Thursday, October 20, 2016

Arctic Work 2016: Flora

When you think of Tundra, the first thing you often think of isn't plants. However, in a landscape where it is barren of trees, it was amazing to see a landscape where flowers, grass and moss dominate. While in the North, I tried to document much of the flora that I came across. Here is just a small collection of them. you will find their English name and then Latin and Inuktituk name in brackets.  Many of the plants have a variety of names depending on the dialect, so I will try to just include one.

The first plant that I will start out with is Arctic Fireweed (Chamerion latifolium; Paunnat). Arctic Fireweed is also knows as Dwarf Fireweed and River Beauty Willowherb.  It can often be used in tea and can also be eaten. While I didn't try it out while I was up there, I definitely will be putting it on my "to do" list for the next time *fingers crossed that a next time comes along!*.

Another flower that was Moss Campion (silene acaulis; Airait).  We saw these flowers in large clumps throughout the arctic.  It reminded me so much of a ground cover my mother used to grow in our gardens at home.  In the photo below, you can see another plant creeping along the ground called Arctic Willow (Salix arctica). 

Mountain Avens (dryas octopetala; Malikkaatwere one of the first flowers that I learnt the name of in Nunavut.  By July, we could see them stretching across the landscape and they can be seen in almost every photo that I have taken!  In researching a little bit about the different Arctic flora I saw, I learnt that the Inuit word for Mountain Avens is 'malikkat', which means the follower. What does it follow?  The sun of course! If you watch closely you will notice that throughout the day the flower rotate the direction it is facing to follow the sun.

Purple Saxifrage (saxifraga oppositifolia; Aupilattunnguat) is one of the plants in the Arctic that I did try and eat!  Often times we would find them along our hikes and they provided to be a nice little snack.  Purple Saxifrage is also the most northern flowering plant in the world!  It is also the official territorial flower of Nunavut!

Another favourite of mine was the Arctic Poppy (Papaver radicatumIgutsat niqingit). Something about poppies always make me smile, so spotting these along the landscape was something special for me.  I recently learnt that poppies are also on the Nunavut Coat of Arms representing the summer flowers.

Arctic thrift (Armeria maritima; immulik) was another purple flower that I often came across on our hikes.  It reminded me of flowers that you often see on chives.

Long-stalked Starwort (Stellaria longipes; Miqqaviat) was another species of flower that I came across.  These flowers were most often seen in a cluster and in sandy (or more disturbed) areas.  It reminded me of the Arctic version of a Daisy!

I will now end with one last favourite, Cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium; Puallunnguat).  I often see cotton grass in swampy areas here in the Parry Sound region, but on the tundra it held a special beauty. I would see them often times as an individual along the landscape, however sometimes there were large clumps of them that just looked amazing!

And lastly, a final plant that I have yet to ID.  If anyone knows their arctic flowers and happens to know this one before I get to look further into them...please feel free to comment your ID suggestions!!

UPDATE:  Thanks to Allen Woodliffe for helping ID this plant!  It has been successfully ID'ed as Arctic Wintergreen (Pyrola grandiflora)


There were so many other flowers on the landscape that I either didn't take photos of, or they came out embarrassingly blurry. To see some more flowers found in the Arctic, take a peek at this amazing online guide that I found:

The flowers along the landscape added so much to an already beautiful place.  Seeing a "barren" land trickled with colour made me realize even more that this place isn't as barren as people imagine it to be.  It is alive with colour and life.