Alberta Native Plant Council

Puzzling Pairs

Puzzling Pairs through the Years

Since 1988, the Alberta Native Plant Council newsletter IRIS has brought to the ANPC membership articles on all things native plant-related. Periodically, a series called “Puzzling Pairs” (or the occasional “Tricky Trio”) has been published to help the plant observer to sort between similar species. If you are finding any of the following sets of species puzzling (or tricky), click on the appropriate issue of IRIS for some help. Remember though that there have been on-going taxonomic changes, so some of the names may have changed. The table below uses current taxonomy. Common names are from Kershaw 2019.*

*Kershaw, L. 2019. Alberta Plant Names: A guide to their pronunciation, meaning and English alternatives. Self-published. Kindle Direct Publishing.

IRIS 91 Winter 2023
This new issue is only available only to members on the “Members” page.
Sticky shootingstar
(Primula conjugens var. viscida)
Saline shootingstar
(Primula pauciflora var. pauciflora)
IRIS 90 Summer 2022
Western false-Solomon-seal
(Maianthemum amplexicaule)
Starflower false-Solomon-seal
(Maianthemum stellatum)
IRIS 90 Summer 2022
(Maianthemum trifolium)
Wild lily-of-the-valley
(Maianthemum canadense)

Alpine locoweed
(Oxytropis campestris var.cusickii)
Early yellow locoweed
(Oxytropis sericea)
Late yellow locoweed
(Oxytropis campestris var. spicata)

Prickly rose
(Rosa acicularis)

Prairie rose
(Rosa arkansana)

Woods rose
(Rosa woodsii)

IRIS 80 March 2017
Toothed bittercress
(Cardamine dentata)
Northern field bittercress
(Cardamine polemonioides) (syn C. nymanii)
IRIS 78 January 2016  and  IRIS 76 March 2015
Sandhills cinquefoil
(Potentilla lasiodonta
previously P. finitima)
Pennsylvania cinquefoil
(Potentilla pensylvanica)
IRIS 70 January 2013
Short-stalk chickweed
(Cerastium brachypodum)
Nodding chickweed
(Cerastium nutans)
IRIS 70 March 2013
Plasmodial Slime Molds in Alberta

Scrambled-egg slime (Fuligo septica) growing on forbs Photo D. & M. McIvor

Key & Species Descriptions for Hawkweeds (Hieracium) in AlbertaNote: Hawkweeds have now been split into two genera: (Hieracium and Pilosella) There are numerous species, here are some examples.
Orange hawkweed
(Pilosella aurantiaca)
White hawkweed
(Hieracium albiflorum)
Slender hawkweed
(Hieracium triste)
Mountain cranberry
 (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
(Linnea boreali)
Common bearberry
(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
  IRIS 66 December 2011
Yellow columbine
(Aquilegia flavescens)
Western columbine
(Aquilegia formosa)
  IRIS 66 December 2011
Blue columbine
(Aquilegia brevistyla)
Jones columbine
(Aquilegia jonesii)
  IRIS 66 December 2011
Whitebark pine
(Pinus albicaulis)
Limber pine
(Pinus flexilis)
Cutleaf fleabane
(Erigeron compositus)
Threelobe fleabane
(Erigeron trifidus)
IRIS 59 February 2009
Golden saxifrage
(Chrysosplenium iowense)
Green saxifrage
(Chrysosplenium tetrandrum)
IRIS 58 November 2008
Leafy northern green orchid
(Platanthera aquilonis)
Tall northern green orchid
(Platanthera huronensis)
IRIS 57 March 2008
Fringed loosestrife
(Lysimachia ciliata)
Lowland yellow loosestrife
(Lysimachia hybrida)
Wild strawberry
(Fragaria virginiana)
Woodland strawberry
(Fragaria vesca)


Woodland horsetail
(Equisetum sylvaticum)
Field horsetail
(Equisetum arvense)
Meadow horsetail
(Equisetum pratense)
  IRIS 50 Fall 2005
 Paper birch
Betula papyrifera)
Alaska paper birch
(Betula neoalaskana)
IRIS 49 Summer 2005
Thinleaf snowberry
(Symphoricarpos albus)
Western snowberry
(Symphoricarpos occidentalis)


ANPC, Box 52099 Garneau Postal Outlet, Edmonton AB T6G2T5    All content copyright ANPC 2023