The Forks Flora - Winnipeg Manitoba

The forks is located in downtown Winnipeg at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. Part of this historic area is classed as a national heritage site. You can read more about the forks at URL:

This list provides a sample of the flora found along the river banks in the forks area. The area covered extends along the river banks from the Bridge of the Old Forts to the Provencher bridge along east side of the Red river to the Norwood bridge and back to the Bridge of the Old Forts. Most of the domestic (ornamental) species planted around the forks are not included in this list. The prairie species that have been planted along the Bridge of the Old Forts and Norwood bridges and in the gardens within the forks area are not included. This inventory was first done late August 1998, a number of herbaceous species that can be found earlier in the summer or spring are probably missing from this list. Much of the lower banks were inundated for part of the 1998 summer which may have limited the number and variety of herbaceous species that were seen. The list will be updated over the next year to provide a more complete species list.

Unfortunately this area is highly disturbed and floristically poor. The number and frequency of weedy and introduced species is very high. This is probably due to the type of land use around the forks over the last several hundred years. Pictures taken during the late 19th and early 20th centuries show that the banks of both the Red and Assiniboine rivers around in this area were denuded of vegetation, and heavily used for rail lines and industry. Keep this in mind while looking at the Cottonwoods, Peachleaf willows, Elms and Manitoba Maples. Consider that most of these trees are less than 100 years old. It has only been relatively recently that much attention has been paid to the river banks in downtown Winnipeg, unfortunately the current land use practices still do not encourage the regrowth of native river bottom species.


Acer negundo L. - Manitoba Maple or Boxelder
This is a small to medium sized tree with a broad rounded crown. It is the only maple in that has pinnately compound leaves. It is possible to make a passable maple syrup from the spring sap.
Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh. - Green Ash
This common tree is fast growing and hardy. Along with being naturally abundant along the rivers in Winnipeg it is widely used as a shade and shelter tree.
Populis deltoides Marsh - Cottonwood
The name of this tree refers to the abundant cottony seeds produced each spring. This is a large tree with a broad crown of spreading and slightly drooping branches. The leaves are triangular (deltoid) shaped with curved course teeth, a pointed tip and long flattened petioles.
Salix amygdaloides Anderss. - Peachleaf Willow
This medium sized tree is common along the rivers through out the northern plains where it is important in protecting riverbanks from erosion.
Tilia americana L. - American Basswood
This is a handsome medium sized tree that is often used along streets and for shade. It has a long trunk and a dense crown of many small branches and large leaves.
Ulmus americana L. - American or White Elm
This is a large very handsome tree that grows throughout Winnipeg. It has unfortunately been ravaged by Dutch Elm disease, a fungal disease introduced from Europe and spread by the elm bark beetle.
Other trees that you may see:
Fraxinus nigra Marsh, Populus balsamifera, L. Populis tremuloides Michx., Quercus macrocarpa Michx.


Amorpha fruticosa L. - False Indigo
This shrub is common on the east side of the Red river. It flowers in early summer with groups of erect elongated clusters of purple flowers.
Caragana arborescens L. - Caragana
An ornamental that is mentioned because it has naturalized in a number of places along the banks of the Red and Assiniboine river.
Cornus stolonifera Michx. - Red-osier Dogwood
This is a very common bush near the river. Generally it has several red stems with clusters of small white flowers and small whitish fruit.
Cotoneaster acutifolia Turcz. - Cotoneaster
A common ornamental or hedge shrub.
Lonicera tatarica L. - Tartarian Honeysuckle
Another ornamental with bright orange berries.
Parthenocissus inserta (Kerner) Fritsch - Large-Toothed Virginia Creeper
A straggling vine with long tendrils that is common in the forks area.
Potentilla fruticosa L. - Shrubby cinquefoil
This is an ornamental, it is mentioned hear because of the wide spread use around the forks.
Prunus virginiana L. - Chokecherry
This shrub produces abundant dark red fruit with an astringent pulp.
Rhus radicans L. var. rydbergii (Small) Rehder) - Poison-Ivy
Beware of this low plant with 3 shiny (red in the fall) leaflets. Contact with this plant usually causes an unpleasant rash. BEWARE.
Ribes americanum Mill. - Wild Black Currant
This low shrub has greenish white flowers and produce a smooth black fruit. The stems are unarmed (with out bristles) and the leaves have 3 to 5 lobes
Rosa blanda Ait - Smooth Rose
This is one of the wild roses that can be seen flowering in the spring and early summer. It has very few prickles. Also look for Rosa acicularis Lindl. and Rosa woodsii Lindl. These latter two roses are armed with bristles.
Salix discolor Muhl. - Pussy or Diamond Willow
Only a few of these large shrubs have been seen in the forks area. The appearance of catkins signals the arrival of spring.
Salix interior Rowlee - Sandbar Willow
The willow genus is generally difficult to identify to species. The sandbar willow is one of the more common, easily identified willows. This small bush with very narrow long leaves generally grows near the water edge.
Shepherdia argentea L. - Silver Buffaloberry
This shrub is seen near the corner of Provencher and Tache. It is a native species that is common around water ways, I expect the sample here was planted.
Sorbaria sorbifolia (L.) A. Braun - Ash-Spiraea
A small shrub planted around some of the steps or ramps down to the river near the forks. It is an introduced ornamental that has escaped in places and persisted.
Solanum dulcamara L. - Bittersweet
Bittersweet is a woody based climbing or twining vine that is becoming common in the forks area. It has dark purple flowers with yellow anthers, the berries are a dark red colour. This introduced plant is very poisonous.
Symphoricarpos occidentalis Hook - Snowberry
This is a small shrub that produces white waxy berries. A similar species Symphoricarpos albus (L.) Blake may also be found in the forks area.
Syringa vulgaris L. - Common Lilac
Yet another ornamental that has escaped and has naturalized in a number of locations.
Vitis riparia Michx. - Riverbank Grape
This is Manitoba's only wild grape. It is common along the shoreline of both the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The grapes, while not as sweet as cultivated grapes, do make a very pleasant jelly.
Other shrubs that you may see:
Viburnum trilobum Marsh., Amelanchier alnifolia nutt.

Herbacious Plants (Generally broad leaf)

Amaranthus retroflexus L. - Red-Root Pigweed
A large plant with rough terminal and axillary spikes. This a a common weed in waste places.
Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. var. elatior (L.) Descourtils - Common Ragweed
A very common weed through out the forks area.
Ambrosia trifida L. - Great Ragweed
Found along the river bank on the east side of the River, probably found any place where the grass is not cut regularly.
Arctium minus (Hill) Bernh. - Common Burdock
An introduced weed that is very common in the forks area (along with every where else in the valley). It has large, often cordate-based leaves, purple flowers and large burs. Look for the related species Arctium lappa L.
Artemisia absinthium L. - Absinthe
Yet another escaped species. Also look for Pasture Sage Artemisia frigida Walld.
Asclepias speciosa Torr. - Showy Milkweed
Flowers pinkish/purple in very dense umbels. The flowers have a stong sweet smell. The pods are large and covered with soft tubercles.
Asparagus officinalis L. - Asparagus
The filiform branches and scaly leaves make this an easy plant to recognise. It is introduced and escaped from cultivation.
Aster simplex Willd. - Panicled Aster
The tall stem bears a loose cluster of white, occasionally violet-tinged, flower heads. This is the only aster listed here, it is likely that there are several others in the forks area.
Bidens frondosa L. - Common Beggarticks
It is hard not to know you have come across this plant after walking through the bush - your socks and pants are covered with the two barbed seeds (achenes).
Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. - Canada Thistle
This common plant was introduced and is now found in great quantities in waste places, fields and road sides.
Convolvulus sepium L. - Hedge Bindweed or Morning-Glory
This twining vine is found in a number of locations around the forks.
Glycyrrhiza lepidota (Nutt.) Pursh - Wild licorice
The root stocks of this plant when chewed produce a licorice flavor.
Grindelia squarrosa (Pursh) Dunal - Gumweed
This small yellow flowered composite is found on the old rail bed near the Provoncher bridge.
Kochia scoparia Summer-Cypress or Kochia
A common weed escaped from gardens - why anyone would want to grow this in their garden is beyond me.
Lepidium densiflorum Schrad. - Common Pepper-Grass
This small plant has long spikes with many seed pods. The seeds have a strong pepper taste.
Linaria vulgaris Miller - Butter-and-Eggs or Yellow Toad-Flax
A small yellow flowered plant that was introduced as a garden plant from Europe. It is a member of the Scrophulariaceae (snap dragon) family.
Melilotus alba Medic. - White Sweet-Clover
Introduced from Europe and Asia as a forage plant. This species and the similar Yellow Sweet-Clover (Melilotus officinalis (L.) Pall.), are common through out southern Manitoba.
Mentha arvensis L. var. villosa (Benth.) S.R. Stewart - Field Mint
A pleasant smelling find along the east side of the Red river near the shore. This plant is usually discovered after bumping or stepping on the plant.
Mirabilis nyctaginea (Michx.) MacM. - Heart-Leaved Umbrellawort
Found on the old rail lines around the forks.
Plantago major L. - Common plantain
Plantain may have been introduced. It is a very common plant especially in lawns and waste places.
Polygonum amphibium L. - Swamp Persicaria, Swamp Smartweed
This perennial plant grows near, or in the water and has pink flowers growing in a dense spike.
Polygonum lapathifolium L. - Pale Persicaria or Pale Smartweed
One of the many small annual smartweeds. It has small pale pink or white flowers borne in spikes.
Portulaca oleracea L. - Purslane
A low prostrate succlent plant often forming a large mat. This is an introduced weedy plant.
Potentilla anserina L. - Silverweed
a low tufted perenial that spreads by runners. People often call this plant a butter cup.
Rumex crispus L. - Curled Dock
This is an introduced weed that is quite common. There are a number of other Rumex species that may also be found around the forks.
Solidago spp. - Golden Rod
Unfortunatly during the 1998 survey the golden rods were not flowering. I hope to provide specific names next year.
Sonchus asper (L.) Hill - Prickly Sow-Thistle
This annual weedy plant has yellow flowers and clasping lobed leaves. The lobs usually have spine-tipped teeth.
Sonchus arvensis L. - Perennial Sow-Thistle
A very common weed with bright yellow flowers.
Taraxacum officinale Weber - Dandelion
This is a widely introduced weed spread weed. Watch for the related Taraxacum ceratophorum (Ledeb.) DC. it is a very similar plant to T. officinale
Thalictrum venulosum Trel. - Veiny Meadow-Rue
This plant is is fairly common in river bottom forests. The related, and very similar, Thalictrum dasycarpum Fisch. & Lall may also be seen.
Trifolium repens L. - White Clover
A very common plant that was often used in lawns.
Urtica dioica L. var. procera (Muhl.) Wedd. - Stinging nettle
Ouch! This stinging perennial is quite common. The sting is caused by a droplet of formic acid injected by one of the many hollow pointed hairs on the plant. A related species, Laportea canadensis (L.) Gaud. or Wood Nettle may also be found.
Vicia americana Muhl. - American Vetch
A climbing vine with 8-14 leaflets and a terminal tendril. The small blue-purple flowers in short racemes are hard to miss.
Xanthium strumarium L. - Cocklebur
This bur producing plant seems to have become even more common along the river after the 1997 flood.
Other herbs that you may see:
Ranunculus abortivus L., Smilax herbacea L., Echinocystis lobata (Michx.) T. & G., Thlapsi arvense L.

Grass and Sedge like plants

Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv. - Quack grass or Wheat Grass
An introduced weedy species. There may be several other species of wheat grass found around the Forks especially on the old rail lines.
Carex atherodes Spreng. - Awned Sedge
This sedge is very common near the river on the east shore of the Red river. The identification of this species may be incorrect - there are several similar species of Carex without - flowers they are difficult to separate.
Echinochloa crusgalli (L.) Beauv - Barnyard Grass
An introduced grass that is often considered a weed.
Eleocharis palustris (L.) R.&S. - Creeping spike-rush
Seen on the river bank, next to the water on the east side of the Red river.
Poa pratensis L.- Kentucky Blue Grass
The grass that is generally used for lawns. It is probably a native species, it is certainly cultivated and introduced.
Hordeum jubatum L. - Wild Barley
A very common grass through out province, around the forks it mainly occurs on the old rail lines and disturbed areas.
Panicum capillare L. - Witch Grass
This grass was difficult to key since it does not, at this location have wide enough leaves and the panicle does not appear to break off.
Setaria viridis (L.) Beauv. - Green Foxtail
Annual plants with a narrow panicle. This is an introduced species.
Other grass and grass like plants will be added when the area can be observed throughout the spring and summer. A number of prairie grass species have been planted along the Norwood Bridge and Bridge of the Old Forts.

Return to Charles Burchill's Home Page
Last updated: August 19, 1998