Life on the tundra

Arctic poppy in the snow (Photo by Teva Harrison)

Arctic poppy in the snow (Photo by Teva Harrison)

December 5, 2013 | by Teva Harrison | 2 Comments

Icebergs. Polar bears. Frozen expanses of windy rock & snow. Scurvy-riddled explorers. Dogsleds...

What do you picture when you think of the Arctic?

This summer, I had the opportunity to travel north by ship into the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada, from Greenland to Nunavut, and see for myself. A perspective-shifting, experience, to be sure; I was struck by the scale of things above the tree-line. The mountainous rocks. The endless sky. The sea. The ice.

All of this stunned me and inspired deep awe and wonder, but this was what I expected when I traveled north, into the Arctic Circle. What I didn’t expect was the delicate, dream-like carpet of tiny wildflowers blooming across the tundra. I was captivated by their beauty.

Every time we went to shore, I’d find myself lying flat with my camera, zooming in on their lovely details. And because Adventure Canada brings amazing resource staff on every trip, I was able to pepper arctic plant specialist Carolyn Mallory and Nature Conservancy of Canada Atlantic Board member professor Bill Freedman with my questions about every plant that caught my eye.

I am interested in foraging for edible plants, and when I asked, “What’s that? Can I eat it?” I learned that there are no poisonous plants in the Arctic. I wanted to taste them all. After watching my reactions with amusement, Carolyn humoured me by telling me which plants are traditionally eaten (and which aren’t) as I grazed and photographed my way across the North.

If you were wondering, dwarf fireweed and arctic bluebells are the most delicious.

  • Alpine bistort (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Alpine bistort (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Alpine catchfly (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Alpine catchfly (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Arctic cottongrass (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Arctic cottongrass (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Arctic mouse-ear chickweed (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Arctic mouse-ear chickweed (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Fireweed (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Fireweed (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Flattop Whithlow grass (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Flattop Whithlow grass (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Moss campion (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Moss campion (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Mouse-ear chickweed (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Mouse-ear chickweed (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Prickly saxifrage (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Prickly saxifrage (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Spider saxifrage (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Spider saxifrage (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Tufted saxifrage (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Tufted saxifrage (Photo by Teva Harrison)
  • Nodding campion (Photo by Teva Harrison)
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    Nodding campion (Photo by Teva Harrison)

 

About the Author

Teva Harrison is NCC's former director of marketing.

Read more about Teva Harrison.

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