The natural vegetation of the Maritime Provinces is forest. As might be expected from the variation in rocks, land forms and climate, the forest cover also shows considerable variation. The forests of the higher parts of the Gaspé Peninsula are essentially like those of the northern parts of Quebec and Ontario, spruce and balsam being the dominant trees. The higher parts of the Northern Plateau of New Brunswick have similar forests.
The Restigouche Forests, are also similar to those of large areas in the province of Quebec. The area contains a mixture of hardwoods and softwoods, although the latter dominate over large areas. Cedar, white spruce, balsam fir, black spruce, tamarack, red and white pines occur in the order given. White cedar reaches its best development on the continent in this area. The chief hardwoods are sugar maple and yellow birch.
The forests of the New Brunswick Uplands, are essentially coniferous; balsam fir, black spruce, and red spruce are the leading trees with some white pine and cedar; the hardwoods are represented by sugar maple and yellow birch. Swampy areas contain tamarack and black ash.
The Miramichi forests, occupy the drainage basin of the Miramichi River and its tributaries. The sandy soils, derived from the Millstone Grits, are highly podzolized. Red and black spruce, balsam fir, aspens, white and wire birches, white pine, and hemlock are found. It is probable that hemlock was much more plentiful in the area before the Miramichi fire which swept it more than one hundred years ago. White and wire birches and jack pines are trees which tend to occupy burned areas.
The Northeast Coastal Forest occupies an area of sandy, and often poorly drained, soils. Peat bogs and barrens are common. Poorly drained areas carry black spruce, cedar and tamarack; white and wire birches and jack pines occupy the sand flats. Better sites carry a well developed forest of red spruce, yellow birch, beech and sugar maple.
The St. John Valley, Southern New Brunswick, Northern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are all included in the central section. Here the mixed forest of the Acadian type attains its fullest development. Sugar maple, yellow birch, beech, red maple, elm, black and white ash, are all common or abundant, while red oak, basswood, ironwood and butternut are found in some localities. This is the area in which red spruce reaches its greatest development, but white spruce, white pine, balsam fir and hemlock are also found. This is the area too, in which agriculture has made greatest progress and/even where not cleared, the forests have suffered severe culling. Prince Edward Island is practically all occupied by farms and no extensive tracts of forest remain.
The Atlantic Slopes, includes not only the southern half of the mainland of Nova Scotia from Cape Sable to Cape Canso, but the southern shore of Cape Breton Island as well, which, like the mainland, is situated on the hard granites and Precambrian metamorphic rocks. Climatically much more moist than any other area, and with a drainage system still suffering from derangement during the glacial period, we are not surprised to find many bogs in this section. Many of these are treeless and are locally known as "savannas". Black spruce bogs are common, so also are swamps containing red maple, black ash, tamarack and black alder. The hard rocks such as granite and quartzite often have little or no soil covering, consequently rocky barrens, either natural or induced by fire, cover very large areas in the interior. Where soils are sufficiently deep, however, red spruce, hemlock and white pine grow well, while to the northward considerable balsam fir occurs.
In Cape Breton balsam fir is the predominant species, but in the central lowlands, some red spruce occurs together with such hardwoods as yellow birch, sugar maple, elm and red oak. The Cape Breton Plateau, is elevated, cold and wet. The dominant tree is the balsam fir in almost pure stands, but in some locations white and black spruce, paper birch and mountain ash are found. A large part of the plateau (some 300-400 square miles) consists of barrens with heath or bog vegetation. Raised bogs are common here, as in other wet districts.
Sable Island is cited as possessing a rather unique type of climate. It is also unique in that it possesses no forest growth, the extremely sandy soils and high winds being inimical to tree growth, beach grass being the most abundant plant.