Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) -- Contrary to popular myth, this wildflower is not a weed and does not cause hay fever. Very showy, but has a tendency to flop. Latin name means "to restore or cure," owing to its medicinal properties, which include the ability to heal wounds. Leaves can be eaten as a green. Fairly shade-intolerant. Prefers moderately moist soil. One of the first species to invade following fire. Can be a pest in perennial gardens. Natives used seeds of goldenrod for food and to make oil. Attracts bees, wasps, beetles, moths, butterflies.
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) -- Does well in deep shade and thickets. Blue-black berries said to be poisonous. Seeds take a few years to germinate, but easy to grow once established. Shoots can be boiled and eaten like asparagus. Roots can be taken as a laxative. According to folklore has aphrodisiac properties. When leaf stalk dies in winter, a scar remains that's said to resemble the seal of King Solomon, king of Israel from 970 to 930 BC.
White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) -- The provincial floral emblem of Ontario. Symbolizes peace and hope. Thrives in rich, moist soil and cool shady conditions. Attracts yellow jacket wasps and ants, which take seeds from flower for their nests. Flower turns pink as it ages. Requires extreme patience to grow, taking up to 15 years to flower after seeds germinate. Believed to aid in restoring spiritual balance.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) -- A shy plant rarely found anywhere near cities, requiring greenhouse-like conditions and moist, rich soil to propagate. Hood falls off in late summer, revealing bright red berries. Starts life as a male. After two years in poor soil, turns female, flowers and bears seeds. Also known as Indian turnip for its edible root that, when peeled and ground to make bread, tastes like chocolate. Native women drank ground root mixed with cold water as a method of contraception.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) -- Flowers open in late afternoon or at dusk, emitting a sweet perfume that attracts moths for nighttime pollination. Grows almost anywhere, but flourishes in dry, sandy soil. Grows close to the ground in first year and up to 5 feet in second. Likes the sun. Entirely edible. Roots used for garnishing salads and by the ancient Greeks to make wine. Has a long history of use in alternative medicine, including for treatment of PMS, gastrointestinal disorders, liver ailments and inflammatory diseases. Increasingly cultivated for the oil in its seeds, which contains essential fatty acids thought to prevent heart disease and boost sex hormone production.
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) -- For shaded woodland habitats. Blooms from March to May and prefers neutral to acid soil. Loses all its leaves when stressed. Attracts beetles. Can be eaten fresh in small quantities in salads. Also used as a relish, a condiment or in sauces for meat. Contains valuable acids that research shows have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-tumour properties. Great as a gargle for sore throat, sore gums and bad breath. Also fights plaque and gingivitis. Some early American settlers believed witches used it to rid themselves of warts so they wouldn't be recognized.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) -- Named after Swedish botanist Olaf Rudbeck. Yellow-orange wildflower self-sows, is drought-tolerant and forgives neglect. Grows 2-3 feet. Dark brown seed heads attract butterfiles and provide bird food throughout winter. Hairy stems act as guards against bugs. No green thumb required.
Canadian violet (Viola canadensis) -- With its heart-shaped foliage and purplish stalks, this wildflower prefers moist woodland soil and shade but will tolerate sun in cool, moist conditions. Used as an analgesic by the Ojibway. A favourite of Napoleon, lore has it, because it reminded him of his wife, Josephine.
Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) -- Plumelike prairie dweller adapts well to many environments but grows best in full sun and average moisture. Foliage goes from golden brown in spring to purple in the fall. Increasingly used in wildlife restoration to provide habitat for birds and small mammals. Used in native cultures to weave baskets. Botanical name is derived from the Greek for "sacred grass."
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) -- A woodland groundcover. Prefers rich soils. One of the earliest and most beautiful spring flowers. Blooms appear in late winter and continue into early spring. Petals stay closed on gloomy days. A blood-red juice extracted from its root was used by natives as body paint and dye for fabrics. Prescribed as medicine by early settlers. Extract from the plant is used today in expectorant for chronic bronchitis, and in mouthwash and toothpaste. Also being investigated for treatment in cancer. Warning: toxic in high enough doses.Forget filling your shopping cart with petunias when you trot off to the garden centre this weekend. Instead, do the ecosystem a favour and look for the rarer indigenous plants that have been all but overrun by flashy foreign invaders. Can you dig this assortment?