Artic Flora

The Flora of East Greenland

The arctic summer is short and hectic. As soon as the sun starts melting away the snow in early May, plants of all sorts start popping up. The first spring-flower you will find is Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage). Walk a bit along the fiord, go either downhill or uphill from the road, and you will discover many little dark-green patches with beautiful purple flowers. After a long winter this is a sight for sore eyes.

In the days to follow, more heralds of spring will appear. The first ones will be the low plants close to the ground. Walking in the hills you will find cushions of flowers everywhere. One of the species that you will find is Silene acaulis (Moss Campion) with flowers in many bright shades of red-violet. Another one will be Loiseleuria procumbens (Alpine Azalea) looking ravishing with tiny pink star-flowers and magnificent dark-red buds on a background of olive-green leaves.

Diapensia lapponica (Lapland Diapensia) develop swelling buds bursting into the loveliest cream-coloured flowers. You will see the irresistible Cassiope hypnoides (Moss Heather) spread like blankets in the hills, nodding their small bell-heads gracefully in the same direction. They look like pearls having been generously sprinkled out everywhere in the green. Vaccinium uliginosum (Arctic Blueberry) also have sweet little bells, and in autumn they turn into tasty berries in the most beautiful dusty-blue colour, while the green leaves turn bordeaux.

Everything happens very fast now and you must be alert to keep up with what comes about. When you open your eyes and mind to all this profusion of vegetation, you cannot help feeling humble and moved and full of wonder and joy over the diversity and vitality of these tiny fragile fellow creatures. In the hills you will now find the peculiar looking Pedicularis hirsute and flammea (Hairy Lousewort and Flame-tipped Lousewort).

Taraxacum (Dandelion) have invaded the town and beam like happy little suns along the roads and on the slopes. Cerastium(Chickweed) are also seen everywhere with pretty white flowers. Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel) you will find in abundance. The green leaves taste fresh and sour and are rich in vitamin C, - and used in traditional Eskimo cooking. In autumn they turn glowing yellow, orange, and red.

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