Medicinal Plant Guide


The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung prairie is all that remains of a large oak prairie savannah that once stretched along the Rainy River before European habitation of the area. Until the 1800?s, mesic prairie vegetation grew everywhere, but it was cleared for agriculture, drastically reducing the available habitat for the area?s native vegetation and wildlife. During this time, Ojibway people lived at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, thus ensuring the preservation of this unique habitat through conducting yearly burns.

The oak savannah prairie is nestled between the Long Sault Rapids and the mixed woodlands. It is a globally significant plant community and hosts many of Ontario?s rare plants, including Oval Leafed Milkweed, Hoary Puccoon, and Wild Licorice. The site is home to hundreds of plant species, 15 that are very rare in Ontario.

Today, preservation of this site is ensured through the stewardship efforts of the Rainy River First Nations. Each spring the prairie is burned to mimic the traditional yearly burns, which facilitates the growth of prairie plants, and inhibits the
encroachment of invasive species.


This ecoregion is very limited in extent near the international border, lying between the Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake in Ontario. It correlates with the Northern Minnesota Wetlands Ecoregion in the United States. It is marked by warm, moist summers and cold winters. The mean annual temperature is approximately 2?C (35.6?F). The mean summer temperature is 15.5?C (59.9?F) and the mean winter temperature is -12.5?C (9.5?F). The mean annual precipitation ranges 600?700 mm (23-27?). This mixed forest includes a succession from trembling aspen, paper birch, and jack pine to white spruce, black spruce, and balsam fir. Warmer portions of the ecoregion support red and sugar maple, and white pine.


The Rainy River region takes in a portion of the Severn Upland, which is underlain by massive, crystalline, acidic, Archean bedrock that forms broad, sloping uplands and lowlands. Bedrock outcroppings and Dystric Brunisols occur on ridged to hummocky, discontinuous, sandy morainal deposits on uplands. Lowlands are covered by rock-bound lakes, fine, carbonate-rich sediments, and deep organic deposits. Significant inclusions are Mesisols, Fibrisols, and clayey Gray Luvisols. Wetlands are widespread and characterized by bowl bogs that are treed and often surrounded by peat margin swamps.

Site Conservation Plan

According to the wishes of the Elders to preserve the prairie, Rainy River First Nations continue to organize a prescribed burn as soon as the snow melts each spring. The fire renews growth of rare prairie plants and keeps invasive species at bay. As fire burns through the prairie, it exposes the mineral soil allowing for the new growth of plants. Without human intervention, one would expect the prairie to burn every three to five years due to natural causes of fire, such as lightning strikes

Organization of this Guide

This website can be used as a resource guide to the plants found at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung site. These plants are found scattered along the trail, and have been selected to be in this guide because of their interesting and medicinal properties. The names of the plants are written first in English, then Ojibway, and then finally in Latin.


We are not experts on the medicinal uses of plants and much of the information has been taken from a variety of other sources. You should talk to someone who knows how they should be used, before using any of these plants. The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung staff cannot take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person?s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant?s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.