Distribution, status, and habitat characteristics of Columbia Quillwort (Isoetes minima, Isoetaceae) in Canada


  • Carrina Y. Maslovat Independent consultant
  • Ryan Batten
  • Daniel F. Brunton
  • Paul C. Sokoloff




Isoetes minima, British Columbia, Endangered, Species at Risk, Canada


In Canada, the globally rare lycophyte, Columbia Quillwort (Isoetes minima), is currently known from four subpopulations, all within a 25-km radius of Castlegar in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountain ranges of southern British Columbia. These constitute just over a quarter of all known subpopulations in Canada and the United States. The species is found in Canada in sloping pocket meadows that are naturally fragmented within a larger forested matrix. The plants grow in spring seepage areas in thin soils that discourage the establishment of larger, more vigorous vascular plant competitors. Long combined within Isoetes howellii (sensu lato), I. minima has only recently been confirmed to be a distinct species, and, in 2019, it was assessed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). We build on information in the COSEWIC status report by describing the species’ morphology and ecology in greater detail and provide a comparison of critical identification features of closely related species as well as a dichotomous key for Isoetes species in British Columbia.