Flora & Fauna

Flora

Over 1500 species of vascular plants (including 40% of Ontario's rare flora)

In the south

Cucumber-tree, Paw-paw, Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium), Tuckahoe (Peltandra virginica), American Columbo (Frasera virginiana) Rand's Goldenrod (Solidago glutinosa ssp.randii) and Roundleaf Ragwort (Senecio obovatus)

In the north

The threatened American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) occurs in rich Sugar Maple forests along much of the Escarpment. Oldest trees in eastern North America (1000 years): Thuja occidentalis (Eastern White Cedar) * Significant species endemic to the Great Lakes occur on the Bruce Peninsula portion of the Escarpment, including Lakeside Daisy, Dwarf Lake Iris, Hill's Thistle, Provancher's Philadelphia Fleabane and Ohio Goldenrod.

Ferns

50 species recorded, including Wall-rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria), an Appalachian species rare in Canada. Most of the world population of the North American subspecies of Hart's-tongue fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium var. americana) occurs along the Escarpment.

Orchids

37 species recorded in the northern parts of the Escarpment, including Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa), Ram's-head Lady-slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) and Alaska Rein Orchid (Piperia unalascensis).

Fauna

325 bird species or 72% of all birds recorded in Ontario, (of which 200 species have shown evidence of breeding in the Niagara Escarpment). Of the breeding species, 25 are considered nationally or provincially endangered, threatened or vulnerable, including Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered hawk, Black Tern, Louisiana Waterthrush and Hooded Warbler.

55 mammal species and 34 species of reptiles and amphibians have been recorded. Rare species include the endangered North Dusky Salamander, the threatened Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, the vulnerable Southern Flying-squirrel and the rare Eastern Pipistrelle.

Excerpts from “The Last Stand: A Journey Through the Ancient Cliff-Face Forest of the Niagara Escarpment” by Peter E. Kelly and Douglas W. Larson

Along the cliff faces of the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario there is a remarkable forest that defies the standard paradigm that old is big. Here, centuries –old eastern white cedars cling to the hollows, ledges and cracks that cut across the face. These trees are the antithesis of our standard perceptions of old-growth. Most of the trees would fit comfortably in a living room. The oldest trees are less than seven metres “tall,” man considerably less.  

Many of the oldest trees appear dead. At first glance, their most notable and eye-catching feature is an abundance of bleached, barkless, dead wood.  

Despite their appearance, the cedars are actually flourishing in a vertical environment so harsh that only robust and colourful lichens and a few species of hardy flowering plant scan grow. It is hardly the environment anyone would explore if the goal were to find old-growth forest. They may still have been unknown if the Cliff Ecology Research Group of the University of Guelph hadn’t bothered to investigate the seemingly unrelated topic of hiking impacts on the cliff-edge forest. Cliffs are the main reason these trees have persevered, but they are also the same reason they went undiscovered for so long.  

The Jefferson Salamander is a species strongly associated with the Niagara Escarpment - learn more about the Ambystoma jeffersonianum.