People passionate about nature

NM's Botanical History

Above: NM Member taking an interest in some plants at Delta Marsh, 1961 (from NM archives)

Nature Manitoba members have been studying Manitoba’s native plants, and the habitats they create, since the organization was founded. In 1920 a “botany” section was created for Nature Manitoba (then called the Natural History Society of Manitoba). In the early days the botany section took special field trips out to observe and record local flora. Over the past hundred years our members have continued to have a strong interest in the plants and ecosystems of Manitoba.

Each year NM puts on popular botanical themed educational events, from science-heavy botany talks to beginner plant identification workshops and on-site fungi field trips. NM has also been involved in many botany projects over the years.

Above: NM mushroom worksshop, 1950s (from NM archiives)

Above: NM mushroom workshop, 2017 (by Tommy Allen)

In 1965 (courtesy of Walter Danyluk), Nature Manitoba was permitted to study a tract of land in Birds Hill Park to create a census of the breeding birds and the flora in the area. And, in 1968, Nature Manitoba took on a project to compile a 35mm coloured slide program with accompanying script to be used by the Parks Branch to educate visitors about the flora and fauna in the area. NM also helped put together an inventory of natural spaces in Winnipeg (more about that below!). 

Nature Manitoba also worked to safe guard a population of rare small white lady-slippers at Lake St. Francis, conducted the first systematic inventory of tall grass prairie ever attempted in Canada in 1987, helped establish the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve near Tolstoi, published Naturescape Manitoba, and hosts an annual garden tour to name just a few!

Below are more of our botanical-inspired projects submitted by the members who helped make them happen!

Please note: the Nature Manitoba annual Garden Tour is purposely omitted from this section. A history of the Garden Tour will be shared in the month of July!

Botanical Education through Art

By: Tom Reaume

Above: Sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus (from Wild Plants of Winnipeg by Tom Reaume)

My two botanical projects with Nature Manitoba began in the 1990s. I approached NM with a sample page of my labelled ink drawings with the ideal of writing and illustrating a book on wild plants (native and introduced) of the prairies. The Board accepted my idea and I began to apply for and received grants through NM.

Summers were spent in the field locating, identifying, and drawing wild plants including their fruit and seeds. I began with plants in and around Winnipeg, then spent one summer in each of Powerview, Brandon, Saskatoon, Riding Mountain NP and the Delta Waterfowl Research Station.

Over the winter I would write and design pages of the 11 x 8.5 inch book, one species per page including its range map. This routine lasted 10 years.

Above: Red-osier Dogwood Cornus sericea (from Wild Plants of Winnipeg by Tom Reaume)

The University of Regina Press found the book, 620 Wild Plants of North America, worthy of publication. All 10,000 pencil and ink drawings for the book were donated to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

After the 780-page book was published, I began an in-depth profile of wild plants around Winnipeg. Grants again came through NM. This time I did color photos, text and ink drawings to fill 3 pages for each species. Each plant took a week to finish. All 35 are on NM’s website under the title, Wild Plants of Winnipeg.

Above: Great Ragweed Ambrosia trifida (from Wild Plants of Winnipeg by Tom Reaume)

The 500 pencil and ink drawings from this 3-year field project were given to the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My ink drawings of the Downy Yellow Violet were included in The Art of the Plant / L’art de la Flore Exhibition held at the Stone Wall Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature. It was Canada’s contribution to the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition in 2018, taking place in 25 countries.

Above: Silky Milkweed Asclepias syriaca (from Wild Plants of Winnipeg by Tom Reaume)

Recognizing the City of Winnipeg’s Natural Spaces

By Diane Kunec

For many of us, what we’ve come to value most about Nature Manitoba are the friendships we have made. Working together passionately on local environmental issues has forged many a deep and enduring relationship. Some of those efforts also led to strong partnerships with people from different organizations.

It was at the 1993 Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference in Brandon, when I sat down to chat with fellow NM member Cindy Cohlmeyer (who had been very active in neighbourhood creek stewardship), City of Winnipeg Naturalist Cheryl Heming, and Winnipeg-based Canadian Wildlife Service Biologist Patrick Rakowski.

What started as an interesting chat amongst colleagues. quickly turned into a decision to keep meeting, keep talking, and see what kind of environmental projects we could work on together, possibly supported by each of our three organizations. We had no idea we would still be meeting and working together for the next 15 years!

Over that time, we spearheaded two projects in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Natural Areas Inventory, and the Riverbottom Forest Enhancement. We also provided moral and professional support for a third project, Naturescape Manitoba. Through it all we commiserated over many issues (environmental and political), while sharing good food and good wine around each other’s dining room tables.

Natural Areas Inventory of the City of Winnipeg

As there were always proposals for new projects and developments in Winnipeg, early in our discussions we recognized the important role a database on the remaining natural areas in the city could play in supporting informed decision-making around these projects.  Extensive mapping, inventorying and rating of the quality and significance of each remaining natural area would give the City of Winnipeg a basis for evaluating the impact of these projects. Hopefully it would also be used to argue for the preservation of the best remaining undisturbed areas.

Above: Red Baneberry is just one of the many plants found in the city of Winnipeg

Nature Manitoba (then called the Manitoba Naturalists Society) received Urban Green Team grants from the Provincial Government for the summers of 1995 and 1996, and the inventory process began. 

Meanwhile the idea of the inventory expanded to include a public website, with detailed maps and data sheets, which interested citizens and school groups could use to inventory a site they knew of and submit their information for inclusion in the database and on the website. The sites were also ranked, based on their level of disturbance and the percentage of native species, to be able to identify those worthiest of protection. 

Above: Harebell is found in several Winnipeg locations

Initially the data and maps were part of a stand-alone website hosted by Nature Manitoba, but were eventually incorporated into the City of Winnipeg’s website under “Natural Areas and Nature Parks”. It was maintained and updated there in its entirety for several years. The information was used at times to fight for protection of some sites, and portions of the inventory still remain on the City’s website here.  

Above: Section of the Natural Areas of Winnipeg Map from the City of Winnipeg website

Riverbottom Forests & Invasive European Buckthorn

Work on the inventory highlighted some of the issues affecting the remaining native riverbottom forests in Winnipeg. Of particular concern was the habitat degradation created by the intrusive European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Introduced as a garden shrub, it escaped into the understory of riverbottom forests along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers where it out-competed native shrub species, drastically reducing the natural diversity of native riverbottom forest habitat. Assiniboine Park and portions of forests along Churchill Drive were adversely affected. 

Above: red osier dogwood berries can be found in riverbottom forests

Initially, vegetation sampling was carried out and new planting of native species was also included. We wanted a baseline of information, assuming future work would be done.  From 2002 to 2004, the European Buckthorn Control Project was created, working in cooperation with the City (with City Naturalists Cheryl Heming and Helen Fabri, and with an EcoAction grant from Environment Canada.

Above: wild cucumber is another plant typical to riverbottom forests

In 2006, the project and the grant were continued. Under this Eco-Action grant, we focused on testing removal methods and determining the level of infestation in the City.  As part of this effort, Nature Manitoba helped produce and distribute a flyer about buckthorn, the problems it created and what was being done to try and control it.  We also had several volunteer days with NM members coming out to help with buckthorn removal.

Sadly, buckthorn remains an issue in areas of disturbed riverbottom forest, since no effective method of removal has yet to be developed.

Naturescape Manitoba:  All You Need is a Little Space

By: Diane Kunec

The idea for the book came along early in 1997, when I received a copy of a series of brochures called “Naturescape BC” from another NM member, Carol Scott. These were developed in BC, with detailed reference information on the native species for each of that province’s “ecozones”. From this spark, the idea for a Manitoba version was born.

Above: Cover of the Naturescape Manitoba book

At first it seemed to be a straight forward concept. The idea was to create a guide to wildlife-friendly gardening for Manitoba’s Prairie Ecozone. This quickly morphed into a much more detailed project, with partners from the Manitoba Naturalists Society, the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba Conservation, Environment Canada and, initially, Fort Whyte Alive.

Nature Manitoba took the lead, and was the official organization applying for grants, hiring people as needed and completing the onerous reporting that Eco-Canada grants required at the time. This was very demanding on the staff at the NM office, and may have prematurely given Herta Gudauskas, the Executive Director at the time, grey hair!

Above: A page from Naturescape Manitoba

Over the 10 years it took to bring this book to publication, this project became so much more than just people sitting around a board room table. It took many hands and many hours to develop the species reference tables. These are a key feature of the book and make it specific to Manitoba. Many others contributed their time to review drafts, and provide images. 

David Young and Margaret Brooks brought their gardening and nature know-how to the project. They did most of the writing for the book, with a few bits added by Donna Danyluk and myself. It took weeks to edit the final draft, with Donna, Peggy Westhorpe (Mb Conservation) and me sitting around a dining room table (of course, there was food involved!).

The result of all this hard work was the book Naturescape Manitoba: All You Need is a Little Space.  It is a beautifully-illustrated "how-to" and resource book for "people who want to bring back a bit of the natural world to their surroundings, attract more birds and butterflies to their garden, or simply do something different in their yard."

The book was designed as an alternative to conventional gardening approaches. It provides readers with a wide range of project ideas for native planting, low-maintenance yard care and water conservation.

Above: A page fom Naturescape Manitoba featuring a table of native trees

While it features full-colour photographs, original sketches and water-colour paintings, it also contains detailed species information unique to the Prairies Ecozone of Manitoba, summarized in tables at the back that are easy to use.


It includes projects such as building a bird house for wrens, as well as much more complex plans like turning your entire yard into a small forest. These projects provide plans and even layouts for flower gardens. They also explain how to bring a little bit of nature into your yard while minimizing the problems and pests.

Above: One of the projects featured in the book

As agreed to by all partners, the book was published by Nature Manitoba. Copies of the book were donated to every public library within the Prairie Ecozone. The book is currently sold by Nature Manitoba, the Living Prairie Museum, Fort Whyte Alive and bookstores in Manitoba.

In recognition of the quality of the book and its contribution to the urban environment, NM received a 2007 City of Winnipeg Volunteer Award in the Environmental category.