This is a photo of Wild Hyacinth perennial plant.

Wild Hyacinth is a perennial plant that grows up to 70 cm tall and can support up to 100 pale blue to white star-shaped flowers. It grows in partial shade in moist, open or semi- open woodlands or in drier hawthorn scrub. Wild Hyacinth bulbs are edible and were a staple food plant of North American Aboriginal peoples.

Protecting and recovering Species at Risk in Ontario

Species at risk recovery is a key part of protecting Ontario’s biodiversity. Biodiversity – the variety of living organisms on Earth – provides us with clean air and water, food, fibre, medicine and other resources that we need to survive.

The Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) is the Government of Ontario’s legislative commitment to protecting and recovering species at risk and their habitats. As soon as a species is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under the ESA, it is automatically protected from harm or harassment. Also, immediately upon listing, the habitats of endangered and threatened species are protected from damage or destruction.

Under the ESA, the Ministry of Natural Resources (the Ministry) must ensure that a recovery strategy is prepared for each species that is listed as endangered or threatened. A recovery strategy provides science-based advice to government on what is required to achieve recovery of a species.

Government response statements

Within nine months after a recovery strategy is prepared, the ESA requires the Ministry to publish a statement summarizing the government’s intended actions and priorities in response to the recovery strategy. The recovery strategy for Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) was completed on January 11, 2013 (Wild hyacinth).

The response statement is the government’s policy response to the scientific advice provided in the recovery strategy. All recommendations provided in the recovery strategy were considered and this response statement identifies those that are considered to be appropriate and necessary for the protection and recovery of the species. In addition to the strategy, the response statement is based on input from stakeholders, other jurisdictions, Aboriginal communities, and members of the public. It reflects the best available traditional, local and scientific knowledge at this time and may be adapted if new information becomes available. In implementing the actions in the response statement, the ESA allows the Ministry to determine what is feasible, taking into account social and economic factors.

Moving forward to protect and recover Wild Hyacinth

Wild Hyacinth is listed as a threatened species under the ESA. The ESA prohibits harm or harassment of the species and damage or destruction of its habitat without authorization. Authorization would require that conditions established by the Ministry be met.

Wild Hyacinth occurs naturally in the southern United States from South Carolina to Texas and in the north to southern Michigan and northeast Wisconsin. In Ontario it is only found on islands in western Lake Erie. It is most common in its core range within the Mississippi drainage basin, but is of conservation concern in nearly every jurisdiction where it has been ranked. It is unknown whether Wild Hyacinth was ever more common in Ontario or what factors (such as climate or an inability to disperse to the mainland) have kept the species in its restricted range. It is also possible that the species was originally introduced to the islands by the Aboriginal peoples that used them as a food source.

One of the main threats to Wild Hyacinth recovery in Ontario is hyper-abundant Double- crested Cormorants (Phalocrocorax auritus), whose large breeding colonies on islands in Lake Erie destroy vegetation. Other important threats include browsing and trampling by Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), loss of habitat to development, and invasive species such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). In southern Ontario, there are five remaining populations believed to have good viability based on surveys completed in 2001. Two historic Wild Hyacinth populations and a sub-population have been extirpated as a result of land development, and two more located on East Sister Island and Middle Sister Island may have been recently extirpated due to the impacts from cormorants. Monitoring of cormorant impacts is ongoing at East Sister Island Provincial Park to determine if management actions are feasible or appropriate. Management of cormorants by Parks Canada at one of the five existing sites, Middle Island, has been shown to result in an increase in Wild Hyacinth population numbers. Ongoing cormorant management is likely required to retain these results. Without addressing the threats caused by cormorants, it is unlikely that Wild Hyacinth can be recovered at the East Sister Island and Middle Sister Island locations, where cormorants have had the greatest impact. If suitable habitat conditions can be restored at historic locations in the future, the GRS goal may be re-evaluated.

The government’s goal for the recovery of Wild Hyacinth is to maintain self-sustaining populations at all existing sites and, where recolonization may be feasible, restore degraded habitat at historic locations.

Protecting and recovering species at risk is a shared responsibility. No single agency or organization has the knowledge, authority or financial resources to protect and recover all of Ontario’s species at risk. Successful recovery requires inter-governmental co-operation and the involvement of many individuals, organizations and communities.

In developing the government response statement, the Ministry considered what actions are feasible for the government to lead directly and what actions are feasible for the government to support its conservation partners to undertake.

Government-led actions

To help protect and recover Wild Hyacinth, the government will directly undertake the following actions:

  • Continue to monitor the impacts of Double-crested Cormorants in East Sister Island Provincial Park to determine whether habitat restoration and reintroduction of Wild Hyacinth to formerly occupied habitat is feasible.
  • Educate other agencies and authorities involved in planning and environmental assessment processes on the protection requirements under the ESA.
  • Encourage the submission of Wild Hyacinth data to the Ministry’s central repository at the Natural Heritage Information Centre.
  • Undertake communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species at risk in Ontario.
  • Protect Wild Hyacinth and its habitat through the ESA.
  • Support conservation, agency, municipal and industry partners, and Aboriginal communities and organizations to undertake activities to protect and recover Wild Support will be provided through funding, agreements, permits (including conditions) and/or advisory services.
  • Establish and communicate annual priority actions for government support in order to encourage collaboration and reduce duplication of efforts.

Government-supported actions

The government endorses the following actions as being necessary for the protection and recovery of Wild Hyacinth. Actions identified as "high" will be given priority consideration for funding or for authorizations under the ESA. The government will focus its support on these high-priority actions over the next five years.

Focus area:

Protection and Management


Protect and enhance existing Wild Hyacinth habitat and address major threats.


  1. (High) Develop and implement best management practices for maintaining or improving Wild Hyacinth habitat by removing invasive species, maintaining semi-open forest conditions during flowering, and preventing inadvertent trampling.
  2. Identify and protect key sites through land securement in connection with existing initiatives and partners.

Focus area:

Monitoring and Research


Increase knowledge of Wild Hyacinth population trends, biology, habitat, and threats.


  1. (High) Develop and implement a standardized monitoring strategy for Wild Hyacinth to document Wild Hyacinth population size and dynamics, reproductive success, characterization of habitat, and assessment of threats.
  2. Research the conditions for successful Wild Hyacinth establishment, including pollination and dispersal mechanisms and distances.
  3. Undertake research into Wild Hyacinth population viability that takes into account its reproductive biology, dispersal and establishment conditions.

Focus area:



Educate local groups to promote the protection of Wild Hyacinth.


  1. Develop educational and outreach materials on the sensitivity of Wild Hyacinth to inadvertent collection, trampling, or interbreeding with horticultural hyacinth varieties, and distribute to local stewardship organizations, horticultural clubs, and native plant nurseries.
  2. Collaborate with First Nations to incorporate Aboriginal traditional knowledge, where available, into outreach initiatives.
  3. Work with conservation groups and initiatives in the Lake Erie islands area to coordinate the strategic implementation of actions with broader ecosystem recovery efforts.

Implementing actions

Financial support for the implementation of actions may be available through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Species at Risk Research Fund for Ontario, or the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program. Conservation partners are encouraged to discuss project proposals related to the actions in this response statement with the Ministry. The Ministry can also advise if any authorizations under the ESA or other legislation may be required to undertake the project.

Implementation of the actions may be subject to changing priorities across the multitude of species at risk, available resources and the capacity of partners to undertake recovery activities. Where appropriate, the implementation of actions for multiple species will be co- ordinated across government response statements.

Reviewing progress

The ESA requires the Ministry to conduct a review of progress towards protecting and recovering a species not later than five years from the publication of this response statement. The review will help identify if adjustments are needed to achieve the protection and recovery of Wild Hyacinth.


We would like to thank all those who participated in the development of the "Recovery Strategy for the Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) in Ontario" for their dedication to protecting and recovering species at risk.