Our Beautiful World


Part 5: Lowland tundra

Animals, birds and flowers on this page:

Arctic birch, Betula nana
Forget-me-not, Eritrichium villosum
birds and animals
they come in part 7
Cotton grass, Eriophorum sp
Chamisso's larkspur,
Delphinium chamissonis
Bering Sea spring beauty,
Claytonia acutifolia
Labrador tea,
Rhododendron tomentosum
Sweet-flower rock-jasmine,
Androsace chamaejasme
Arctic daisy, Arctanthemum arcticum
Golden rhododendron,
Rhododendrom aureum
Red sandwort, Minuartia rubella
Lousewort, Pedicularis sp,
Lapland rhododendron,
Rhododendron lapponicum
Mouse-ear chickweed,
Cerastium sp
Northern saw-wort, Saussurea tilesii
Kamchatka rhododendron, Rhododendron camtschaticum
Moss campion, Silene acaulis
Potentilla hyparctica
Arctic bell-heather,
Eriophorum tetragona,
Common wintergreen, Pyrola minor
Siberian anemone, Anemone sibirica
Tall Jacob's ladder,
Polemonium acutiflorum
Western bistort, Polygonum bistorioides
Sea pink, Armeria maritima

From a rearranged translation of Vladimir Dinets original pages to norwegian, with supplements.

Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon


Cumulus clouds are rare in tundra skies. Volchya River Delta, Chukotka, Russia.

Most of Chukotka is covered with low mountains, but along the coasts and the great Anadyr River
are extensive areas of lowland tundras.

Summer tundra, Amguema Valley.
Summer tundra, Volchya Valley.

Typical tundra is the most extensive. In summer (July and August) it's a soft, bright-green carpet of lichens, herbs and tiny shrubs, with lots of grasses and sedges in low-lying areas


Spring tundra from the air, Yamal Peninsula.


Tundra up close, Volchya Valley

Thermokarst lakes, Volchya Valley.

Some tundra shrubs are tiny relatives of northern trees - birch, willow, and alder. Fall colors are really beautiful in typical tundra

Arctic birch, Betula nana, Volchya Valley.

Willow, Salix sp, Volchya Valley

Dwarf Birch. Betula nana, is a species of birch in the family Betulaceae, found mainly in the tundra of the Arctic region. It is a shrub growing to 1-1.2 m high. The bark is non-peeling and shiny red-copper colored.
The leaves are rounded, 6-20 mm diameter, with a bluntly toothed margin. They become red in the autumn.
The fruiting catkins are erect, 5-15 mm long and 4-10 mm broad.


Cotton grass, Eriophorum sp., Coal Mines, Chukotka.

Cottongrass, Eriophorum, (Cottonsedge) is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the family Cyperaceae, the Sedge family. They are found throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere in acid bog
habitats, being particularly abundant in Arctic tundra regions.
They are herbaceous perennial plants with slender, grass-like leaves. The seed heads are covered in a fluffy
mass of cotton which are carried on the wind to aid dispersal.

Cotton grass is the easiest- to recognize of all tundra sedges. A dozen species occur on Chukotka, usually in wet areas. Its seeds need sunny days to spread well.


Cotton grass, Belyaka Spit.


Cotton grass, Amguema Valley.


Cotton grass, Cross Bay


Labrador tea, Rhododendron tomentosum,
Belyaka Spit.


Golden rhododendron,Rhododendrom aureum,
Cross Bay

Labrador tea, Rhododendron tomentosum, is another plant that grows all over the lowland tundra, but is
mostly confined to marshes and bogs further south. Formerly known as Ledum palustre, it's been recently
reclassified as a rhododendron, even though it looks different

Rhododendron tomentosum (syn. Ledum palustre), commonly known as Marsh Labrador tea, northern
Labrador tea or wild rosemary, is a flowering plant in the subsection Ledum of the large genus Rhododendron
in the family Ericaceae.

It is a low shrub growing to 50 cm (rarely up to 120 cm) tall with evergreen leaves 12-50 mm long and 2-12 mm broad. The flowers are small, with a five-lobed white corolla, and produced several together in a corymb 3-5 cm diameter. They emit strong smell to attract bees and other pollinating insects.

In North America it is found growing in northern latitudes in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska, in Europe in the northern and central parts, and in Asia south to northern China, Korea and Japan. It grows in peaty soils,
shrubby areas, moss and lichen tundra.


Lapland rhododendron, Rhododendron lapponicum parviflorum, Cross Bay.

Lapland rhododendron, Rhododendron lapponicum, A low, mat-forming, evergreen shrub with scaly twigs
and few-flowered clusters of bell-shaped, pink to lavender flowers. Lapland rhododendron is an aromatic,
mat-forming, dwarf shrub, often only 2 in. high; seldom more than 12 in. high. Close-ranked, oblong, dark-green
leaves with rusty scales occur on the thick stems and knotty branches. One to five, purple, fragrant flowers
appear in terminal clusters at the ends of the branchlets.

This little, mat-forming shrub is one of the first showy alpine species to flower.

Other species of this genus are a bit less common on Chukotka, but much more showy. They prefer drier habitats

Lapland rhododendron, Cross Bay.

Kamchatka rhododendron, Cross Bay.


Kamchatka rhododendron, Rhododendron camtschaticum, Cross Bay.

Kamchatka rhododendron, Rhododendron camtschaticum is more difficult to spell right than it is to grow,
if you can provide the conditions it demands.

Looking at this rather rarely grown deciduous rhododendron in subgenus Therorhodion for the first time one
would have a hard time deciding to which genus it belongs, though Rhododendron would surely come to mind.
A very curious and beautiful rhododendron it has obovate leaves with bristly margins and leafs out periously
early if you are prone to late frost in early May. Virtually prostrate in my garden it rises no higher than about
7cm. and forms a mat about 50cm. across after more than 20 years.

Unlike most rhododendrons it is mildly stoloniferous. Plants with no apparent flower buds in Autumn shock and
confound all with an eruption of bloom the following spring. The clever buds were there all along, neatly tucked
away inside the woody stems and embedded in spring’s first green shoots. In bloom the 4-5cm flowers are
reminiscent of pansies dancing above the mat on stout little pedicels, quite a magical effect.
by John Weagle, Halifax, Nova Scotia , http://www.rhododendron.no/Artikler/2003-1-jw.htm

Other plants of heather family often cover extensive areas of tundra

Arctic bell-heather, Eriophorum tetragona,
Cross Bay.

Arctic bell-heather, Anadyr area.


Tall Jacob's ladder, Polemonium acutiflorum, Cross Bay.

Tall Jacob's ladder, Cross Bay..

Blue flowers are relatively uncommon
on the tundra.

Tiny Forget-me-not, Eritrichium villosum,
Cross Bay.

But in some places, they form beautiful
"lakes" of color

Tall Jacob's ladder, Cross Bay.
Northern wolfsbane,
Aconitum productum, Anadyr.
Arctic forget-me-not,
Eritrichium nanum, Cross Bay.
Chamisso's larkspur,
Delphinium chamissonis
, Anadyr.

Aconitum known as aconite, monkshood, wolf's bane, leopard's bane, women's bane, Devil's helmet or blue rocket,
is a genus of over 250 species of flowering plants belonging to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae.

These herbaceous perennial plants are chiefly natives of the mountainous parts of the northern hemisphere, growing in
moisture retentive but well draining soils on mountain meadows. Their dark green leaves lack stipules.
They are palmate or deeply palmately lobed with 5–7 segments. Each segment again is 3-lobed with coarse sharp
teeth. The leaves have a spiral or alternate arrangement. The lower leaves have long petioles.

The tall, erect stem is crowned by racemes of large blue, purple, white, yellow or pink zygomorphic flowers with
numerous stamens. They are distinguishable by having one of the five petaloid sepals (the posterior one), called the
galea, in the form of a cylindrical helmet; hence the English name monkshood. There are 2–10 petals, in the form of
nectaries. The two upper petals are large. They are placed under the hood of the calyx and are supported on long stalks.
They have a hollow spur at their apex, containing the nectar. The other petals are small and scale-like or non-forming.
The 3–5 carpels are partially fused at the base.

The fruit is a follicle, a follicle being a dry, unilocular, many-seeded fruit formed from one carpel, and dehiscing by the ventral suture in order to release seeds.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aconitum

Arctic forget-me-not, Eritrichium nanum, - While looking for info on this plant, we found this report from an expedition in the Swiss Alps, and we think it says more about the 'forget-me-not' plant than anything else.
Please forgive us if any copyright involved.:

Always a botanical highlight of a Swiss Alpine expedition, this little cushion plant of the Boraginacaea family was growing in the most inhospitable terrain at 10,000 feet in an environment of acid rocks, snow gullies and receding glaciers. At this site on Piz Nair it was accompanied by yellow Saxifraga exarata (White Musky Saxifrage), pink Androsace alpina (Alpine Rock Jasmine), greeny yellow Minuartia sedoides (Mossy Cyphel), white Ranunculus glacialis (Glacier Crowfoot) and deep blue Gentiana bavarica (Bavarian Gentian) with some of the largest blooms on Geum reptans (Creeping Avens) which we encountered during a week in the Alps.

It was an astounding rock garden of all the colours in a stunning setting. In spite of this, other tourists, oblivious to the flowering plants, walked all over them to try to get a view of the distant mountains. Had this been a site in the British isles no-one would have been allowed near it; a bossy warden would have warned of penalties for unauthorised access and we would have taken photos with telephoto lenses only.
Yet the plants flourish. Perhaps tourists distribute seed over the plateau and help to retain the diversity of the population.

Eritrichium nanum is a circumpolar alpine which occurs in North American Rockies as well as the European Alps. It can be deep blue, powder blue, pale blue or even white. It was thought to be mostly self pollinated but recent studies have shown that small flies pollinate the plants effectively even at this altitude.
Source: http://www.ukwildflowers.com/Web_pages/eritrichium_nanum_king_of_the_alps.htm

Delphinium Chamissonis,
or more commonly know as Chamisso’s Larkspur, is a forb/herb (a forb/herb is a non-
woody plant that is not a grass) of the genus Delphinium. Its duration is perennial which means it will grow year after year. Delphinium Chamissonis or Chamisso’s Larkspur‘s floral region is North America US Lower 48, specifically in the
state of Alaska.

White, pink, and yellow flowers are much more common in the lowlands, while red and yellow dominate the slopes


Sweet-flower rock-jasmine,
Androsace chamaejasme, Cross Bay.


Sweet-flower rock-jasmine, Belyaka Spit.

Androsace is the second largest genus in the Primulaceae. It is a predominantly Arctic-alpine genus with many species in the Himalayas (where the genus originated), the mountains of central Asia, the Caucasus, and the southern and central European mountain systems, particularly the Alps and the Pyrenees.

Recent molecular studies show that the genera Douglasia (found in north-western North America and easternmost Siberia), Pomatosace (an Himalayan endemic) and Vitaliana (a European endemic) belong within Androsace.

Plants of this genus are sometimes known as rock jasmines or fairy candelabras and are widely cultivated by horticulturists for their dense cushions covered in white or pink flowers. There are about 110 species.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androsace

Red sandwort, Minuartia rubella,
Belyaka Spit.
Mouse-ear chickweed,
Cerastium sp., Cross Bay.

Moss campion, Silene acaulis,
Cross Bay.

Red sandwort, Minuartia rubella is a species of flowering plant in the pink family known by several common names, including beautiful sandwort, Arctic sandwort, and boreal stitchwort. It has a circumboreal distribution, occurring throughout the northernmost Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle on the Arctic tundra into the alpine climates of mountainous areas in temperate Eurasia and North America. It grows in rocky, moist, often barren habitat, including gravelly, sparsely vegetated slopes with little organic matter. It is a calciphile, growing in calcareous substrates such as soils rich in decomposed limestone.

This is a small, mat-forming perennial herb growing in a low, tight clump of hairy, glandular herbage. The green, three-veined leaves are needlelike or flattened, no more than a centimeter long and a millimeter wide. The plant blooms in summer with tiny flowers made up of pointed sepals under 4 millimeters long and five white petals
roughly the same length or slightly smaller.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minuartia_rubella

Mouse-ear chickweed, Cerastium is a genus of annual, winter annual, or perennial plants belonging to the family Caryophyllaceae. The around 100 species are commonly called Mouse-ear chickweed; different species are found nearly worldwide but the greatest concentration is mainly from the northern temperate areas of the world.
A number are common weeds in fields and on disturbed ground.

Moss campion, Silene acaulis, or Cushion Pink is a small mountain-dwelling wildflower that is common all
over the high arctic and tundra in the higher mountains of Eurasia and North America, (south to the Alps, Carpathians, southern Siberia, Pyrenees, British Isles, Faroe Islands, Rocky Mountains). It is a evergreen perennial.

Moss campion is a low, ground-hugging plant.It may seem densely matted and moss-like. The dense cushions are up to a foot or more in diameter. The plants are usually about 2" tall but may be as much as 6". The bright, green leaves are narrow and arise from the base of the plant. The dead leaves from the previous season persist for years, and pink flowers are borne singly on short stalks up to 1 and 1/2" long, but are usually much shorter. It usually has pink flowers and very rarel they will be white. The flowers are solitary and star-shaped. They are about 1.2 cm wide. They usually appear in June through August. The flowers are held by a calyx which makes it firm and thick. The flowers are pollinated by Lepidoptera and are hermaphrodites meaning they are both sexes.

Great wildflower displays don't occur every year. Some summers are cold and rainy,
the snow doesn't melt until July, and there are few flowers. Snow can fall at any time of the year

Common wintergreen, Pyrola minor, Cross Bay.

Western bistort, Polygonum bistorioides, Cross Bay.

Common wintergreen, Pyrola minor, known by the common names snowline wintergreen and lesser
wintergreen, is a plant species of the genus Pyrola. It has a Circumboreal distribution and can be found
throughout the northern latitudes of Eurasia and North America.

Western bistort, Polygonum bistortoides (American bistort, smokeweed or mountain meadow knotweed),
syn. Bistorta bistortoides, is a perennial herb in the genus Polygonum.

It is distributed throughout the Mountain West in North America from Alaska and British Columbia south into California and east into the Rocky Mountains. The plant grows from montane foothills to above the timberline, although plants growing above 7,500 feet are smaller and seldom reach more than 12 inches in height. Plants in other areas may reach over half a meter-1.5 feet tall. The leaves are leathery and up to 40 centimeters long,
and are mostly basal on the stem. The dense cylindrical to oblong inflorescence is packed with small white
to pinkish flowers, each a few millimeters wide and with protruding stamens.

American bistort was an important food plant used by American Indians living in the Mountain West, and the
roots are edible either raw or fire-roasted with a flavor resembling chestnuts. The seeds can be dried and
ground into flour and used to make bread. They were also roasted and eaten as a cracked grain.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygonum_bistortoides

Bering Sea spring beauty, Claytonia acutifolia,
Russkaya Koshka Spit.

Arctic daisy, Arctanthemum arcticum, Dionisia Cape.

Bering Sea spring beauty, Claytonia acutifolia, is found on tundra and stony slopes of bald mountains.
Marshy ground in moss and lichen tundra and alder and birch thickets, scree and talus of mountain slopes,
sea level to 2000 metres. It is spread over Northwestern N. America to Asia in the Arctic circle.

Claytonia acutifolia is a Perennial growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in). It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds
ripen in May. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil.The plant prefers acid soils. and can grow in very acid soils. It cannot grow in the shade.It requires moist soil.

The summer of 2007, when most photos on this page were taken, was warm and sunny,
so wildflower blooms were splendid

Lousewort, Pedicularis sp, Ioanna River.

Northern saw-wort, Saussurea tilesii, Cross Bay.

Pedicularis is a genus of perennial green root parasite plants belonging to the broomrape family Orobanchaceae.
Between 350 and 600 species are accepted by different authorities, mostly from the wetter northern temperate zones, as well as from South America. The highest diversity is in eastern Asia, with 352 species accepted in China alone by the Flora of China.

The common name lousewort, applied to several species, derives from an old belief that these plants, when ingested, were responsible for lice infestations in stock.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedicularis

Saussurea is a genus of about 300 species of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, native to cool temperate and arctic regions of Asia, Europe, and North America, with the highest diversity in alpine habitats in the Himalaya and central Asia. Common names include saw-wort and snow lotus, the latter used for a number of high altitude species in central Asia.

They are perennial herbaceous plants, ranging in height from dwarf alpine species 5–10 cm tall, to tall thistle-like plants up to 3 m tall. The leaves are produced in a dense basal rosette, and then spirally up the flowering stem.
The flowers form in a dense head of small capitula, often surrounded by dense white to purple woolly hairs;
the individual florets are also white to purple. The wool is densest in the high altitude species, and aid in thermoregulation of the flowers, minimising frost damage at night, and also preventing ultraviolet light damage
from the intense high altitude sunlight.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saussurea


Cinquefoils: Potentilla ? cuneata (left, center), Potentilla hyparctica. Cross Bay.

Siberian anemone, Anemone sibirica, Cross Bay.
Arctic summer is intense, but very short.

Locoweed, Oxytropis sp., Vrangel Island.

In August, autumn already begins.

Sea pink, Armeria maritima, Sbornaya River.

Volchya delta, Chukotka, Russia.

Part 6. Lowland tundra (continued)

Back to part 4

All pictures, unless otherwise stated, Copyright © Vladimir Dinets


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