquist 1991).]

Johnson, D., L. Kershaw, A. MacKinnon, and J. Pojar. 1995. Plants of the western boreal forest & aspen parkland. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta. 392 pages. [This guide includes many colour photographs, as well as illustrated keys, and covers a large area of western Canada.]

Kartesz, J. T. and C.A. Meachum. 1999. Synthesis of the North American Flora, version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. [A CD-ROM with interactive software. This is a comprehensive, authoritative source of names of vascular plants and their synonyms combined with information on geography, common names biological attributes and uses.]

McGregor, R.L. and T.M. Barkley. (Editors.) 1977. Atlas of the Flora of the Great Plains. The Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa. 600 pages [Presents distribution maps for species treated in the following flora. Useful for determining which species occur at the Canadian border.]

McGregor, R.L., T.M. Barkley, R.E. Brooks, and E.K. Schofield. (Editors.) 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 1392 pages [The plains region extends into the southern portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Although most of the Great Plains are in the U.S., a large proportion of the species also occurs in Canada.]

Polunin, N. 1940. Botany of the Canadian eastern arctic. Bull. 92. Nat. Mus. Can., Ottawa, Ontario. 408 pages [A classic and comprehensive work.]

Polunin, N. 1959. Circumpolar arctic flora. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. 514 pages. [Although dated, this is still a very valuable reference. Includes many illustrations, but no distribution maps.]

Scoggan, H.J. 1978-1979. The flora of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa, Ontario. 4 volumes [A valuable compilation of information on the Canadian flora, includes identification keys and information on distribution, but lacks descriptions and illustrations.]
Part 1 (1978): General survey. Publications in Botany 7(1): 1-89.
Part 2 (1978): Pteridophyta, Gymnospermae, Monocotyledoneae. Publications in Botany 7(2): 93-544.
Part 3 (1978): Dicotyledoneae (Saururaceae to Violaceae). Publications in Botany 7(3): 547-1115.
Part 4 (1979): Dicotyledoneae (Loasaceae to Compositae). Publications in Botany 7(4): 1117-1711.

Swink, F. 1990. The key to the vascular flora of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Plantsmen's Publications, Flossmore, Illinois. 514 pages [A useful identification aid.]

Guides for Provinces and Territories


Hallworth, B. and C.C. Chinnappa. 1997. Plants of Kananaskis Country, in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta. 366 pages [An excellent guide with line drawings, keys, colour photographs, and descriptions. Although local, it applies to much of the Rocky Mountain area.]

Kershaw, L., J. Gould, D. Johnson, and J. Lancaster. 2001. Rare vascular plants of Alberta. Univ. Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta and Nat. Resour. Can., Can. For. Serv., North For. Cent., Edmonton, Alberta. 484 pages [Describes and provides excellent colour photographs of about 485 species of rare native vascular plants of Alberta.]

Kuijt, J. 1982. A flora of Waterton Lakes National Park. The University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta. 684 pages [A well illustrated and useful guide, covering a large portion of the Rocky Mountains.]

Moss, E.H. and J.G. Packer. 1983. Flora of Alberta. 2nd edition. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario. 687 pages [Has distribution maps, no illustrations.]

British Columbia

Note: There are numerous excellent guides to specific groups of plants of British Columbia that have been produced by the Royal British Columbia Museum, but these are superseded by Douglas and others, cited below, for identification purposes. However, in many cases they contain additional information, and deserve to be on the bookshelf of any serious student of the B.C. flora.

Calder, J.A. and R.L. Taylor. 1968. Flora of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Part 1, Systematics of the Vascular Plants. Monograph No 4 Part 1. Canada Department of Agriculture, Ottawa, Ontario. 659 pages [Includes a few illustrations and many distribution maps.]

Douglas, G.W., and others (Editors). 1999-2002. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia. [Note the two series below. This flora includes many illustrations in each volume and distribution maps in volume 8. Provides up-to-date and definitive coverage of the flora of British Columbia. Also note E-Flora British Columbia, Electronic atlas of the plants of British Columbia, which presents much of the information in this flora (note cautions regarding validity of map data).]

Douglas, G.W., G.B. Straley, D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar (Editors). 1999-2002. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Victoria, British Columbia. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, and Ministry of Forests, British Columbia. volumes 1-2.
Volume 1 (1998): Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons (Aceraceae through Asteraceae). 436 pages
Volume 2 (1998): Dicotyledons (Balsaminaceae through Cuscutaceae). 401 pages [This series is continued below, without Straley as an editor.]

Douglas, G.W., D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar (editors). 1999-2002. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, and Ministry of Forests, British Columbia, Victoria, British Columbia. volumes 3-8.
Volume 3 (1999).: Dicotyledons (Diapensiaceae through Onagraceae). 423 pages
Volume 4 (1999): Dicotyledons (Orobanchaceae through Rubiaceae). 427 pages
Volume 5 (2000): Dicotyledons (Salicaceae through Zygophyllaceae) and Pteridophytes. 389 pages
Volume 6 (2001): Monocotyledons (Acoraceae through Najadaceae). 361 pages
Volume 7 (2001): Monocotyledons (Orchidaceae through Zosteraceae). 379 pages
Volume 8 (2002). General summary, maps and keys. 457 pages

MacKinnon, A., J. Pojar, and R. Coupé. 1992. Plants of Northern British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta. 345 pages + index. [A very useful, user-friendly text for the northern part of the province. It includes keys and illustrations (many in colour).]


Cody, W.J. 1988. Plants of Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. Publication 1818. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 319 pages [Has keys and descriptions of 669 species, and hundreds of illustrations. Also available in French.]

Scoggan, H.J. 1957. Flora of Manitoba. National Museum of Canada Bulletin 140, Biological Series 47. Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Ottawa, Ontario. 619 pages [An excellent, although dated, compilation of the vascular flora of the province, but lacks illustrations and distribution maps. Additions to this work have been published in the Canadian Field-Naturalist, and are on file in the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature.]

New Brunswick

Hinds, H.R. 2000. Flora of New Brunswick. 2nd edition. University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick. 695 pages [Maps and illustrations provided for most species.

Also see Haines and Vining (1998) under Quebec.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Bouchard, A., S. Hay, and E. Rouleau. 1978. The vascular flora of St. Barbe South district, Newfoundland; an interpretation based on biophysiographic areas. Rhodora 80: 228-308. [This describes the flora of a large part of Newfoundland in terms of biophysiographic units.]

Damman, A.W.H. 1965. Key to the Carex species of Newfoundland by vegetative characteristics. Publication number 1017. Canadian Department of Forestry, Ottawa, Ontario. 39 pages [A useful guide to the identification of a large and difficult group of Newfoundland plants.]

Hay, S.A., A. Bouchard, and L. Brouillet. 1990. Additions to the flora of the Island of Newfoundland. Rhodora 92: 277-293.

Meades, S.J., S.G. Hay, and L. Brouillet. 2000. Annotated list of the plants of Newfoundland and Labrador. [This checklist documents over 1,300 taxa of plants known to occur in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It includes scientific names, English and French common names, key synonyms, range and specific habitat preferences, and notes on scarcity, notable range extensions, questionable reports and taxonomic problems. The checklist is available for download as a set of WordPerfect, or MSWord files.]

Robertson, A.W. 1984. Carex of Newfoundland. Ministry of Supply and Services, Ottawa, Ontario. 252 pages [Distributed by Canadian Forestry Services, St. John's Newfoundland. A guide to the sedges of Newfoundland.]

Rouleau, E. and G. Lamoureux. 1992. Atlas of the vascular plants of the island of Newfoundland and of the islands of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. / Atlas des plantes vasculaires de l'île de Terre-Neuve et des îles de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. Groupe Fleurbec, Saint Henri-de-Lévis, Quebec. 777 pages [Presents a checklist and over a thousand excellent, detailed distribution maps.]

Rousseau, C. 1974. [This is listed below for Quebec, and gives information on many plant distributions for Labrador.]

Northwest Territories and Nunavut

Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. [Provides illustrated, interactive, identification to the more than 300 taxa known to occur on the Canadian Arctic Islands. A useful source of information, including descriptions, illustrations, and distribution maps.]

Catling, P.M., W.J. Cody, and G. Mitrow. 2005. A compilation of additions to the flora of the continental portions of Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Botanical Electronic News 352: 3-12.

Catling, P.M., G. Mitrow and B. A. Bennett. 2008. A compilation of additions to the flora of the continental portions of Northwest Territories and Nunavut - number 2. Botanical Electronic News 400: 2-12.

Mallory, C. and S. Aiken. 2004. Common plants of Nunavut. Nunuvut Department of Education, Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, and Canadian Museum of Nature. Ottawa, Ontario. 400 pages (200 in English, 200 in Inuktituk). [A popular guide with colour illustrations.]

Porsild, A.E. and W.J. Cody. 1980. Vascular plants of Continental Northwest Territories, Canada. National Museums of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 667 pages [This flora includes the previous Districts of Mackenzie, Franklin, and Keewatin, portions of which are now included in Nunavut. Nunavut was created in 1999 from a large portion of the "Northwest Territories", including Keewatin, northeastern Mackenzie, and a portion of Franklin. Additions to this flora have been published mostly in the Canadian Field-Naturalist.]

Porsild, A.E. 1964. Illustrated flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. National Museum of Canada Bulletin 146. 218 pages [Covers Canadian Arctic Islands. Includes illustrations and distribution maps.]

Nova Scotia

Roland, A.E. and E.C. Smith. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 746 pages [An updated version is indicated below, but this original manual remains very useful, and contains some information not included in the update.]

Roland, A.E. and M. Zinck. 1998. Roland's flora of Nova Scotia. Nimbus Publishing and Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 2 volumes [Includes many illustrations and distribution maps.]


Consult Northwest Territories and Nunavut.


Alex, J.F. 1992. Ontario weeds: descriptions, illustrations and keys to their identification. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Toronto. 304 pages [A very useful text for identifying common weedy plants.]

Baldwin, W.K.W. 1958. Plants of the Clay Belt of northern Ontario and Quebec. Bulletin number 156. National Museum of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 324 pages [Contains much information on the vegetation and status of plants in the Clay Belt region.]

Contributions to a flora of New York state. [New York State Museum bulletins published by the State Education Department, Albany, New York. These recent, comprehensive treatments have keys, extensive descriptions and useful illustrations, and can be used to identify plants from much of southern Ontario. Contribution 3, dealing with mosses, is not listed below.]

  1. Mitchell, R.S. and J.K. Dean. 1978. Polygonaceae (buckwheat family) of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State I. New York State Mus. Bull. 431. 80 pages
  2. Mitchell, R.S. and E.O. Beal. 1979. Magnoliaceae through Ceratophyllaceae of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State II. New York State Mus. Bull. 435. 62 pages
  3. Mitchell, R.S. and J K. Dean. 1982. Ranunculaceae (crowfoot family) of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State IV. New York State Mus. Bull. 446. 100 pages
  4. Mitchell, R.S. 1983. Berberidaceae through Fumariaceae of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State V. New York State Mus. Bull. 451. 66 pages
  5. Mitchell, R.S. 1988. Platanaceae through Myricaceae of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State VI. New York State Mus. Bull. 464. 98 pages
  6. Clemants, S.E. 1990. Juncaceae (rush family) of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State. VII. New York State Mus. Bull. 475. 68 pages
  7. Furlow, J.J. and R.S. Mitchell. 1990. Betulaceae through Cactaceae of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State VIII. New York State Mus. Bull. 476. 94 pages
  8. Cope, E.A. 1992. Pinophyta (Gymnospermae) of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State IX. New York State Mus. Bull. 483. 80 pages
  9. Clemants, S.E. 1992. Chenopodiaceae and Amaranthaceae of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State X. New York State Mus. Bull. 475. 100 pages
  10. Mitchell, R.S. 1993. Portulacaceae through Caryophyllaceae of New York State. Contr. to a Flora of New York State XI. New York State Museum Bull. 486. 124 pages

Dickinson, T., D. Metsger, J. Bull, and R. Dickinson. 2004. The Royal Ontario Museum field guide to wildflowers of Ontario. Royal Ontario Museum and McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Ontario. 416 pages [A valuable reference with colour photos, that treats 550 species (reviewed in CBA/ABC Bull. 38(3): 40 (2005).]

Dore, G.D. and J. McNeill. 1980. Grasses of Ontario. Agriculture Canada Research Branch Monograph 26. 566 pages [Includes illustrations and distribution maps.]

McKay, S.M. and P.M. Catling. 1979. Trees, shrubs & flowers to know in Ontario. J.M. Dent & Sons (Canada) Ltd., Don Mills, Ontario. 208 pages [A useful and well-illustrated guide to common species.]

Meades, S.J., D. Schnare, and K. Lawrence, and C. Faulkner. 2004 (and onwards). Northern Ontario Plant Database Website. Version 1, January 2004. Algoma University College and Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario [Lists records in northern Ontario herbaria and provides links to descriptions and illustrations.]

Morton, J.K. and J.M. Venn. 2000. The flora of Manitoulin Island and the adjacent islands of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Channel. 3rd edition. University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario. 375 pages [Although this annotated checklist features Manitoulin Island, it can be used effectively as an identification aid for much of the northern Lake Huron region of Ontario.]

Newmaster, S., A. Harris, and L. Kershaw. 1997. Wetland plants of Ontario. Lone Pine, Edmonton, Alberta. 240 pages [A guide to over 450 species of wetland plants, with numerous line drawings.]

Newmaster, S.G., A. Lehela, P.W.C. Uhlig, S. McMurray, and M.J. Oldham. 1998. Ontario plant list. Forest Research Information Paper 123. Ontario Forest Research Institute, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Irregularly paginated. [An authoritative, current list of plant names for Ontario, including synonyms and an indication of conservation status.]

Riley, J.L. 2003. Flora of the Hudson Bay Lowland and its postglacial origins. National Research Council Research Press, Ottawa, Ontario. 236 pages [A valuable list of species of an extensive northern region of the province. Includes distribution maps and considerable information.]

Soper, H.J. and M.L. Heimberger. 1982. Shrubs of Ontario. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario. 495 pages [Includes illustrations and distribution maps for all species.]

Voss, E.G. 1972-1996. Michigan flora. Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. 3 volumes [This outstanding guide to the plants of Michigan applies very well to much of southern and central Ontario. Includes some illustrations and distribution maps for Michigan.]
Part 1 (1972), Gymnosperms and monocots. Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 55. 488 pages [Printings with corrections in 1990 and 1992.]
Part 2 (1985), Dicots (Saururaceae-Cornaceae). Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 59. 727 pages [Second printing 1998, with corrections and additions on pages 725-727.]
Part 3 (1996), Dicots (Pyrolaceae-Compositae). Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 61. 622 pages

Prince Edward Island

Erskine, D.S., P.M. Catling, and R.B. MacLaren 1985. The plants of Prince Edward Island, with new records, nomenclatural changes, and corrections and deletions. Research Branch Publication 1798. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 272 pages + map. [Has distribution maps but not illustrations of species.]


Blondeau, M. and C. Roy. 2004. Atlas des plantes des villages du Nunavik / Atlas of plants of the Nunavik villages. Éditions MultiMondes, Sainte-Foy, Quebec". 610 pages [A useful guide for the far northern regions of Quebec. Has excellent maps and illustrations. In French, English, and Inuktitut.]

Fleurbec (group: G. Lamoureux and others). 1978. Plantes sauvages des villes et des champs, vol. 1. Fleurbec, Montreal, Quebec. 273 pages [Colour photographs. Includes about 85 species.]

Fleurbec (group: G. Lamoureux and others). 1981. Plantes sauvages comestibles. Fleurbec, Saint-Cuthbert, Quebec. 167 pages [Colour photographs. Includes 28 species.]

Fleurbec (group: G. Lamoureux and others). 1983. Plantes sauvages des villes et des champs, vol. 2. Fleurbec, Saint-Augustin, Quebec. 208 pages [Colour photographs, distribution maps. Includes about 90 species]

Fleurbec (group: G. Lamoureux and others). 1985. Plantes sauvages du bord de la mer. Fleurbec, Saint-Augustin, Quebec. 286 pages [A guide to 55 species, colour photographs and distribution maps.]

Fleurbec (group: G. Lamoureux and others). 1987. Plantes sauvages des lacs, rivières et tourbières. Fleurbec, Saint-Augustin, Quebec. 399 pages [Colour photographs and distribution maps. Treats about 60 species.]

Fleurbec (group: G. Lamoureux et al.). 1993. Fougères, prêles et lycopodes. Fleurbec, Saint-Henri-de-Lévis, Quebec. 511 pages [Colour photographs and distribution maps.]

Fleurbec (group: G. Lamoureux and others). 2005. Plantes sauvages au menu: cuisine raisonnée. 2nd edition. Fleurbec, Saint-Henri-de-Lévis, Quebec. 192 pages [A guide to edible wild plants.]

Haines, A. and T.F. Vining. 1998. Flora of Maine: a manual for identification of native and naturalized vascular plants of Maine. V.F. Thomas Co., Bar Harbor, Maine. 847 pages [Can be used for parts of Quebec adjacent to Maine.]

Labrecque, J. and G. Lavoie. 2002. Les plantes vasculaires menacées ou vulnérables du Québec. Gouvernement du Québec, ministère de l'Environnement, Direction du patrimoine écologique et du développement durable, Quebec. 200 pages [Brief information and distribution maps for 375 species.]

Lamoureux, G. 2002. Flore printanière (une mise à jour de Plantes sauvages printanières, 1975). Fleurbec, Saint-Henri-de-Lévis, Quebec. 576 pages [A guide to 123 spring-flowering wild plants of eastern North America, with colour photographs and distribution maps, as well as extensive ecological information.]

Louis-Marie, P. 1967. Flore-manuel de la province de Québec, Canada. 4th edition. Centre de Psychologie et Pédagogie, Montreal, Quebec. 317 pages [An old but very popular and useful text. The 4th edition of 1967 is a re-impression in pocket book format of the 2nd edition (1953), with three pages added at the end. The 3rd edition (1959) presents drawings in colour.]

Marie-Victorin, Frère. 1997. Flore Laurentienne. 3rd edition. Updated and annotated by L. Brouillet, S.G., S.G. Hay, I. Goulet. M. Blondeau, J. Cayouette, and J. Labrecque. Presses de l'Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec (and also republished in 2002 by Gaëtan Morin, Boucherville, Quebec). 1093 pages [The most complete flora of Quebec available at this time. Like the 1995 edition, this work has been referred to as the "third edition", although the 1997 and 2002 printings (which are identical) have many corrections and additions. Includes illustrations, many in colour.]

Marie-Victorin, Frère, and Frère Rolland-Germain. 1969. Flore de l'Anticosti-Minganie. Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec. 527 pages [Provides useful coverage for the Gulf of St. Lawrence area.]

Rousseau, C. 1968. Histoire, habitat et distribution de 220 plantes introduites au Québec. Nat. can. 95: 49-171. [A valuable source of information on introduced plants.]

Rousseau, C. 1974. Géographie floristique du Québec/Labrador. Distribution des principales espèces vasculaires. Les Presses de l'Université Laval, Quebec. 799 pages [Not an identification guide, but presents ecological and distributional information for a little over 1,000 species, as well as distribution maps.]

Scoggan, H.J. 1950. The flora of Bic and the Gaspé Peninsula. National Museum of Canada Bulletin 115, Biological Series 47. Canada Department of Resources and Development, Development Services Branch, Ottawa, Ontario. 399 pages [A classic flora, still very useful.]


Note: Although there are few works dedicated to Saskatchewan alone, and no complete flora designed for identification, the guides listed for the adjacent provinces of Alberta and Manitoba are useful, and so are the general guides for the prairie region and boreal forest listed above.

Hudson, J.H. 1977. Carex in Saskatchewan. Bison Publishing House, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 193 pages [A guide to 100 species, with keys, descriptions, illustrations, and distribution maps.]

Harms, V.L. 2003. Checklist of the vascular plants of Saskatchewan and provincially and nationally rare native plants of Saskatchewan. University of Saskatchewan Press, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 328 pages [A complete and authoritative annotated checklist.]


Cody, W.J. 2000. Flora of the Yukon Territory. 2nd edition. National Research Council Research Press, Ottawa, Ontario. 669 pages [The definitive identification guide to this region. Updates giving additions and range extensions have been published in the Canadian Field-Naturalist.]

Hultén, E. 1968. Flora of Alaska and neighboring territories. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 1008. [Includes illustrations and circumpolar distribution maps.]

Welsh, S.L. 1974. Anderson's flora of Alaska and adjacent parts of Canada. Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah. 724 pages [Includes a limited number of species illustrations but no distribution maps.]

Additional Kinds of Identification Aids

a. Special bibliographies

A number of bibliographies are available to help the researcher find out exactly what has been done in the past. In some cases complete lists of references concerning the flora of a region exist only as a few copies of old unpublished documents on the shelves of provincial museums or provincial or regional conservation data centres (CDCs). A current list of such resources is beyond the scope of this article (for example see the following (also see Pringle (1995) in section g):

Catling, P.M., B.S. Brookes, Y.M. Skorupinski, and S.M. Malette. 1986. Bibliography of vascular plant floristics for New Brunswick, Newfoundland (insular) and Nova Scotia. Technical Bulletin 1986-3E. Agriculture Canada Research Branch, Ottawa, Ontario. 28 pages [A comprehensive list of floristic references for the Maritimes.]

Douglas, G.W., A. Ceska, and G.G. Ruyle. 1983. A floristic bibliography for British Columbia. Province of British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Land Management Report Number 15. 143 pages [References are listed by plant family and author.]

With increasing frequency, plants are being imported or introduced to Canada that are not part of the established flora, and is it important to know what tools are available for identification of such foreign material. Frodin (2001) provides a list of the major references: Frodin, D.G. 2001. Guide to the standard floras of the world. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 1100 pages [A monumental guide to world floras.]

b. Vascular plant herbaria

Vascular plant herbaria in Canada contain authoritatively identified reference specimens that can be used for comparison in identification. Moreover, the staff usually includes experts on plants of the local region or on particular groups of plants. Some of the herbaria have websites that provide information on services available. Information on herbaria is available from various sources, ranging from regional to world coverage, and some principal guides are listed below. (Also see the appendix in Pringle (1995), listed below.)

Boivin, B. 1980. Survey of Canadian herbaria. Provancheria (Mémoire de l'Herbier Louis-Marie) 10. 187 pages [A comprehensive review of Canadian herbaria, with much useful historical information.]

Holmgren, P.K. and N.H. Holmgren. 1998 onwards (continuously updated). Index herbariorum. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. [The herbaria of the world are listed. This can be used to locate Canadian herbaria: in "Search by Institution" simply type in "Canada" for country, and details for more than 100 Canadian herbaria will be presented.]

Rothfels, C. 2003. Synopsis of Ontario herbaria. Field Botanists of Ontario Newsletter 16(1): 7-19. [An example of a recent regional compilation, including some information that is not available elsewhere.]

c. Experts

Index Herbarium mentioned above lists staff and their specialties (in "search by Person" type in "Canada" for country, and details of about 200 Canadians associated with herbaria will be presented). Local experts capable of assisting with plant identification may also be found in universities, museums, conservation data centres, natural resource departments, and the Canadian Botanical Association.

The website of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (with about 1300 members) lists experts by taxonomic groups (for example genera). (However, many experts are not members of the society, and will not be listed.)

d. General information on collecting and identifying plants

Bowles, J.M. Guide to plant collection & identification (PDF) [An online version of a booklet prepared by Dr. Bowles, containing much useful information.]

Brigham, T., M. Schröder, W. Cocksedge, W. 2004. Good practices for plant identification for the herbal industry. Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association, Saskatchewan. 54 pages [A practical guide prepared for the purpose of providing reliable identifications of plants collected for the Canadian herbal and medicinal industries.]

Lamoureux, L. and P. Nantel. 1999. Cultiver des plantes sauvages... sans leur nuire. Fleurbec, Saint-Henri-de-Lévis. Quebec. 81 pages [Provides information on wild plants of Quebec that have potential to be cultivated. While not primarily intended for identification, this is an admirable synthesis of the subject.]

Savile, D.B.O. 1962. Collection and care of botanical specimens. Research Branch Publication 1113. Canada Department of Agriculture, Ottawa, Ontario. 124 pages [A comprehensive and excellent source of information on making plant collections. Also available in French as Cueillette et montage de spécimens botaniques.]

e. Cultivated plants

Bailey, L.H. 1949. Manual of cultivated plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York, New York. 1116 pages [Out of date, but this classic and extensive work is still very useful.]

Bailey, L.H., E.Z. Bailey, and staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. 1976. Hortus Third. A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. Macmillan, New York, New York. 1290 pages [A very large encyclopedia providing information on ornamental plants. This does not have keys and there are very few illustrations, but is useful when trying to find information about a cultivated plant when at least the genus is known.]

Facciola, S. 1998. Cornucopia II. A source book of edible plants. Kampong Publications, Vista, California. 713 pages [Does not have keys, but extremely useful for finding information on available cultivars when the species name is known.]

Huxley, A., M. Griffiths, and M. Levy. (Editors). 1992. The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening. MacMillan, London, United Kingdom. 4 volumes [An extremely large encyclopedia giving information on ornamental plants of the world. This does not have keys and there are very few illustrations, but has a wealth of information, particularly concerning cultivars.]

Rehder, A. 1951. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in North America. 2nd edition. Macmillan, New York, New York. 996 pages [An extensive classic work, treating over 2,500 species.]

f. Poisonous plants

Poisonous plant guides have limited identification utility unless it is already suspected that a certain genus is responsible for poisoning, or (in the case of guides organized by symptoms) there is knowledge of the specific effects that have resulted from suspected poisoning. This brief list is included because even limited identification value may be important in cases of poisoning of humans, pets, or livestock.

Burrows, G.E. and R.J. Tyrl. 2001. Toxic plants of North America. Iowa State Press (Blackwell Publishing Company), Ames, Iowa. 1342 pages [The most extensive source of information on North American toxic plants, includes both wild and commonly cultivated plants, has many illustrations and distribution maps. Organized by plant family and genus. The keys deal only with a few species and are of very limited use. Review: Small, E. 2005. Agriculture, Ecosystem & Environment 110: 327-238.]

Frohne, D. and H.J. Pfänder. 1983. A colour atlas of poisonous plants. Wolfe Publishing Ltd., Stuttgart, Germany. 291 pages [Includes descriptions, photographs and reference to microscopic characters]

Hardin, J.W. 1969. Human poisoning from native and cultivated plants. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina. 167 pages [A concise guide to over 300 plants with descriptions and illustrations.]

Kingsbury, J.M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 626 pages [Dated, but still useful. Organized by plant family and genus.]

Knight, A.P. and R.G. Walter. 2001. A guide to plant poisoning of animals in North America. Teton NewMedia, Jackson, Wyoming. 367 pages [Available as a book, Compact Disc (CD) and online by subscription. Organized on the basis of symptoms (plants affecting digestive system, nervous system, kidneys, musculoskeletal system, et cetera), rather than on taxonomic relationships of the plants. Colour photographs.]

Lewis, W.H., and M.P.F. Elvin-Lewis. 2003. Medical botany: plants affecting man's health. Second edition. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. 812 pages [An extremely useful source of information on poisonous plants and the symptoms of poisoning.]

Mulligan, G.A. 1990. Poison-ivy, western poison oak and poison sumac (revised edition). Agriculture Canada Publ. 1699E. 13 pages [A very large proportion of requests for identification concern these plants. Also available in French as L'herbe à la puce, le sumac à vernis et le rhus diversiloba.]

Mulligan, G.A. and Munro, D.B. 1990. Poisonous plants of Canada. Agriculture Canada Publ. 1842E. 96 pages [A useful source of information for those interested in plants that poison humans and livestock. Available in French as Plantes toxiques du Canada. Also see Munro, below.]

Munro, D.B. Canadian poisonous plant information system. [Provides information on native Canadian and some cultivated plants that are toxic to livestock, pets and humans. Based on literature up to 1993.]

g. Special information sources

Having used the kinds of references listed above to make an identification, it is sometimes desirable to ensure that the most current classification and nomenclature has been employed. There are numerous monographs of specific genera, families, et cetera that are more up to date than some of the references listed above. These can be found through standard literature searches (for example AGRIS, AGRICOLA, BIOSIS, et cetera).

The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) is a database of the names and associated basic bibliographical details of all seed plants, ferns and fern allies. Its goal is to eliminate the need for repeated reference to primary sources for basic bibliographic information about plant names. The data are freely available and are gradually being standardized and checked. This is an excellent source for confirming bibliographic details of names, but is by no means infallible.

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), is another important developing source of basic information on plant names.

Plants Database (of the United States Department of Agriculture) [Has illustrations, U.S. distribution maps, and considerable information on thousands of North American species.]

Flora of North America Newsletter. [This presents current information on the Flora of North America project (see "Guides to large areas of Canada"), and the status of upcoming Flora of North America volumes, as well as new publications and resources concerned with plant identification and classification.]

The biology of Canadian weeds. A series of reviews on weeds of Canada, published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science, starting in 1973, and continuing to the present. A list of the 131 published papers is available. The papers have been republished as 5 volumes:

Mulligan, G.A. (Editor). 1979. The biology of Canadian weeds: contributions 1-32. Publication 1693. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 512 pages

Mulligan, G.A. (Editor). 1984. The biology of Canadian weeds: contributions 33-61. Publication 1765. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 415 pages

Cavers, P.B. (Editor). 1995. The biology of Canadian weeds: contributions 62-83. Agricultural Institute of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 338 pages

Cavers, P.B. (Editor). 2000. The biology of Canadian weeds: contributions 84-102. Agricultural Institute of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 335 pages

Cavers, P.B. (Editor). 2005. The biology of Canadian weeds: contributions 103-129. Agricultural Institute of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. 516 pages

The Canadian Museum of Nature published a series of reviews on rare vascular plants of each Canadian province and territory. A list of these, along with other references concerning rare Canadian plants, is available in:

Catling, P.M. 2001. Protecting vascular plant biodiversity in Canada: progress and problems with the taxon approach. pages 62-81 in J.B. Phipps and P.M. Catling, eds. Proceedings of the Canadian Botanical Association Conference Symposium in London, Ontario, June 2000. Canadian Botanical Association.

It is often necessary to use the names of authors to trace their work. Articles treating botanical history and bibliographies arranged by author are useful for these purposes. The following two are particularly pertinent to Canadian taxonomic literature.

Pringle, J.S. 1995. The history of the exploration of the vascular flora of Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 109(3): 291-356.

Small, E., J. Cayouette, B. Brookes, and W. Wojtas. 1995. Canadian biodiversity: a guide to botanical specialists and literature / Biodiversité canadienne: répertoire des botanistes actuels et de leurs publications. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch, Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa. [Electronic publication available at: http://www.eman [In English and French. Provides full literature citations of thousands of publications dealing with Canadian plants.]

h. Value of identification

The value of plant identification is immense, although greatly under-appreciated, and requires continuing education of biologists. For additional information, see the following. Small, E. 1993. The economic value of plant systematics in Canadian agriculture. Can. J. Bot. 71: 1537-1551.

Small, E., J. Cayouette, P.M. Catling, and B. Brookes. 1995. An opinion survey of priorities for plant systematics and phytogeography in Canada. Can. Bot. Assoc. Bull. 28(2): 19-22.

Catling, P.M. 2001. A never ending role for biosystematics in the protection of vascular plant biodiversity in Canada. pages 3-27 in J.B. Phipps and P.M. Catling, eds. Proceedings of the Canadian Botanical Association Conference Symposium in London, Ontario, June 2000. Canadian Botanical Association.]

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