Central Parkland Region
“In its native state, the ground was covered by poplar and willow trees.”
-pg. 254, Wagon Trails to Hardtop
All of the land that was passed over in the imaginary drive of The Land section, and a majority of the areas of Alberta with the densest population, lie within the Parkland Region. This region is the very northern tip of what is referred to as the Great Plains and was once home to bison herds. This means that the Central Parkland rests against the grasslands that are characteristic of the Great Plains, but also contains patches of willow and aspen that have earned this region the nickname “Aspenland”. The glaciers that once covered most of North America left this region with its characteristic low, gently rolling hills. The wetlands that make 5-10% of this region are sometimes referred to as the “duck factory” of North America.
The Parkland Region is unique to North America. It is estimated that today only 5% of the Central Parkland remains as native vegetation, yet 20% of Alberta’s rare, vascular plants can be found in this region. The areas that remain homes to native vegetation are unsuitable for agriculture so have managed to be uncultivated.
The area Lacombe County lies in is specifically a part of Central Parkland. The southeast of this region is the driest, so is where the most grassland-type characteristics can be found. This would make a mixture of grasses and plants like pasturewort dominant. Moving toward the northwest means moister conditions and more and more aspens. Plant species like beaked hazelnut, bunchberry, wild lily of the valley, and wild sarsaparilla occur in central parkland but not in its neighbour directly west, the foothills.
On light to moderately grazed sites plains rough fescue shares dominance with perennial herbs like prairie crocus, prairie sagewort, wild blue flax, northern bedstraw, three flowered avens, buckbrush, silverberry, prickly rose, chokecherry, and saskatoon are found throughout the region.
The following photos from our collection are all from the early 20th century and were taken in different places around the county. Each was chosen as we can easily see the diversity in the plant life in the photos even if it is difficult to identify the plants themselves. In the photo taken in Lacombe we can see an abundance of flowers and grasses growing before major building developments disturbed their habitat. The picture at Gull Lake shows an amazing diversity of typical Central Parkland plants including what appears to be yarrow and an artemisia variety (prairie sagewort) among the grasses.