CARPETS OF FLOWERS: Arctic Post #4

Lupin and Labrador tea

Lupine and Labrador tea, Bathurst Inlet, 2008

Wild flowers in the Arctic? Think of a subalpine meadow in the Canadian Rockies. The growing conditions are much the same, and so are the flowers. There are places in the Arctic where you cannot walk without stepping on barren-land beauties (as Page Burt calls them in her book of that title).

With twenty-four-hour sunlight, a tiny window of summer, and an often fierce and frigid wind, a few adaptations are necessary. Any plant that wants to grow had better do so quickly. I have gone to sleep in my tent with nary a flower in sight, only to waken to a meadow burgeoning with colour. There’s no time to grow tall, and given the harsh conditions, hugging the ground is the safest strategy.

We live in an astonishing world, where heather can be a tree on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and rhododendrons shrink to two-inch-high shrubs in the north.

 

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