Species At Risk

Engelmann’s Quillwort

(Isoëtes engelmannii)


Engelmann’s Quillwort
Engelmann’s Quillwort occurrences map


Engelmann’s Quillwort is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow water in lakes and rivers. The long, thin, hollow leaves are green to yellow-green and can grow up to 20 cm in length. While Engelmann’s Quillwort (like all quillwort species) is not a true fern, it is a member of a group of plants known as “fern allies.”

Action we are taking:


In Canada, Engelmann’s Quillwort occurs at just two locations, both in Ontario. It was first found here in the province in the 1970’s. It is an uncommon species throughout much of its main range in the eastern United States. This range extends from New York State, south to northern Florida and west to Tennessee. Ontario populations are not genetically distinct from those found in the northern United States.


Current threats to the survival of populations include water pollution and habitat degradation.


It is protected by Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Both Ontario populations occur within provincially designated Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest. The federal Species at Risk Act also protects Engelmann’s Quillwort.

What you can do to help the Engelmann’s Quillwort

  • Report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre, which tracks and maintains a database of many of Ontario’s wild species. http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/nhic/species/species_report.cfm
  • All aquatic species need good water quality and habitat. Shoreline activities such as building docks and other structures and removing vegetation can affect the Engelmann’s Quillwort and other aquatic plants and wildlife. If you are planning on working around water, please contact your local MNR office for information and best practices. http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. If you find Pink Milkwort on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Nutrient runoff can negatively affect waterways that are home to Engelmann’s Quillwort and other aquatic species. There are programs to help farmers and other land owners choose best management practices. For example, Ontario’s new Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program is a pilot project to help eligible farms that are registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan.

Did you know?

There are several types of quillworts, and identification can be difficult. To properly identify these plants, researchers examine a part of the plant found at the base of its leaves called the “megaspore” under a microscope. Details on the megaspore lets botanists know which type of quillwort it is.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.