The term tundra is derived from Russian and refers to a specific area that is dominated by cold temperatures and high-altitudes. The tundra biome is one of the world’s harshest, but it is not so harsh that it can’t sustain life: more than 1, 700 different plant and animal species are to be found in the tundra.
The tundra has only approximately 10 days’ worth of growth time for its plants, though the climate thrives with life.
The tundra is not ideal for humans, but perfect for the creatures that call the tundra their natural habitat.
Conditions in the tundra are unlike anywhere else in the world. Temperatures lower into the extremes, and might plummet to as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Table of Contents
- What plants might you find in the tundra biome?
- List of fascinating Tundra Plants
- 1. Alpine Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis alpestris)
- 2. Alpine Foxtail (Alopecurus magellanicus)
- 3. Arctic Moss (Calliergon giganteum)
- 4. Arctic Willow (Salix arctica)
- 5. Bearberry (Arcostaphylos spp)
- 6. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
- 7. Moss Campion (Silene acaulis)
- 8. Caribou/Reindeer Moss (Cladonia rangiferina)
- 9. Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
- 10. Cottongrass (Eriophorum callitrix)
- 11. Diamond Leaf Willow (Salix planifolia)
- 12. Eightpetal Mountain-Avens (Dryas octopetala)
- 13. Labrador Tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum)
- 14. Lingonberry (Vaccinum vitis-idaea)
- 15. Northern Redcurrent (Ribes triste)
- 16. Snow Gentian (Gentiana nivalis)
- 17. Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla rununculales)
- 18. Polar Grass (Arctagrosis latifolia)
- 19. Purple Mountain Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia)
- 20. Tundra Rose (Potentilla fruticosa)
What plants might you find in the tundra biome?
The Alpine forget-me-not and foxtail are more than happy with harsh tundra conditions. Bearberry and bunchberry bushes can also survive these icy temperatures.
Here are 20 fascinating tundra plants a part of this biome.
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List of fascinating Tundra Plants
1. Alpine Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis alpestris)
The Alpine Forget-Me-Not is one of the most popular ornamental flowers in gardens throughout the United States today, but is actually native to the tundra biome.
This little blue flower happens to be the state flower of Alaska.
They are also found throughout the world thanks to their ability to adapt to most other biomes.
There are approximately 71 different types of Alpine Forget Me Not.
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2. Alpine Foxtail (Alopecurus magellanicus)
The Alpine Foxtail sounds like it should be a variety of flowers, but is actually a type of alpine grass.
This plant is called the Foxtail thanks to its appearance, with its seeds weighing down the tips. Wild foxtail exists all over the world, but this particular type grows at its happiest in the harsh alpine environment.
Outside of the alpine, common foxtail is usually considered an undesirable plant in gardens (and removed). It can sometimes be mistaken for Timothy grass in gardens.
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3. Arctic Moss (Calliergon giganteum)
Moss is one type of plant species that thrives at the tundra, and a great chunk of the more than 1, 700 tundra plants are different types of lichen or moss. Arctic Moss grows in large clusters, and is also sometimes known as Giant Spearmoss.
Arctic moss have adapted to grow in the arctic: while they still require sunlight, they do not need as much as other forms of moss outside the tundra.
Arctic moss also requires very little soil to grow – just one more adaptation for this biome. Instead of soil, Arctic moss anchors itself to water.
Thanks to its environment, Arctic moss can survive sub-zero temperatures and harsh winds.
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4. Arctic Willow (Salix arctica)
The Arctic Willow is a type of willow tree that can be found in the tundra biome. Arctic Willows have adapted to survive intensely low temperatures and make it through the worst of the tundra’s wind, frost and harsh weather.
Arctic willows can grow between 10 to 20 feet in length on average, native to the North American tundra.
The root system is part of the secret system that helps the Arctic Willow to survive under these extreme conditions.
Shallow roots help to keep the Arctic Willow protected from lowered temperatures.
Arctic Willows are important, too: Arctic Willow also acts as a natural pesticide against the most common tundra insects!
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5. Bearberry (Arcostaphylos spp)
The name Bearberry describes three different berry species that have adapted to grow in the tundra biome under harsh, lower temperatures. The common bearberry grows happily under rough tundra conditions, and can be adapted to grow outside of this without a lot of effort.
Common bearberry is not poisonous and is recommended as a natural remedy for urinary tract infections. Bearberry extract has also become popular in the cosmetics industry.
Low-growing, the average bearberry plant grows between 6 to 12 inches and is well protected against the cold of the tundra.
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6. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry plants are native to Asia and North America, where they grow just fine in colder tundra conditions – though can also be found in many of the world’s other biomes.
Bunchberries are also called the Canadian dwarf cornel, the creeping dogwood and the crackerberry: all of these are valid names for the same tundra biome plant.
Bunchberry dogwood plants are bushy, and stay close to the ground. The average bunchberry plant grows no more than 8 to 10 inches high.
They can also be found in many of the area’s forests.
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7. Moss Campion (Silene acaulis)
Moss campion is a pink-coloured type of flower (and not moss!) that is native to Eurasia and North America. It is called Moss Campion thanks to its growth pattern, which forms a mat that is not unlike various moss types.
Moss Campion is well-adapted to growing in a colder biome, with a low-growing shape that keeps the plant protected in the tundra’s harsh conditions.
Moss Campion is not edible (or at least, not tasty) for people, but its presence in the tundra helps to support a variety of other life that depends on it.
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8. Caribou/Reindeer Moss (Cladonia rangiferina)
Caribou moss is one of the many types of moss which make up the more than 1, 700 plant species you’ll find in the world’s tundra. Caribou moss grows well under the tundra’s cold blanket, but is also so adaptable that it can be seen all over the world.
It’s also known as Reindeer Moss: that’s because reindeer in the tundra have been flocking to Caribou Moss for centuries.
Reindeer Moss grows in different colors, and is a common ornamental addition for gardens: it grows easily, and it looks great!
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9. Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry is a type of rose that occurs naturally in the world’s tundra biome, known as a flavorful and edible berry that could be compared to a raspberry. Cloudberry plants are a creeping bush, and stay close to the ground for the plant’s own protection.
It’s a versatile berry type, though not everyone can say they’ve tasted one… Yet.
Cloudberry plants are also called salmonberry, bakeberry or the baked apple berry.
Cloudberries also make an ideal food for the animals that frequent the tundra habitat.
10. Cottongrass (Eriophorum callitrix)
Cottongrass (also called common cottongrass) is a grass plant that occurs throughout the world’s tundra and subarctic biomes. Cottongrass flourishes under very harsh conditions, and can also found in peat bogs far outside the tundra biome.
Cottongrass gets its name from its “fluffy” seed pods that add to this appearance. Common Cottongrass also has an industrial use, and can be used to make wicks and paper.
Technically, cottongrass is not a type of cotton, but a type of very well-adapted grass.
11. Diamond Leaf Willow (Salix planifolia)
The Diamond Leaf Willow is a type of shrub that grows best in tundra conditions, although is also found in small pockets of the United States. The Diamond Leaf Willow is actually native to the North American tundra biome, where it is called Sura.
Even though it is called a willow, Diamond Willows grow only up to 10 feet. Like most plants in the tundra biome, they remain close to the ground to protect them throughout their growth phase.
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12. Eightpetal Mountain-Avens (Dryas octopetala)
The Eightpetal Mountain Avens is a type of flowering rose that can be found native to the tundra biome, and it is also sometimes called the white dryad (or dryas).
It gets its name from the flower’s shape, which usually has only eight petals.
As one of the plants that truly flourishes in the tundra biome, the Eightpetal Mountain-Avens is the national flower of Iceland, too!
Like most rose types, Eightpetal Mountain-Avens can also be used to make a wonderful herbal tea.
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13. Labrador Tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum)
Labrador Tea is a common type of flower that is native to the tundra of New Hampshire, though it can be found almost all over the world due to its skyrocketing popularity.
The term describes three different flowers, all type of the same species – and generally, the name Labrador Tea is used to describe all three.
Labrador tea grows happily in the tundra biome, where it stays close to the ground to protect itself from low temperatures associated with its environment.
Labrador tea is commonly used to make an herbal tea from, though should always be used with extreme care. It contains a compound called ledol, which can cause cramps and eventual paralysis in large amounts.
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14. Lingonberry (Vaccinum vitis-idaea)
The LIngonberry is native to the Northern Hemisphere’s tundra biomes, and can be found in nature throughout most of the world’s northern stretch. It can be described as similar to cranberries in look, size and taste – though lingonberry has adapted to survive extreme cold and wind over time.
Lingonberry is a plant of many names, and is also known as the cowberry or mountain cranberry.
LIngonberries are popular, and you can find hundreds of recipes for what to do with lingonberries if you have any.
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15. Northern Redcurrent (Ribes triste)
The Northern Redcurrant is native to the world’s utmost Northern biomes, and is the perfect plant to survive the extreme cold of the tundra ecology. Northern Redcurrants grow close to the ground like most other tundra plants, and will produce edible berries not unlike the regular currant berry.
While this is called a currant, it is actually a type of gooseberry that has adapted to the tundra.
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16. Snow Gentian (Gentiana nivalis)
The Snow Gentian is a type of flowering plant which grows at its best in the world’s coldest climates.
Gentian sage is edible, and can be used for its anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting effects. More research says that Gentian might even help to support the body’s most important organs.
This simple flower is protected by its growth pattern: Snow Gentian survives the cold because it stays much, much closer to the ground.
There are approximately 400 different Gentian types, but the Snow Gentian really is something special.
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17. Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla rununculales)
The Pasque Flower is a type of flower that’s part of the buttercup family, but one of the only types that will grow happily under freezing and harsh weather conditions like the tundra which it calls home.
Pasque flowers are found in different variations, though some of them can be harmful to humans and animals. While Pasque flowers are great to look at, they are not the type of flowers that should find their way to your tea.
It is one of the first flowers to bloom in the tundra’s spring, with the name a literal translation of the word Passover.
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18. Polar Grass (Arctagrosis latifolia)
Polar grass is one of very few grass types that you might find in the world’s tundra biome – and polar grass has adapted to grow under the worst of the world’s extreme climates. Polar grass prefers extreme elevation and can handle the extreme cold like polar bears.
It’s one of the only types of grass that grows more than happy in the tundra biome.
Its current conservation status is Sensitive.
Polar grass is proof that more should be done in order to protect the world’s biomes.
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19. Purple Mountain Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia)
Purple Mountain Saxifrage is a type of vibrant purple flower native to the world’s Arctic and tundra biomes. Mountain saxifrage prefers to grow at very high altitudes, and can be found outside the tundra in many mountaneous areas. Sometimes, it is just referred to as purple saxifrage.
Saxifrage is an edible plant for humans, though also makes up the diet of some tundra animals like the Arctic hare.
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20. Tundra Rose (Potentilla fruticosa)
The Tundra Rose is a special type of plant that grows at its best in the harsh tundra conditions, and isn’t seen outside the extreme cold that often. Tundra roses are a bright yellow when they flower, and they are technically a member of the rose family that just happens to do well in the tundra biome.
The Potentilla fruiticosa is also known as the Shrubby Cinquefoil, and survives the tundra thanks to its closeness to the ground combined with its root system.