Executive Summary – Recovery Strategy for the Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) in Ontario

Prepared by Jarmo V. Jalava

Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) is a showy, perennial, spring-flowering plant of the lily family (Liliaceae) that develops from a bulb. It has linear leaves and a stalk that supports up to 100 pale blue to white star-shaped flowers. Within its Canadian range, it grows in partial to moderate shade in low, moist woods on clay soil, as well as in drier, scrubbier hawthorn thickets and hackberry woodlands on shallow, rocky soil over limestone bedrock. In the United States the species also occurs in deeper-soiled floodplain forests, prairies, and a variety of other semi-open habitats.

Wild Hyacinth is designated Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It was designated as threatened in Canada by COSEWIC in 2002, and this status was adopted federally under the Species at Risk Act . It is of conservation concern or very rare (S1 or S2) in 8 of the 25 states of the United States within its range. However, it is common in its core distribution area, the Mississippi basin.

All extant and historic Ontario occurrences are from islands in western Lake Erie and the Detroit River in southwestern Essex County. Based on targeted surveys in 2001 and subsequent site visits, five extant occurrences are large (2,000 to>5,000 plants) and are believed to be stable. Habitat damage from colonial- nesting Double-crested Cormorants is believed to have destroyed two occurrences within the past two decades, and another was seriously impacted but has recovered since cormorant management was initiated at the site. One sub-population on Pelee Island has also disappeared within the past 15 years due to land clearing. The two extirpated historic populations were also lost to land development.

The recovery goal is to maintain and, where necessary, establish self-sustaining and viable populations of Wild Hyacinth at extant sites and at suitable historical sites in southern Ontario. Although extant occurrences appear to have stable populations, intervention may be necessary to prevent population declines due to cormorant impacts or possible future private land development.

The recovery objectives are to:

  1. protect and manage habitat to maintain extant populations in Ontario;
  2. determine current distribution and abundance of Wild Hyacinth populations in Ontario through inventory and monitoring in association with other Carolinian woodland plant species at risk;
  3. address knowledge gaps relating to their biology, ecology, habitat and threats;
  4. determine feasibility of reintroduction, and reintroduce Wild Hyacinth populations to suitable historical sites and recovery habitat; and
  5. prepare and disseminate information on best management practices for Wild Hyacinth.

It is recommended that an occupancy-based approach be used to define the area to be regulated as habitat under the ESA. Given that Wild Hyacinth does not occupy all apparently suitable habitat at the few extant Ontario sites, it is recommended that the area occupied by the plants, as well as surrounding habitat required for dispersal and population expansion, be prescribed as habitat in the regulation. The area prescribed should be delineated as the full extent of the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) ecosite polygon (as mapped by a qualified biologist, ecologist, or equivalent) within which a population occurs.

Wild Hyacinth is occasionally cultivated. It is recommended that horticultural populations be excluded from the habitat regulation.