The Arctic islands support a beautiful and delicate flora. As the winter snows melt, many plants burst into flower, brightening up the otherwise bare tundra. Flowering plants are supplemented by ground-hugging shrubs, including relatives of the well known birch and willow. These are the plants that once grew in more southern latitudes of Europe, Asia and North America during the ice ages, regions in which a few relic Arctic plants still survive.
Snow melting gives rise to marshy ground, dominated by mosses and small shrubs. Wetland on Ymer Ř in East Greenland.
Well-drained, but moist tundra has rich vegetation. Yellow mountain avens (Dryas octapetala), purple moss campion (Silene acaulis), dwarf shrubby polar willow (Salix polaris); Spitsbergen.
Yellow mountain saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides), East Greenland.
Purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) is one of the earliest flowering plants to emerge from the snow. Near Austre Lovénbreen in NW Spitsbergen.
Moss campion (Silene acaulis) graces drier parts of the tundra, Ny-Ĺlesund area, NW Spitsbergen.
Arctic cinquefoil (Potentilla hyparctica), East Greenland
Broad-leaved willow herb (Chamaenerion latifolium), East Greenland.
Svalbard poppy (Papaver dahlianum), Svalbard.
Hairy lousewort (Pedicularis hirsuta), Axel Heiberg Island.
Nodding lychnis (Melandrium apetalum), Svalbard.
Arctic wintergreen (Pyrola sp.), Axel Heiberg Island
Fragile fern (Cystopteris fragilis), East Greenland.
Ground-hugging dwarf birch (Betula nana) in late summer colour, East Greenland
Arctic willow (Salix glauca), East Greenland
Reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina), East Greenland.
Lichen growing on bedrock, East Greenland
|Photos: Michael Hambrey|