The Nahanni aster, only ever seen in Nahanni National Park Reserve, is officially a species at risk.
Based on a 2019 survey, the Nahanni aster has a population of an estimated 130,000 stems, all located within the boundaries of the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories.
Not much is known about the Nahanni aster, but the flower has become a species of special interest to flora aficionados. The plant has only ever been seen within the boundaries of the N.W.T’s Nahanni National Park.
With its yellow centre and pale pink or white petals, the Nahanni aster could be mistaken for a daisy or another member of the aster family, Nahanni National Park ecologist Sarah Arnold said. The Nahanni aster is one of hundreds of aster flowers around the world, though Arnold is confident this species is exclusive to the Northwest Territories. The population seems only to thrive in the presence of calcium deposits by the park’s hot springs. There are 63 or so thermal springs in Nahanni Park, but the Nahanni aster has only been found in six.
Arnold and other Parks Canada staff are in the process of completing a management plan for the Nahanni aster, which was placed on Canada’s species at risk list in 2018. Arnold said it will help raise awareness for its protection and hopefully help gather some information about the elusive species.
Consulting with surrounding communities is key, Arnold said, “we’re really hoping to spend some time with Indigenous knowledge holders and ideally get them out to these sites as well to share their knowledge with us.”
Herb Norwegian, a former Grand Chief of Dehcho First Nation, works with the park to bring traditional knowledge to visitors. While he wasn’t sure of the Nahanni aster specifically, he said the park is full of unique plants and wildlife, each of which carries a legend.