Canadian Museum of Nature

Canadian Museum of Nature

December 18, 2007 11:00 ET

Canadian Museum of Nature and National Research Council Release New CD on Flora of Canada's Arctic Islands

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 18, 2007) - They are hardy survivors of Canada's Arctic. Now, everything you need to know about the 349 flowering plants and ferns of the Canadian Arctic Islands is available on a CD-ROM co-published by the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN) and the NRC Research Press of the National Research Council Canada (NRC). The Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago will be released on December 21, 2007.

This comprehensive scientific guide includes descriptions of each plant, information about their distribution, and more than 3,000 line drawings and colour photographs. It also offers interesting historical references as well as noteworthy details on arctic plant use by indigenous peoples. The CD was written and edited by CMN botanists Dr. Susan Aiken (main author, now retired), Dr. Laurie Consaul, and Dr. Lynn Gillespie, with support from co-authors and assistants.

"This guide is the result of many years of research, both in the field and from examining some of the world's top botanical collections," explains Dr. Gillespie. "With issues such as climate change affecting the Arctic, it becomes even more important to have a scientific guide describing the species that exist now, where they are found and how to identify them."

Dr. Susan Aiken, a researcher with the CMN from 1984 to 2005, began working on cataloguing the plants of Canada's Arctic Islands soon after she joined the Museum. Her task was to update the Illustrated Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, by Alf Erling Porsild published by the Museum in 1957 and 1964. Aiken's use of electronic databases in the 1980s to produce a flora (publication that describes the plants of a given area) was visionary. Impressed by the progress of Australian scientists who were using databases to catalogue grasses, she began a 20-year collaboration with Dr. Mike Dallwitz. His DELTA (DEscription Language for TAxonomy) format enables the user to easily identify organisms.

In 2005, the CMN and NRC Research Press entered into an agreement to publish the Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on CD-ROM, a convenient and necessary format in this electronic age. Users can easily click on a species, where they will find colour photos, a map, and a description of the plant. They can also use the interactive scientific "key" to identify species.

"This is the first Canadian flora that we have published in a CD format," says Dr. Paul B. Cavers, Editor of the NRC Monograph Publishing Program. "Dr. Susan Aiken and her many co-authors are to be congratulated. This monograph will be of great value in a region facing many changes through global warming and increased human activity."

As of December 21, the CD-ROM can be purchased from the Canadian Museum of Nature's online catalogue at as well as from the NRC's online bookstore at It retails for $34.95 CAN (ISBN-13 9780660197272).

A backgrounder about Arctic plants and the history of the project is available upon request.

Contact Information

  • Media inquiries:
    Canadian Museum of Nature
    Laura Sutin
    Media Relations/Communications Officer
    National Research Council Canada
    Suzanne Kettley
    Manager, Monograph Program
    NRC Research Press