Plants are a fascinating group of living organisms. They carry out many important functions in natural ecosystems. Most importantly, plants convert energy from the sun into useable food energy for other forms of life, through photosynthesis.
They play a key role in many nutrient cycles, like those for water, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can be stored as plant matter for long periods of time. This natural form of carbon capture, which can help minimize greenhouse gasses, is just one essential service that plants provide.
Plants are an important component of biodiversity. Further, they offer habitat to many species, from microscopic invertebrates to large mammals. Alberta is home to over 2500 species of plants.
Vascular plants have a system of vessels for transporting water and nutrients from one part of the plant to another (e.g.,
from roots to leaves). There are almost 2000 species of vascular plants in Alberta. They include the following types:
- Angiosperms are flowering plants, with seeds enclosed in fruit.
- This is the most diverse group of plants in Alberta. Examples include flowering trees like trembling aspen, wildflowers like prickly rose, grasses and grass-like plants.
- Gymnosperms are plants that produce naked seeds that don’t have flowers and fruit.
- This group includes coniferous trees, for example lodgepole pine or white spruce, which bear their seeds in cones.
Ferns and other vascular plants that create spores (small reproductive structures) instead of seeds
- Examples in this group include ostrich fern, horsetails and clubmosses.
Bryophytes are small spore-producing plants that include mosses, liverworts and hornworts. They don’t have the same tissues
as vascular plants for transporting water and nutrients. They grow in many habitats where other plants don’t tend to grow,
such as rocks and the bark of trees. There are almost 700 different species in Alberta.
Plant species at risk
There are several plant species at risk in Alberta. The following species are managed by Alberta Environment and Parks. See:
Updated: Apr 6, 2016