Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada

Plants

Cape Breton Highlands National Park protects part of the Maritime Acadian Highlands Natural Region, a Parks Canada designation, which is found in the Acadian Forest Region of Canada. This natural region in conjunction with the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Forest Region is part of a mixed hardwood-softwood forest that stretches from the Great Lakes to New England and Maritime Canada.

A map of Canada showing the various types of forest cover and their extent.
Adapted from Native Trees of Canada, various editions.
© Parks Canada

What kinds of plants are here?

Sugar maple leaves and branches lighted from behind by the sun.
The sugar maple is a temperate species which thrives in rich woodlands in the valleys of Cape Breton.
© Cape Breton Highlands National Park / C. Lunn

The climate and landscape of northern Cape Breton have created an unusual mix of southern and northern plant species.

Southern (temperate) plants such as sugar maple, yellow birch and Dutchman's breeches usually occur farther south in New England, but thrive in the rich woodlands of Cape Breton's sheltered valleys. Most plants on the Cape Breton plateau are cold-loving northern (boreal) species such as balsam fir, white birch, black spruce and bunchberry.

Purple lupines spire above the greenery around them.
Lupines, though beautiful, are not native to eastern North America.
© Cape Breton Highlands National Park / R. Dobson

Northern Cape Breton has 631 native plant species and 118 introduced, or "exotic", species. These species were generally brought to the area by humans, sometimes on purpose as garden plants, and sometimes accidentally. They include plants like ox-eye daisy, lupine, and black-eyed susan, as well as dandelions and purple loosestrife.

Although part of the Maritime Acadian Highlands Natural Region, the vegetation in northern Cape Breton can actually be divided into three distinct forest regions: Acadian, composed of mixed woods; Boreal, or softwood; and Taiga, made up of scrub forest, barrens and bogs.

The Acadian Forest Region: Home of the Sugar Maple

The Boreal Forest Region: Land of the Balsam Fir

The Taiga Region: A Piece of the Arctic in Cape Breton