How are plants able to grow in the Arctic? There are ways that plants have adapted.

Most of the plants are small, grow close together and close to the ground. This protects them from the cold temperatures and the strong winds.

photo courtesy of Richard Evans
purple saxifrage
click on photo for larger image

Some flowering plants have fuzzy coverings on the stems, leaves and buds to provide protection from the wind. Some have woolly seed covers.

The prairie crocus (anemone patens) grows close
to the ground and is covered with fine hairs.
see a larger photo

Flowering plants use the long hours of sunlight to produce flowers quickly in the short growing season.

Some plants have cup-shaped flowers that face up to the sun, so the sun's rays are directed towards the centre of the flower. These plants stay warmer than the air around them.

Copyright 1988-2006 Thomas Kornack
The Arctic poppy has cup-shaped flowers.
see a larger photo

Others are dark coloured so the plants can absorb more solar heat.

Only the top layer of soil thaws out so plants have shallow roots.

Small leaves help the plants retain moisture.

Because of the short growing season, most tundra plants are perennials. Perennials do not die in the winter.

Some plants, like lichens, can survive on bare rock.

Moss can grow in wet places or on bare rock.

NEXT - some plants that grow in the Arctic


LINKS to other sites with
more info about plant life in the Arctic

tundra plants | plant adaptation

photo credits:
prairie crocus photo : Amanda Graham , Yukon White Light 2006/2007; Creative Commons License.
arctic poppy Copyright 1988-2006 Thomas Kornack ; This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
saxifrage photo : Richard Evans , used with permission

J.Giannetta (2000) updated August 2011

background: Arctic poppy