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The Hardy and Amazing Flora of the Arctic Tundra

by Holly Chavez Blog

The surprising reality to those that travel there is that the white drifts and landscape of the Arctic are actually quite beautiful. The flora that grows in the Arctic also helps to make it a picturesque kind of place. The problem is that not enough people know about the flora or understand how anything could actually grow in the Arctic.
Antarctic Peninsula

Regions: Arctic

Destinations: Lofoten, Greenland, Svalbard

The Hardy and Amazing Flora of the Arctic Tundra

When people think of Arctic tundras, they imagine these white and lifeless wastelands that seem void of anything except the cold. It is almost romantic how people attempt to portray the Arctic as so absolutely desolate that it is almost a vacuum. 

The surprising reality to those that embark on an Arctic cruise is that the white drifts and landscape of the Arctic are actually quite beautiful. The flora that grows in the Arctic also helps to make it a picturesque kind of place. The problem is that not enough people know about the flora or understand how anything could actually grow in the Arctic.

Cushion Plants

Cushion plants are not confined to the Arctic, which is just one thing that makes them unique. The same cushion plants that grow in the Arctic can also be found growing in New Zealand. It is a plant that possesses just the right attitude to survive in a climate like the Arctic.

Cushion plants grow to form a mat that can be as wide as three meters, but is only a few centimeters off the ground. The plants grow in such a compact style that they form a natural mat that is both soft and durable. The reason it can grow in such diverse climates and develop such a durable feel is its extremely long roots. The roots are very strong and grow deep into the rocks or soil. Once the roots are in place, the plant takes hold and is able to find all of the nutrients and water it needs to survive.

Moss Campion

Labrador Tea

Sometimes a plant's name can be misleading, especially when it is the last type of plant you would expect to see growing in harsh conditions. But the Labrador tea plant has leaves that the natives close to the Arctic use to make a drink that is very rich in vitamin C. It is a plant that grows in the harshest conditions, but is perfectly safe for human consumption.

In the more southern Arctic regions where the weather is not quite as intense, the Labrador tea plant can grow up to five feet in height. But as you move north into colder temperatures, the plant grows like a vine along the ground.

 Labrador Tea

Bearberry

When it comes right down to it, Arctic plants are given practical names. The bearberry plant grows low along the ground and produces bright red berries surrounded in a protective white fur. The plant gets its name because bears like to eat the berries, which would make perfect sense to anyone with a practical nature.

The bearberry plant is actually found in many other regions of the world and it grows mostly on rocks and sand. The bearberry's ability to live in dry and extreme climates without nutrients from soil is what makes it an ideal Arctic tundra plant.

 Bear berry

Arctic Willow

The Arctic willow is the closest you will get to finding a tree growing in the Arctic. As a general rule, the lack of deep soil and the presence of cold winds prevent most trees from growing in the Arctic. But the Arctic willow has branches, leaves, and it even has an elaborate root system. It grows to a height of around 20 centimeters, which falls well short of qualifying it as a tree.

 Arctic Willow


One of the more interesting aspects of the Arctic willow is its pink blossoms that occur in spring and look like the cherry blossoms people are used to seeing in warmer climates. The blossoms are actually seeds for future Arctic willow plants as the plant itself produces no fruit.

People who head out for their first ocean expedition often think of the Arctic as a desolate place, but they can rest assured that there is actually a significant amount of flora that gives the Arctic a unique beauty. It may not be the beauty you are used to seeing in a properly groomed garden, but this hearty flora does just fine considering its harsh growing conditions.

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