Pukaskwa National Park of Canada

Protecting Pitcher’s Thistle

Pitcher’s Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) is a rare plant species that is protected under the Species at Risk Act, and that can be found in Pukaskwa National Park. The park has the unique distinction of having the most northern population of Pitcher’s Thistle in the world! Learn more about this species and the threats it faces by reading its recovery strategy.

Pollinators on flowering Pitcher's Thistle Close-up of pollinators on a flowering Pitcher’s Thistle
© Parks Canada

Historically, three colonies have existed in the park—one has disappeared entirely, another is declining and predicted to be extirpated in the near future, and the third is doing well. Natural events such as flooding and habitat succession are causing the total number of plants in the park to decline. Luckily something can be done to save this species from disappearing from the park altogether. A colony planted in 1991 has increased steadily to an impressive 386 plants in 2013! Given the success of this previous restoration effort, in August 2013, Lakehead University students helped park staff in a second restoration attempt. Students and staff spread seeds in a dune adjacent to the colony that is in decline, in an area where natural processes should allow the plant to be self-sustaining in the future. Stay tuned for news on the success of this project!
How can YOU help with Pitcher’s Thistle recovery at Pukaskwa? It’s as simple as remaining in designated areas to avoid trampling the plants while you’re visiting the park.

Dune ecosystem A typical dune ecosystem that supports Pitcher’s Thistle plants in Pukaskwa
© Parks Canada

Sewing Pitcher's Thistle seeds Lakehead University students sow Pitcher’s Thistle seeds to promote the establishment of a new colony and the restoration of a self-sustaining population
© Parks Canada