Canadian Boreal Open Jack Pine-Lichen Forest

These forests are characteristic of the sandy soils of northern Saskatchewan and northeastern Alberta. They have a simple structure and mostly composed of almost monospecfic stands of even-aged jack pine (Pinus banksiana). Their height is also very uniform. Other trees are limited to a few individuals of species such as Betula papyrifera and Picea mariana. A shrub layer is largely absent and, in fact, Ledum groenlandicum has been described as the only ‘true shrub’ of these forests with much of the sporadic shrub layer being composed of conifer seedlings. The ground layer, on the other hand, can be quite rich. Lichens are the main components but a variety of bryophytes, herbs and dwarf shrubs also occur. The typical lichens are Cladina mitis, C. rangiferina, C. stellaris, Cladonia coccifera, C. gracilis, C. uncialis, Cetraria ericetorum, C. nivalis and Stereocaulon paschale. Among the herbaceous species, pteridophytes are poorly represented - Lycopodium tristachyum and Selaginella dense being the main ones. Herbaceous flowering plants are much more diverse with species such as Anemone canadensis, Galium boreale, Hudsonia tomentosa, Maianthemum canadensis, Oryzopsis pungens, Pyrola secunda, Saxifraga bronchialis and Solidago gigantea. The dwarf shrubs mainly comprise the ericaceous species Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Vaccinium myrtilloides and V. vitis-idaea, but V. myrtilloides is the most constant species.

Canadian Boreal Spruce Forest

Forest dominated by spruce is one of the most extensive forest formations in Canada but mostly confined to moist, continental areas. These forests are mainly characterized by Picea glauca (white spruce), Picea mariana (black spruce), Abies balsamea (balsam fir) with some Betula papyrifera (white birch), Pinus banksiana (jack pine) and species of Populus, but there are many variation of species composition depending on humidity and precipitation.

Canadian Boreal Jack Pine Forest

Pine forest largely dominated by Pinus banksiana (jack pine) also covers vast areas of Canada.

Canadian Boreal White Pine Forest.

Forests dominated by Picea strobus (white pine) together with Pinus resinosa (red pine), Abies balsamea (balsam fir) and Betula papyrifera (white birch) originally extended in a belt from Lake Superior to the St Lawrence River. In the old-growth white pine forest south of Greenwood Lake the under storey shrub layer is largely composed of Acer rubrum (red maple) while less common shrubs include Corylus cornuta and Lonicera canadensis. The most frequent herbaceous species are Clintonia borealis, Maiaenthemum canadensis and Trientalis borealis. Among lower plants, the lycopod Lycopodium annotinum is the most abundant species. Ferns include Osmunda claytoniana and Thelypteris phegopteris. Less common herbaceous species include Cypripedium acaule, Pyrola secunda and Viola selkirki.

Further information required


Carroll, S. B. & Bliss, L. C. 1982. Jack pine-lichen woodland on sandy soils in northern Saskatchewan and northeastern Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany, 60: 2270-2282.

Greller, A. M. 1989. Deciduous Forest.  In: North American Terrestrial Vegetation. Eds. M. G. Barbour and W. D. Billings. Cambridge University Press.

Hare, F. K. 1969. Climatic and Zonal Divisions of the Boreal Forest Formation in Eastern Canada. In: Vegetation, Soils and Wildlife. Eds. J. G. Nelson and M. J. Chambers. Methuen.

Mallik, A. U. & Robertson, S. 1998. Floristic composition and diversity of an old-growth white pine forest in northwestern Ontario, Canada. In: Forest biodiversity in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Eds. F. Dallmeier and J. A. Comiskey. Man and the Biosphere Series, Vol. 21. The Parthenon Publishing Group.

Ricketts, T. H. et al. 1999. Terrestrial Ecosystems of North America - a conservation assessment. World Wildlife Fund, USA and Canada. Island Press, Washington.

Scott, G. A. J. 1995. Canada’s Vegetation. A World Perspective. McGill-Queen’s University Press.