Our Violets

Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) is a common perennial that grows 10 – 40 cm tall, depending on surrounding plant growth. The plant arises from short, thick rhizomes, often with slender creeping runners that can be seen if you gently brush away dead leaves. The heart-shaped leaves (sharply pointed tips and saw-toothed edges) and the white 5-petal flower with its yellow centre—purplish lines on the lower three petals—are the main characteristics for identification. (Source: Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia).


You will spot these bright flowers in shady, moist usually deciduous woods and along the trails in late spring. Distinguish this violet from the also common Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca) that are overall shorter, have smaller oval leaves and blue to deep violet flowers, and are among the first to appear along the trails – see below.

Spotted Coral Root Orchid

Spotted Coral Root Orchid (Corallorhizea maculata) is a saprophyte, a plant that roots in dead material, symbiotically sharing its substrate with fungi. “Coral root” refers to the stubby roots looking like branched coral (Gadd 302).

Coral roots are sometimes referred to as ‘chicken-toes’ (Parish 282).

Saprophytes cannot be cultivated. Because of their dependency on decaying matter, coral roots will grow wherever dead material happens to be. In other words, this plant may be “abundant in one part of the forest floor one year and completely absent the next year” (Parish 282).

The term ‘spotted’ (maculate) refers to the spots seen on the flowers (Parish 283). Another distinctive feature is the lack of any green parts (leaves).


  • Gadd, Ben. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies
  • Parish, Coupé, Lloyd. Plants of Southern Interior B.C.


Generally, wild orchids are a rare sight, found only in undisturbed environments. Aren’t we lucky to have the opportunity to walk—carefully—through their habitat! We found these orchids and took pictures in late June, along the Pipestone Creek trail, in a low-lying, moist area of otherwise dry north-facing slope of the creek’s valley.

FYI: These “seepage slopes” occur throughout forests on hillsides where the water table is curved downward as in large river valleys or where the water bearing sand/gravel layers come to the surface for other reasons (artesian seeps). A large agricultural field which slopes into a river valley is also prone to have runoff during rainy weather. North facing slopes are the wettest otherwise because they have the lowest solar input to keep things dry. (Jerry Shaw)


Prickly Rose


Prickly Rose (Rosa acicularis), the floral emblem of Alberta, is one of three wild rose species that grow in our region.  The common or thorny wild rose (Rosa woodsii) and the dwarf prairie rose (Rosa akansana), found mainly in the Waterton Park area, are the other two. In our region, the three species may grow together and sometimes interbreed.

Two distinguishing features of the prickly rose are: single rather than clustered flowers, and spiny stems throughout (i.e. prickly).  The Rosa woodsii has fewer thorns and they occur at the nodes (Johnson et al. 58, Gadd 277).

Flowers, Leaves and Fruit

When the prickly rose blooms in late spring we see and smell the typical fragrance of the pink five-petalled flowers. A special treat is seeing half-open buds and fully-open roses all gracing the same stem. Fully-open roses show a deep pink petal that is almost white at the center, where a cluster of yellow stamens attracts insects.

The toothed leaves grow in bunches of seven or nine, remain green until late fall when scarlet pear-shaped or fully round and fleshy fruit—the rose hips—start to form. Rose hips stay  all winter and can provide important survival food for wildlife.


Found along trails, road and field edges, and in open aspen forest, this ubiquitous shrub can be as short as 30 centimeters in dry open areas, and stretch to 1.5 meters tall in wooded areas.

You can enjoy this fragrant companion along the trails in June and early July; in October and November, you can snack on a few rose hips as you go by. “Three rose hips are said to contain as much Vitamin C as a whole orange” (Johnson et al, p 58). Be sure to spit out the seeds, though, as the little hairs covering them are an irritant to our digestive system.


  • Johnson, D., Kershaw, L., MacKinnon, A. and Pojar, J. Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland
  • Gadd, Ben. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies