Alvar plants

Alvars provide unique habitat for a surprisingly wide range of plant species. Although they often appear barren and rocky, alvars are home to hundreds of plant species. In Ontario, many of these plants are only found on the alvars of Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park.

Hill's Thistle, close up of a purple flower
Hill's Thistle 

Some alvars on the Bruce Peninsula are home to arctic alpine plant species such as wild-chives, red anemone and alpine bluegrass. Other alvars have plants more typical of a grassland environment, such as prairie smoke, Indian paintbrush and False pennyroyal.

Diversity of plants changes from alvar to alvar. The highest diversity of plant life occurs at a cluster of alvars in the Cape Hurd/Baptist Harbour area. There are at least 160 plants in ten alvar communities in that area. At least thirteen of these species are globally or provincially rare.

Alvars provide important habitat for several species at risk including:

  • Hill’s Thistle
  • Dwarf Lake Iris
  • Lakeside Daisy
Lakeside Daisy, yellow flower growing in the rock
Lakeside Daisy 

In addition, many of the 38 different species of orchids in Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park can be found in the alvar ecosystems.

There are at least 376 species of vascular plants, 62 types of algae, 58 kinds of moss, and 52 species of lichen found on alvars here. They also support ancient cedars.