Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

General Information








Indigenous Knowledge

Plants as Climatic Change Indicators

Plants as Monitors of Anthropogenic Activities

Flowers as Arctic Ambassadors

Historical Perspectives


Porsild's Illustrated Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (1957, 1964) has been the authority for vascular plants of the arctic islands of Canada for more than 40 years during which time there has been considerable research on Arctic vascular plants. The present product attempts to summarise the post-1957 literature, the information that has resulted from the Panarctic Flora project (Nordal and Razzhivin 1999, Elven et al. 2003), and the current nomenclature for the Arctic Flora in Flora of North America. This new Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago brings together the existing state of knowledge and should provide a framework for further research. It is a basis for people working with plants in the Canadian Arctic and the circumpolar Arctic regions.

This Flora of the vascular plants of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is in DELTA electronic database format. It provides illustrated, interactive identification to the 349 taxa known to occur on the Canadian Arctic Islands. The Flora developed from the Poaceae treatment, which was first released in 1995 (Aiken et al. 1995a), in conjunction with a paper describing the methodology (Aiken et al. 1996). It represented the culmination of 11 years of work on Arctic grasses. The next treatment was the Saxifragaceae, which was released in 1997 (McJannet et al. 1997, Aiken et al. 1998). The treatment of the nine families in the combined Pteridophytes and Monocotyledons of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was available for review purposes from the authors in 2001. Treatments of the dicotyledon families were released as they were produced. Early versions of these treatments are currently available on the web. The present treatment is extensively revised and available only on this CD.

In 1998, work on the flowering plants of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago became part of a Panarctic Flora initiative led by Norway and involved all countries that have Arctic territories (Nordal and Razzhivin 1999). It resulted in the first preliminary version of the Panarctic Flora Checklist (Elven et al. 2003). This draft checklist suggested the name to be used for a given species and tried to represent the best consensus that could be achieved at the time, given differences in species concept and botanical traditions in the circumpolar area. After Elven became a co-author on the Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in 2000, his extensive work on synonymy for the Panarctic Flora Checklist (Elven et al. 2003), along with his work on compiling the original sources of data on chromosome numbers (personal communication, 2002), were incorporated for the species occurring in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The Panarctic Flora project has revealed many areas where research is needed to clarify taxonomic and nomenclatural problems and simultaneously how little botanical work is being done in Canada relative to other Arctic countries. Most authors writing for Flora of North America have not done detailed studies on the Arctic taxa nor have they included or accessed the work of the Panarctic Flora Checklist. Where there are debates about the current nomenclature for a taxon, or differences between the names used in the Flora of North America treatment and the Panarctic Flora Checklist, this is documented and the reasons for names chosen are provided.

Information in this Flora includes common names, place of valid publication, location of type specimens, and synonymy. The synonymy attempts to consider all names that have been associated with the Canadian Arctic, particularly by Polunin (1940a), Porsild (1957, 1964), Hultn (1968b), Porsild and Cody (1980), and Cody (1996). The taxonomy and nomenclature currently used in North America is being presented in Flora of North America (Flora of North America Editorial Committee) as volumes appear. The Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago also includes information on vegetative and floral morphological characters, distribution and habitat data. For all taxa in this treatment, at least 50 characters were recorded and some have information for over 100 characters. There are notes on ecology, indigenous knowledge, economic uses, and other information available from diverse literature sources. The databases include definitions of characters and often colour images or line drawings to illustrate the character concepts used. Taxa are illustrated with photographs showing habitats, close-up images of the plants, and details of characteristics for identification. There are maps with point references from vouchered collections. These are mainly based on specimens housed at the Canadian Museum of Nature (CAN), the Department of Agriculture Canada Herbarium (DAO) and fewer records from Queens University (QT), University of Victoria (UVIC), Gray Herbarium (GH), Smithsonian Institution (US), Brigham Young University (BRY), New York Botanical Garden (NY), Oslo Botanical Garden and Museum (O), and the Komarov Institute, St. Petersburg (LE).

This flora provides detailed information on 349 species and subspecific taxa known to occur, or possibly to be found, in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. In the first Illustrated Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Porsild (1957, 1964) summarised his findings in Appendix Table 1. In this table, he included approximately 40 species that had not been found but should be looked for on the Arctic Islands. It is difficult to make direct comparisons between the state of knowledge in Porsild (1957, 1964) and this current treatment, because changes in species concepts, taxonomy, and nomenclature have occurred during the intervening years as the result of research.

Many areas of the Canadian Arctic are little known botanically and some have never been visited by botanists. One example is the recent discovery of approximately 10 species new to the area, which were found by the team of botanists on the Tundra North Expedition (1999). Many of these occur on the coastal continental Northwest Territories and should be looked for on southeastern Victoria Island (Wollaston Peninsula: Forsyth Bay) opposite Bernard Harbour. This was a traditional area for the Copper Eskimos to cross from the mainland to the Island (Map Jenness 1991, p. 346). Plants were collected in this area by members of the Arctic Expedition, 1913-1918, and a list of plants collected by Diamond Jenness who had made the crossing is given as an appendix (Jenness 1991). He was not a trained botanist, and the list of 41 plants he collected and deposited at the Canadian Museum of Nature suggests that he was more attracted to those with conspicuous flowers. We are unaware of significant botanical collections in the area since then.

Arctic has been defined as comprising all land surfaces lying north of the treeline, which in general follows the 10C isotherm for the warmest month of the year. The position of this line across Canada is shown in the following map from the National Atlas of Canada

Vegetation cover map of Canada showing treeline (green to mauve)

Treeline is a zone rather than a line. Scott (1996) recognised five different groups, or stages in the transition between forest and tundra habitat:



Trees have full crowns, with little or no damage done by wind.



A tree may have a zone of upwind abrasion where all the needles have been blown off the branches and even the branches have been blow away.



Trees have a dense cluster of branches or basal rosette (basal mass, skirt, or cushion) usually near the ground, where the snow builds up each year. As well as having a zone of upwind abrasion, there is a zone of total abrasion where all the branches and needles have been abraded off. The upper part of the tree, which has all of the branches intact, is called the flag.



There is a basal rosette, but no true flag. The flag is important because if a tree does not produce a stem with an apical bud it may not reproduce sexually.



There is only the basal rosette, which can either be elevated off the ground or grow within it. These stemless mats reproduce by cloning themselves. This happens when an older branch near the ground becomes weighted down and gets buried in the accumulating peat. The branch will root and turn upright, becoming a new tree.

Note a foreground tree with a basal rosette and flags that have suffered slight wind abrasion in the winter. Churchill, Manitoba.

Stunted trees of the group ‘ii’ recognised by Scott (1996). The ‘trees’ have a basal rosette and flags that have suffered severe wind abrasion. This area is between forest-tundra and tundra. Churchill, Manitoba.

Isolated trees in the tundra beyond the treeline. Right of centre is an isolated clump or ‘island’ of group ‘ii’ trees in an otherwise tundra landscape. Left on the horizon are type ‘i’ trees that are merely basal rosettes. This area is considered tundra although occasional trees occur. Such trees probably reproduce only by vegetative cloning. Churchill, Manitoba.

Drawing from Scott (1996) showing tundra to forest transition.

Continuous forest is unambiguously below the treeline. About 100 km southwest of Churchill, Manitoba, there are areas of open forest where the trees are full-crowned, indicating no damage from wind abrasion, but collectively the trees never cover more than about 25% of ground surface. Where the abraded crown forms occur in a stand, they are referred to as woodlands of the forest-tundra (taiga) zone. Sometimes this zone includes tight clumps of cloned trees or ‘islands‘. The tundra zone is where there are no trees, or where trees occur as stemless mats.

Porsild and Cody (1980) noted that the position of treeline on Continental North America has changed periodically, as demonstrated by (a) plant remains preserved in peat deposits, (b) the presence of numerous woodland plants now localised in favoured situations well beyond the present limits of forest, and (c) conversely, the presence of isolated pockets of tundra species that have survived within the forested region on rocky exposures or in bogs where competition from woodland species has been slight.

Edlund and Alt (1989) discussed regional congruence of vegetation and summer climate patterns in the Queen Elizabeth Islands (Axel Heiberg, Ellesmere, and Devon) relevant to the mapped mini-treeline. Beyond this line, the two northernmost tundra woody species, Salix arctica and Dryas integrifolia, did not grow. It was found to be related to the July isotherm being less than 4C.

By any of the botanically based definitions, the entire Canadian Arctic Archipelago is unambiguously Arctic although the southern regions are below the Arctic Circle (6633'N). The Arctic Archipelago has an area of 1.42 million km2 (about 549,000 sq. mi.); approximately two-thirds of the area of Greenland. From east to west, the Archipelago extends from the eastern tip of Baffin Island to the southwest corner of Banks Island, a distance of about 3000 km. In a north-south direction, it extends from Mansel Island (6134'N) and Akpatok Island (6012'N) to Cape Columbia (8339'N), on the north coast of Ellesmere Island, a distance of about 3000 km.

The southern section is divided by the Boothia Peninsula into an eastern and western section. The principal topographical feature of the eastern section is Baffin Island (422,000 km2). Banks and Victoria islands dominate the western section. In the northern part, the Queen Elizabeth Islands form a natural topographic and phytogeographic northern extension of the eastern Arctic. To the west, the Sverdrup and Parry island groups form a more or less natural and phytogeographic unit.

Region covered by the Flora.

Place names in Northern Canada.



Geologically, the land surface of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is young, and repeated glaciations and deglaciations have had a profound impact in shaping landforms and determining drainage patterns (Heginbottom 1989). Over the last 2 million years, the North has known several ice ages. The last one, the Wisconsin, began some 25,000 years ago. During that ice age, two huge ice sheets, the Laurentide and the Cordillera, covered most of North America. These ice sheets reached a maximum thickness of 4000 and 2000 m, respectively. Some time around 18,000 years ago, as the climate warmed, these huge ice sheets began to retreat. Soon, an ice-free corridor appeared along the eastern edge of the Cordillera ice sheet, connecting the unglaciated areas in Yukon with the rest of ice-free North America. In doing so, it provided a migration route for plants in the south to move north. By about 10,000 years ago, most of these two ice sheets had melted (Bone 1992). An extensive area around Old Crow Flats in the Yukon and extending into Alaska is known to have been an ice-free refugium during the last ice age and also an area from which plants returned to the formerly glaciated areas. There are also indications that most of Banks Island and parts of Western Victoria Island may have been ice-free.

Porsild et al. (1967) documented germinating lupin (Lupinus arcticus) seeds that were at least 10,000 years old and found in lemming burrows deeply buried in permanently frozen silt of Pleistocene age from Miller Creek (6400'N, 14046'W), an unglaciated area of central Yukon. This suggests that some species may have been able to survive the last ice age in situ.

Extent of ice sheets.

The remains of the last ice age are seen in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in ice caps that occur on Baffin (Penny and Barns ice caps), Devon, Axel Heiberg (Franz Műller Ice Cap), and Ellesmere islands (Prince of Wales, Sydkapand, Agassiz and an unnamed ice cap). There is a small, unnamed ice cap on Melville Island. Ice caps flow outwards in several directions and submerge most or all of the underlying land, while a glacier flows in one direction and is normally confined to a valley. Glaciers exist on Axel Heiberg, Baffin, and Ellesmere islands and are currently retreating. The retreat of a glacier in Sverdrup Pass (7908'N and 8030'W), Ellesmere Island, was monitored by Svoboda, who had a field station there for many years (Svoboda and Freedman 1994).

During the advance and retreat of ice sheets, two geomorphic processes took place. First, the advancing ice sheet caused glacial erosion; later, the retreating ice sheet deposited debris on the land. Glacial erosion took various forms such as scraping off the unconsolidated material and plucking out huge chunks of bedrock. Where the bedrock was highly resistant, the rock was scraped and scoured. Evidence of such massive erosion is found on Baffin Island. During the retreat of an ice age, debris held in the ice sheets was deposited on the land, for example, as eskers (long, narrow ridges of sorted sands and gravels deposited from melt streams within the decaying ices sheet) and ground moraines, or till (unsorted material deposited by a melting ice sheet or glacier).



One of the principal topographical features of the Arctic Archipelago is the mountain range that extends in a south to north direction from Labrador across Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, and Axel Heiberg islands. This range, which in some sections reaches elevations of 2400–3000 m (8000–10000 ft.), strongly affects the climate of the rest of the Archipelago because it acts like a mechanical barrier to the flow of air.

Relief map.

There are two major breaks in this mountain range: the Hudson Strait, which separates Ungava-Labrador from Baffin Island, and Lancaster Sound, which separates Baffin and Devon. Both are important physiographic boundaries. Lancaster Sound (and its westward projection through Barrow Strait, Viscount Melville Sound, and McClure Strait) is a major topographical feature, dividing the Archipelago into well-marked northern and southern parts.

Although most of the ground surface in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is ice-free in the summer, permafrost occurs below the surface everywhere except under deep lakes and rivers. Permafrost is defined as ground remaining at or below the freezing point for at least 2 years. At some sites the depth of permafrost may exceed several hundred metres, while at more southerly sites its depth may be less than 10 m. The greatest thicknesses in Canada are over 1000 m deep in areas of Baffin and Ellesmere islands. The southern extent of the permafrost is associated with the mean annual air temperature isotherm of 0C (P. Williams 1986). The annual thaw of the surface, or active layer, varies with the texture and water content. In sand and gravel, the active layer may be deep, whereas in wet peaty soil, the summer thaw may penetrate only a few inches. On sloping ground, mass wasting, in the form of soil creeps, mudflows, and other types of solifluction (processes of downslope movement of often saturated soil caused by frost action), is common and widespread during early summer when the thawed surface layer reaches a critical point of water saturation. On level ground, where the surface soil remains saturated because the permafrost layer does not permit meltwater to escape, various forms of soil movement develop, causing frost boils and mud polygons of various sizes. These movements result from convection currents caused by repeated thawing and freezing, and are most active under extreme arctic conditions such as are found in the northern parts of the Archipelago and at high elevations. Substrate movement is prevalent in surface material derived from the more rapidly weathering Palaeozoic rocks and from the freeze-thaw action that creates periglacial landforms such as pingos and patterned ground.

Patterned ground is found throughout the Arctic except for areas of solid bedrock. The name refers to areas of symmetrical forms, usually polygons, caused by intense frost action over a long period of time. Ice wedges are commonly associated with patterned ground. The general process of frost heave is for coarse stones to move to the surface and outwards. Ice wedges are typically V-shaped in section and the ice is vertically foliated. Large polygonal ground patterns usually indicate the present of ice wedges beneath the troughs delimiting the polygons. The polygonal patterns are best developed on poorly drained peaty flats. On hillsides, a ribbon patterning, which follows runoff water pathways from the top to the bottom, is often conspicuous from the air. Especially in areas with less than 5% ground cover, the 'ribbons' often appear as a darker brown-green, as they are areas of dense cryptogamic mats and higher plants, while the adjacent ground appears bare and a lighter colour. Permafrost influences plant growth everywhere by cooling the soil and forming a barrier to water movement.



Physical scientists (Bostock 1964, Bird 1972, Graf 1987, and Slaymaker 1988) have described a set of geomorphic regions for Canada. Two geomorphic regions occur in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Geomorphic regions.

The bedrock geology of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago consists largely of a metamorphic Precambrian bedrock composed of mainly granite and gneiss and of a lower Paleozoic sedimentary rock composed of a major calcium carbonate complex (Dyke 1984, Edlund and Alt 1989).

Areas with underlying Canadian Shield tend to have more acidic or circumneutral substrates; those of the remaining Arctic Islands are more calcareous and have a distinctly alkaline pH. Lake waters located on the Shield, such as on Baffin Island, are generally poorly buffered, low in conductivity and with relatively low pH values. Magnetic susceptibility values of lake sediments from this region are higher owing to the leaching of aluminium and iron from the bedrock. Lakes on carbonate bedrock are typically well buffered with high pH values due to the presence of the calcium carbonate complex (e.g., Lim et al. 2001, Pienitz et al. 1997a, b).

Floras differ markedly between areas with acidic soils and areas of limestone that have many basophile species but lack acidophile species. Soil factors rarely coincide with other environmental boundaries. This is strikingly apparent in the plant collections from around Holman, Victoria Island, where there are several records of acidophile species on an island predominantly covered with calcareous till.

Surface materials map.

The surface materials map shows that the Holman area has a rock formation unlike the calcareous till that covers most of Banks Island and much of Victoria Island, and this suggests a major factor influencing plant distribution.

Sylvia Edlund, who did field work with teams from the Geological Survey of Canada, incorporated excellent substrate information into the herbarium labels of specimens which she deposited at CAN, but few other plant collectors have done so.

True zonal soils are not found in most of the Arctic (Bone 1992). Periglacial features, such as bare rock and a variety of unconsolidated gravels and sand, form the ground surface. Walker and Peters (1977) reported on soils at the Truelove Lowlands, Devon Island (7640'N, 8440'W). They studied several sites in the area, including a beach ridge, a sedge meadow, and a large peat mound. They found that most of the soil profiles were low in available nutrients, although where there was a high concentration of organic material, the concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus was higher. These authors considered that, compared with soils from more temperate regions, the available nutrients were low. Water holding capacity of all the soils in the area was found to be very low due to their coarse, sandy, and gravely nature. Soils on the beach ridge were considered droughty because of their exposure and coarse texture. Although such soils can be saturated during the spring, any moisture that falls on them during the growing season percolates readily through.

Where thin soils have formed in the continuous permafrost zone, they are often classified as cryosols (soils which have an active or thawed layer of less than 1 m in depth). Under these conditions, soil-forming processes work extremely slowly because soil temperatures are often just above the freezing point. In the most barren zone, freezing temperatures occur almost daily and permafrost is present near the surface throughout the year. The conditions are an extreme form of fell field. Some authors use the term 'polar desert' to describe such barren lowlands (e.g., Svoboda and Freedman 1994, Elvebakk 1999). Others object to the word 'desert', arguing that even where the surface soils appear dry and there is minimal precipitation (for example, northeastern Ellesmere Island), there is constantly water available for plant growth from melting of the top of the permafrost in summer, which releases water that seeps up through the soil around plant roots even when the visible ground surface is desert-like dry (Yurtsev 1994). In areas called 'polar deserts' or 'zone 2' (CAVM team 2003), wind-swept, desert-like stony barrens or clay flats, flat-topped domes, rolling hills, or extensive flat terraces are common features wherever Paleaozoic rocks predominate. Such habitats carry a sparse vegetation of xerophytic vascular plant species with tufted habit. The plants are commonly subjected to frost heave and the species that have successfully colonised are generally confined to the depressions between the polygons. Woody species, especially members of the heath family, are lacking. In contrast to the dry desert-like conditions which are in areas that can be relatively 'warm' in summer, some of the most barren sites in the Canadian Arctic are desert-like in their lack of higher plant species, but relatively wet on the ground surface, for example, on the western side of Prince Patrick Island where the mean July temperature is less than 4C (Zone A, Elvebakk et al. 1999; Zone 1 on the CAVM map, Gould, personal communication, 2003).



The general description for the climate of the Arctic and sub-Arctic is ‘continental’ on the continents and oceanic over the polar sea. Midsummer temperatures sometimes reach 30C in the shade at points on the continent that are a considerable distance beyond the Arctic Circle, and in winter the mercury drops to -50C, or even lower. However, the coldest temperatures in North America (Stefansson’s ‘Cold pole’) occur at least 100 mi. below the Arctic Circle (Stefansson 1939).

In the Arctic Archipelago, during the month of July, the average temperature is less than 10C. It is noteworthy that there is surprisingly little difference between the summer temperature in the southern and northern parts, although the Archipelago extends over more than 20 of latitude. This is fundamentally important when considering distribution and growth of plants.

Maximum temperatures, July.

As summer approaches, the mean temperatures rise gradually and relatively uniformly throughout the Archipelago, so that in June, they vary little from place to place, except along the coast bordering the Polar Seas, on ice caps, and at high elevations. The uniform summer temperature is due to the moderating effect of the cold seas, which surround the islands, and are largely ice-covered even in the summer. A secondary effect of the moderating influence of the cold seas is the formation of a low cloud cover during July and August which prevails over most of the Archipelago and absorbs a large part of the solar heat that otherwise would reach the ground. Researchers, working from the Polar Continental Shelf base on Cornwallis Island at Resolute Bay, are familiar with the frequent fogs that close the airport, especially in August.

In the winter, the influence of the sea has the opposite effect because the sea, despite its ice-cover, is then often much warmer than the surrounding land areas. Although the monthly mean winter temperatures are low, the absolute minimum temperatures are much above those of the interior northern Continental North America far to the south, or Antarctica.

Minimum temperatures, January.

Winter arrives at the end of August in the High Arctic and by the end of September in most of the Low Arctic. The first day of continuous snow cover for Iqaluit, Baffin Island, is usually about 20 September. Spring does not come until mid-June in most places; the last day for frost in Iqaluit is usually about 21 June. It snows least in the Eureka - Lake Hazen region (about 45 cm) and most in southeastern Baffin Island (up to 600 cm). The midwinter is very cold and continuously dark; for about 45 days in the middle Arctic region around the 70th parallel, and for 120 days at Eureka 80N. During the two coldest months, January and February, temperatures average from about -25C in the south to about -35C in the far north, adjacent to the Arctic Ocean. Eventually the Arctic Archipelago north of the Arctic Circle has continuous sunlight, 140 days from April to September at Eureka.


Meso-scale climate patterns in the Canadian Arctic can be largely explained by physiographic factors (Atkinson 2000). In regions that are governed by the northwesterly flow of the atmospheric circulation from the central Arctic Ocean, coldest summer temperatures occur. For instance, the extreme arctic ecosystem of the western Queen Elizabeth Islands is a result of the persistent airflow from the central Arctic Ocean. The high mountain range across Baffin, Devon, and Ellesmere islands acts as a mechanical barrier (Ray 1951), and brings about summer temperature maximums (Edlund and Alt 1989). In the Queen Elizabeth Islands, the intermontane zone of Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere islands near the Fosheim Peninsula and the Lake Hazen area are known oases, as is the area around Alexandra Fiord on the eastern side of the island (Edlund et al. 1989, Svoboda and Freedman 1994). At oases, greater snow accumulation occurs within more hilly and mountainous regions. This protects plants during the winter and increases moisture from melting snow during the summer (Remmert 1980). Oases zones are covered by vegetation that is dense and diverse with a rich flora, a high total extent of plant cover, and the diversity of plant communities (Edlund and Alt 1989). They are atypical of the latitudinal region, which is considered mostly Polar Desert (Muc 1977). Other polar oases occur in a series of lowlands on the northeast side of Devon Island. They are Sverdrup (26 km2), Sparbo-Hardy (86 km2), Skogn (13 km2), and Truelove (43 km2). Similar areas occur on Bathurst Island at Polar Bear Pass, Melville Island at Sherard Bay, and Prince Patrick Island at Mould Bay, and south of the Parry Channel, there are known oases on Baffin Island at Burwash Bay (Jacobs, personal communication, 1986). Suspected oases, where the willows are over 2 m tall, are at Willow Creek off the Soper River on southern Baffin Island, on Southampton Island near Coral Harbour, and Melville Island near Minto Inlet.


Differences between soil surface and air temperatures can be considerable and are largely influenced by direct insolation and wind velocity (Soper and Powell 1985). These authors reported that at Lake Hazen (Ellesmere Island), on 23 May 1958, surface soil temperatures as high as 21-24C were recorded on a south-facing slope, a full 2 weeks before the air at the screen height for measuring temperature (1.5 m) rose above freezing for the first time. During the day on 23 May, the maximum air temperature recorded at the screen was only -5.6C. Similar observations have been made by other researchers (Srensen 1941, Bliss 1956, Bliss and Svoboda 1984, Svoboda and Freeman 1994). In the Lake Hazen region, a south-facing 30 slope receives about 15% more of the possible total radiation than a horizontal plane. Slopes with an exposure to the other cardinal directions are at a disadvantage, for example, a steep north-facing slope would receive less than half than what a horizontal plane could receive. At high latitudes, the microclimate is ameliorated in the growing season by the decline in the diel fluctuation of sun altitude so that temperatures remain relatively stable under constant daylight and ‘nocturnal’ inversions are largely absent, with the ground remaining warmer than the air throughout the summer. The results are that the frost-free growing season at ground surface level may be 3–4 weeks longer than screen temperatures would suggest.

The annual mean precipitation is low everywhere in the Archipelago and were it not for the permafrost found close to the surface, large areas in the Archipelago would be entirely without vascular plants.

Mean annual precipitation.


Wind action affects plant growth unfavourably throughout the year by its cooling and drying effects on stems and foliage. There is also the mechanical abrasive effect of drifting sand and in winter of tiny snow crystals, which at extreme low temperatures become very hard and gritty and contribute to shaping trees near the treeline. Wind deposition of loess is active, especially in mountainous parts of the Archipelago where the spring runoff from ice caps and large permanent snowfields causes the formation of large erosion fans, shallow streambeds, and floodplains from which high winds in later summer pick up fine silt. Locally, near ice caps, the deposition of fine silt may be so rapid that only certain species can successfully cope with it.


Two types of plant habitats closely related to snow cover are of considerable importance in the arctic landscape. The first is an arctic-alpine habitat for which the ecological term snow-bed is used. Snow-bed is an area where, owing to topographical features, large masses of snow accumulate each winter. Plants growing on snow-bed habitats enjoy the protection afforded by the snow cover and are assured of continuing water supply from the melting snow throughout the growing season, but must be adapted to an even shorter growing season than those occupying more exposed areas. In unfavourable seasons, the snow-bed habitat may remain covered by snow so late that the plants growing there may not have sufficient time to ripen their fruits, or even time to flower. For this reason only species that can adapt to a shorter growing season successfully occupy snow-bed habitats.

The snow-patch is a more arctic plant habitat. They form as snowdrifts in shallow depressions in the landscape and provide protection for the plants beneath it. The snowdrift melts early and may not keep the habitat moist throughout the growing season. In the High Arctic landscape, plants with woody aerial stems, such as willows and heaths, are found chiefly on snow-patch habitats. To the botanist, construction engineer and road builder in the Arctic, snow-bed and snow-patch plants are reliable guides to the type of snow cover that an area receives in winter.




Because of the low temperatures, organic decay by bacterial action is greatly reduced, and consequently, nitrates, phosphates, and other nutrients needed by plants are deficient. On Devon Island, thin-section studies of a beach ridge and a meadow soil found that there was very little decomposition of organic matter, as plant remains and insect fecal pellets were readily observed (Walker and Peters 1977). Where these nutrients are supplemented, arctic plants respond with lush and luxuriant growth. Thus, sites near fox dens, owl perches, bird cliffs, lemming burrows, animal dung, skeletal remains, around present and past human habitation, and sites where garbage has been burned, often stand out in contrast to the otherwise drab and often uniform arctic landscape.

Garbage-dump habitat where burning had occurred previously. The plants at the site are much taller than those on the surrounding tundra.

Bacteria, algae, and micro-fungi are principal agents of decomposition in freshwater and land habitats. About 300 species of saprophytic or parasitic micro-fungi occur in the Canadian Arctic Islands (Savile 1974). Even in the severe climate of Ellef Ringnes Island at Isachsen, there are about 85 species of fungi where only 49 species of vascular plants have been recorded (Savile 1963). Algae make up a substantial part of the soil microflora. In freshwaters, extraordinary diversity has been found among the phytoplankton (Hobbie 1973). Many species live even in typically oligotrophic lakes, or lakes that are turbid from rock flour introduced by glacial melt streams. These algae appear to be nutrient-limited in the north, and are much influenced by patterns of lake circulation that release nutrients from the substrate.

Early research in freshwater algae of the Canadian Arctic was limited to two major studies. The southern party of the Canadian Arctic expedition (1913-1918) identified 117 taxa, of these 20 were cyanobacteria and 107 were from the traditional Chlorophyta. The sampling was restricted to the mainland and a few coastal islands. The first study of algae in the Arctic Archipelago was in 1939–1940 by Weldon (1947) and Ross (1947). Dr. Roy M. Weldon from Cambridge University identified 383 taxa of algae (excluding diatoms) and R. Ross from the British Museum identified 192 diatoms.

Since the 1950’s, phycological research has increased exponentially, from floristic surveys to nutrient cycling studies and finally to indicators of environmental and (or) climate change in the Arctic. From a 1957-1958 extensive biological monitoring program in the Lake Hazen region of northern Ellesmere Island, 225 taxa (excluding diatoms) were identified from productive ponds, wetlands, and small lakes in the area (Croasdale 1973). Subsequent phycological research shifted south to Devon and Cornwallis islands and changed from floristic to predominantly ecological studies (Bliss 1977). Research on Cornwallis Island centred on lake ecosystems and the implications of nutrients on algae (Kalff and Welsh 1974, Douglas and Smol 2000). On Ellesmere and Devon islands, studies centred around wetlands and ponds, with special emphasis on cyanobacteria and nitrogen cycling (Chapin et al. 1991, Henry and Svoboda 1986). Sheath et al. (1996) conducted stream macroalgae surveys across the Arctic and identified 35 taxa covering four phyla. More recently, ecological studies on environmental processes include cyanobacterial films in marl deposits (Vzina and Vincent 1997), and even algae surviving the postulated snowball earth (Vincent et al. 2000). The paucity of floristic research on algae other than diatoms is evident, with only about 400 taxa recorded in freshwaters, namely members of the Chlorophyta, Chrysophyta, Pyrrhophyta, and Rhodophyta divisions.

More recent research has centred on diatoms, their ecology and their potential as paleoecological climatic indicators. Recent floristic studies across the Arctic Archipelago have focussed on the distribution of diatoms. To date, 360 taxa have been identified (Hamilton et al. 1994), with hundreds still to be identified and described. The first paleolimnological study using diatoms was on Cape Hershel, and it showed distinct changes in the regional climate over the last 150-200 years (Smol 1983). Current paleolimnological studies using diatoms show climatic warming across the Arctic Archipelago (e.g. Douglas et al. 1994, Gajewski et al. 1997, Ludlam et al. 1996, Wolfe 2000, Joynt and Wolfe 2001, Smith 2002, LeBlanc et al. 2004).

In certain places, there are cryptogamic mats that are dark in colour and composed of several cryptogamic species, which usually include blue-green algae that fix nitrogen so that it becomes available to plants. Such 'enriched' local areas often harbour interesting microflora, composed partly of species that are ubiquitous and partly of species that are rare and entirely confined to these habitats. For this reason, these 'oases' in the Arctic 'desert' are often species rich (Gold and Bliss 1995, Gold 1998).

Miller and Larsen (1974) reported that much of the belowground fungal biomass appears to be mycorrhizal. Kohn and Stasovski (1990, 1994) sampled 24 species of plants at Alexandra Fiord, Ellesmere Island (7853'N, 7555'W), and found that while 19 species showed some irregular colonization of rhizosphere fungi, or endophytes, only 11 species could, by the extent of the morphology and the extent of the fungal colonization, be classified as mycorrhizal. They considered that the paucity of VA-mycorrhizal colonization in herbaceous species at the site was notable, especially when compared to reports for the same species from other arctic and alpine sites, particularly in Russia and Alaska. Dalp and Aiken (1998) examined 197 plant-root systems and soil rhizospheres of fescue grasses collected in the High Arctic, many from northeastern Ellesmere Island near Eureka. These authors found 28% were associated with arbuscular mycorrhizae fungi (AFM) and five species were extracted from indigenous soils. This suggests that the AFM, isolated from the Arctic zone, may have developed strains with physiological behaviour that makes them better adapted to the short growing season.


The vegetation is one key to understanding northern ecosystems because it determines terrestrial primary productivity and hence the basis of food chains, and because locally it can magnify or reduce the impact of prevailing environmental conditions. Many schemes have been produced for subdividing the patterns observed in arctic vegetation. The classification of vegetation was reviewed by Alexandrova (1980) and is still being discussed (Elvebakk 1999, and CAVM Team 2003). Sometimes the subdivisions are based solely on vegetation, but often other factors, such as climate or soils, have been taken into consideration. A circumpolar map of phytogeographic zones was published by Talbot et al. (1999), and a more detailed arctic vegetation map has been produced by the CAVM Team (2003). The Panarctic Flora project has worked on delimiting zones and making sectorial subdivisions of the Arctic as a basis for comparing plant distribution information to accompany the plant checklist (Elvebakk et al. 1999). These products are at best only very general guidelines.

The composition of plant communities appears to depend on six variables: climate that imposes a major temperature-based zonation; local climates or microclimates that modify this overall pattern; drainage that controls the summer water regime and has some effect on frost action; nutrients that are in limited supply in most arctic soils; local soil type which is influenced by climate and drainage, and in turn influences soil stability and fertility; and snow cover that controls the duration of the growing season.

Sir John Richardson said that he had "never felt its [the sun's] rays so oppressive within the tropics as I have experienced them to be on some occasions in the [continental] Arctic". This heat enables vegetation to grow 24 h/day because there is no night and very little cooling down at night (Stefansson 1939).

Danks (1981) concluded that northern vegetation is heterogeneous and can change over short distances so that simple zonations cannot be recognised even at a moderate scale. Northern plant communities form a mosaic that transcends purely latitudinal zonations. He substantiated this statement with maps of the distribution of sedge-moss meadow oases in the Arctic Archipelago (Babb and Bliss 1974, Bliss 1977), noting that they cover less than 2% of the land area and are scattered.

Distribution of richly vegetated sedge-moss meadows in the Canadian Arctic. After Babb and Bliss (1974).

Danks (1981) also drew attention to the heterogeneity of arctic vegetation on Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg and Devon islands; this was mapped by Beschel (1970).

Heterogeneity of arctic vegetation. (a) Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, and Devon islands (Beschel 1970): 1, ice caps; 2, polar desert; 3, Luzula steppe; 4, polar steppe; 5, Dryas tundra; 6, Cassiope tundra. (b) Novaya Zemlya (Alexandrova 1960 in Tedrow 1977): 1, ice caps; 2, northern variant of alpine polar desert; 3, southern variant of alpine polar desert; 4, northern variant of polar desert zone; 5, southern variant of polar desert zone; 6, alpine arctic tundra; 7, northern variant of arctic tundra subzone; 8, southern variant of arctic tundra subzone.

In a detailed study of Saxifraga oppositifolia growing at Truelove Inlet, Devon Island (7538'N, 8334'W), Teeri (1972) found plants in three distinct microhabitats that were differently adapted morphologically and the precision of the adaptations was exemplified, as the populations occurred within a linear distance of less than 40 m. This is consistent with observations by Brysting et al. (1996) who found that S. oppositifolia shows the highest level of intra-population variation and poorest geographic structure of all the species they studied.

Plant Habit

Freedman et al. (1994) noted that even in the best growing conditions, arctic plants are subjected to severe environmental constraints and suggested that these have caused plants to evolve characteristic morphologies and survival strategies or a combination of the following list:

         a low growing structure which helps avoid scouring by wind-borne ice particles, while taking advantage of warmer temperatures occurring with a thin boundary layer of almost-still air close to the ground surface,

         an evergreen habit that conserves valuable energy and nutrients by ensuring that foliage remains metabolically active for more than one growing season,

         a longevity that ensures the continuous presence of species in habitats where the establishment of new individuals by seedlings can be difficult and infrequent,

         a small requirement for nutrients in an oligotrophic environment,

         a tolerance of desiccation and frost events during the growing season,

         the capacity to begin growth immediately following snowmelt in the spring, with the growth often starting from stem and flower buds preformed at the end of the previous growing season.

Many plants grow close to the ground in clumps, cushions, or mats. There is very little annual growth in such arctic cushion plants as Dryas integrifolia, Saxifraga oppositifolia, or Silene acaulis, or arctic sedges growing in clumps, such as Carex nardina. It is difficult to distinguish, by direct observation, the previous year’s green portion from that of the current year (Savile 1972). Close to the end of the growing season in mid-August, green leaves turn red, without all being killed during the following winter. After snowmelt they are reddish brown but during the next 2 weeks new chlorophyll forms and the leaves turn green again. Svoboda (1977) reported that on Devon Island at Truelove Inlet, each shoot of D. integrifolia starts the growing season with 2.6 old live leaves and has 5 green leaves on average in early August.

Plants forming clumps or cushions. Top left. Papaver dahlianum Nordh. subsp. polare (Tolm.) Elven and Nilsson. An isolated ‘old’ clump of plants growing in moving sand on a riverbank. The centre of the clump is dead, suggesting that the original plant(s) has/have died off, or been buried by moving sand, and that offspring of the colonising plant(s) have developed close to the initial establishment in the shelter that it provided. Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. Top right. Silene acaulis (L.) Jacq. A classic, compact cushion plant, growing on gravel. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Middle left. Carex ursina Dewey. Plant growing in a clump or cushion with fringes of small Stellaria humifusa plants around the edges in a Puccinellia phryganodes saline meadow, Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Centre. Saxifraga oppositifolia. Compact cushion-like plants in full flower, growing in a Saxifraga barren. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Alexandra Fiord. Middle right. Silene acaulis. Underside of plant with a major tap root and many tightly packed branches that make up the cushion. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Bottom left. Loiseleuria procumbens (L.) Desv. Close-up of a matted prostrate shrub with branches that interlace like the branches of pruned hedges. Growing in dense tundra over rocks on the west shore of Baffin Island, Frobisher Bay, at Ogac Lake. Bottom right. Parnassia kotzebuei Cham. and Schlecht. Several plants with relatively tall flowering stems, growing close together in a ‘young’ clump in sand dunes behind the beach. Plants consist of single stems to many-stemmed clumps 10–16 cm tall. N.W.T., Cape Dalhousie.

Many species have marcescent aerial stems and leaves that die off after the current season’s growth, accumulate at the base of the plant, and build up as a thatch that provides insulation and traps moisture.

Thatch. Dryopteris fragrans (L.) Schott. Plant with dead brown marcescent leaves, forming a thatch that helps keep moisture near the base of the plants. Finland: Inarin lappi, Kevojoki. Sept. 1996. Photographed by R. Elven.

Arctic plants are often like icebergs, with much more of the plant underground than aboveground. Many monocotyledons have fibrous roots that may be very extensive under the plants and are often much longer than the plants are tall.

Long, fibrous roots. Carex fuliginosa Schkuhr subsp. misandra (R.Br.) Nyman. Roots much longer than the stems are high. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Scoresby Bay. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac.

Many plants store food for overwintering in underground stems, such as long rhizomes, or in vertical stem zones (a caudex or caudices) at and below ground level.

Rhizomes and caudices. Left. Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub. Rhizome of a large and vigorous plant from Yukon, Ogilvie Mts., river flats along Dempster Rd. 30 July 1966, R.T. Porsild 371. Right. Potentilla vahliana Lehm. Small and compact plant with well developed, elongated and branching underground caudex tightly covered with leaf bases, the marcescent remains of many previous season’s leaves, and a small compact tuft of current season's leaves. N.W.T., Victoria Island, Holman.

Most ferns have horizontal stems, but this remarkable specimen of Dryopteris fragrans from Baker Lake in Nunavut shows the underground portion of a fern stem looking like a small tree trunk. The positions where previous year’s fronds were attached suggest that if this plant was producing 3–6 fronds a year, it was many years old.

Fern with underground stem. Dryopteris fragrans (L.) Schott. Plant with aboveground fronds arising from a mass of scales near ground level, and an old vertical underground stem with fine blackish roots. Inset shows close-up of stem portion covered by leaf bases where fronds have broken off at articulations adjacent to the stem. Nunavut, Baker Lake. T.N. Freeman.

Stems often have woody development below soil level. This may occur because the plants are growing up through blowing silt deposits. Well developed, branching underground stems are more common in members of the Asteraceae and Rosaceae. Because nearly all tundra plants are long-lived, Young (1971) suggested that tundra areas can be regarded as ‘dwarf forests’.

Leaves are often affected by the strong winds and the long hours of sunlight in the arctic summer. Many arctic plants have leaves that are specialised to avoid this drying out. The leaves of the purple saxifrage are succulent and very close together. They have long hairs on the edges of each leaf and these hairs act like the fur around a jacket hood, keeping the air close to the leaf more stationary. The vegetative leaves are flat to catch maximum sunlight. The leaves on the flowering stem are erect around the petiole and shelter the stem from air movement. The leaves of several heath species and Dryas have edges that roll under so that they touch or almost touch and in doing so provide protection for the undersurface of the leaf where the stomates (pores) that take in carbon dioxide are hidden among the dense hairs. These hairs are very effective in preventing air movement near the undersurface of the leaf.

Curled, hairy leaves. Ledum palustre subsp. decumbens (Aiton) Hultén. Growing tip with a dense cluster of leaves, covered with brown deciduous hairs. Note adaxial surface of the leaves curled under, leaving a stripe of brown hairs on the abaxial surface. Aiken, 2002.

Plants cannot dispose of solid waste materials the way animals do. In the centre of the cells that make up the plant, there is a large vacuole, which accumulates waste until the cell dies. In situations where a plant is growing well, it may produce more solid waste than it has cell storage for. At such times, the waste, predominantly in the form of calcite, is excreted through one or more special large pores, called hydathodes, that occur in the tips of the leaves. These white crystals are not usually visible after rain or wet snow, or when the weather is cold.

Excreted calcite. Saxifraga oppositifolia L. Note hydathodes (white arrow) on the triangular ends of the fleshy leaves. Many hydathodes have white calcite deposits at leaf tips. Hydathodes are small openings on the leaf blades, which exude water and dissolved salts. Nunavut, Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay.

The leaves in the picture are about 2.5–4 mm wide. If you look closely at live leaves of the purple saxifrage, it is easy to see the solid waste as white dots when it is present. Some other arctic species, particularly other arctic Saxifraga, also have large hydathodes that may become conspicuously crusted with white deposits.

The ferns that grow in the Arctic prefer the shelter of cliffs and crevices among rocks. The horsetails grow close to the ground and have very tiny leaves. The club-mosses are also short plants with thick leathery leaves that are close together.

So far, from the Archipelago only 10 species of obligate freshwater plants have been recorded. All are rare, and are generally restricted to small shallow ponds that become free of ice early in the spring, and some of the species rarely, if ever, flower. Only three species, Pleuropogon sabinei, Ranunculus aquatilis var. diffusa, and R. hyperboreus, range north of the 80th parallel.

Several monocotyledons grow in water or wet meadows. Most have leaves that die back over the winter and form a thatch around the base of the plant. Many grasses have leaves that fold (e.g., Poa) or roll (Festuca, Puccinellia) so that the margins enclose, forming a zone of still air surrounded by a leaf. The stomates are on this surface of the leaf and absent from the surface that is exposed to the weather.

Plants like fireweed (Chamerion latifolium) and mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna) have leaves and stems that die off during the winter and are seen as ghosts of themselves early in the following spring.

Dead leaves in spring. Oxyria digyna (L.) Hill. Very early season plant with a few new green leaves and developing red inflorescences, growing in Dryas mat. Grey ‘ghosts’ of last year's leaves, persisting early season. N.W.T., Banks Island in Aulavik National Park. Aiken 99-006.

Plant reproduction

Many arctic plants are characterised by polyploidy, self-pollination, apomixes, and agamospermy. Such reproductive systems may help to meet the rigorous conditions and confer stability to the genome in the face of unpredictable short growing seasons. Such reproductive systems are often indicated when a range of chromosome numbers is known for what is apparently a single species. Alopecurus is an example of a species where the list of chromosome numbers reported by researchers from the circumpolar area suggests a complex genetic background.

List of Chromosome counts. Chromosome information for Alopecurus.

The highest ploidy recorded in the database is 14-18x for Draba corymbosa. This is one of several complicated polypoids, the genetic history of which has been worked on by many authors, including Brochmann (1993).

Polyploidy is an important speciation mechanism in plants. The number of species that have arisen by polyploidy is enormous, making up at least 30% of angiosperms (Stebbins 1950) and 45% of pteridophytes (Vida 1976). Although the mechanisms by which polyploid species arise has been documented, much less is known about the further evolution of polyploid species following their establishment (Werth and Windham 1991). Some authors view polyploids as evolutionary dead ends (Stebbins 1950). Conversely, others have pointed out the potential for polyploidy to bring about a genetic revolution by providing redundant genes that can evolve new functions through mutation (Schultz 1980). Werth and Windham (1991) suggested that polyploidy may also provide a genetic context that facilitates speciation. Grant (1981) suggested that given sufficient time the number of genes expressed in a taxon of polyploid origin could be reduced to that expressed in the original diploid ancestor; that is, the polyploid could become genetically diploidised.

Werth and Windham (1991) presented a model for allopatric speciation at the polyploid level, based on different patterns of gene silencing. Allopatric populations of a single allotetraploid species may experience silencing of the same gene but in different genomes (reciprocal silencing). Hybrids between such genotypes would experience a reduction in viability of gametophyte progeny. Gene silencing would lead to divergence between populations. Silencing of regulatory genes could lead to significant interpopulation differences in morphology and other complex traits. It is suggested that the combined effect of postzygote hybrid sterility and genetic divergence resulting from gene silencing might lead to speciation of allopatric populations even in the absence of strong selection. It was also predicted that speciation events would be relatively rapid because the most frequent class of mutations drives them, and only a fraction of the genome needs to be silenced for speciation to occur.


Indigenous Knowledge

The people who have lived in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago for centuries have built up an extensive knowledge of the plants and uses for them. Porsild (1937) described edible roots and berries of northern Canada based on indigenous knowledge. During the summer of 1938, Anderson (1939) travelled with the U.S. coast guard and visited Eskimo villages of Northern Bering Sea and Arctic Alaska. He reported on the uses of plants by local people while noting that the diet of the Eskimos was almost exclusively of animal origin and the total portion of vegetable intake was very small. The food plants growing in the vicinity of the villages indicated that little had been gathered. Anderson (1939) observed that considering the small amount actually consumed, he found the number of plants used was surprisingly large in every village he visited, although not all species were used by all people.

Various methods were used to prepare plant material for consumption (Anderson 1939). Some plants were eaten raw, the same way lettuce or celery is eaten. Another method was to use either scalding or cold water and then allow the material to ferment, the preparation being ready for consumption when the proper stage of fermentation was reached. This process was called ‘souring’ and sometimes sugar was added to the soured material, which was often boiled and eaten. One of the commonest methods of use was to immerse the plant material in oil. This way it could be preserved for winter use. Whale blubber, seal oil, and, at times, caribou tallow were used.

Porsild (1945), possibly in response to pressure from the Second World War, produced a mimeo report on ‘Emergency Food in Arctic Canada’. In a paper on edible plants of the Arctic, A. Porsild (1953) summarised literature on the subject and drew on his ability with Scandinavian languages to report on the findings of Kjellman (1882) among the Chukchi in Russia, his experiences growing up in Greenland, and the work of Rodahl (1944, 1945, 1949, 1950). He noted that in Greenland several species of seaweed, including Thodymenia palmate and Laminaria species, were eaten raw, or dipped in boiling water, or with seal oil so that an estimated 50% of the vitamin C intake of the east Greenland Eskimos was derived from marine algae (Rodahl 1950). Porsild (1953) noted that many different kinds of edible mushrooms and puffballs occur throughout the Arctic, especially near the southern fringe of the tundra where in midsummer and early autumn, bushels of the fungi may be collected. In 1953, he stated that no poisonous species had been detected north of the treeline, although the deadly toadstool Amanita phalloides had been found below the treeline in the upper Mackenzie basin and in the Yukon.

Commenting on vascular plants, Porsild (1953) noted that everywhere in the Arctic, plant life is too sparse, dwarfed, and poorly developed to make any considerable contribution to the human food supply and that the dependence on vegetable food varies from group to group, according to tradition and to the types of plants available in the area. Drawing on his experiences in Alaska, Greenland, and the Arctic Archipelago, he stated that to the most northerly tribes (ones living in the Archipelago) the use of vegetable food is purely incidental and largely limited to the partly fermented and predigested content of the rumen of caribou and muskoxen. By contrast, in the diet of the Eskimos of southwestern Greenland, Labrador, and western and southwestern Alaska, vegetable food constituted a regular, if not very large item.

In 1953, the plants used by Europeans in the Arctic, mostly in emergencies, had generally been different species from those used by First Nations people, and of lesser value in vitamin content (Porsild 1953). There are numerous examples of arctic expeditions that had made use of lichens, especially 'rock tripe' or 'tripe-de-roche' of the early Canadian voyageurs, besides mushrooms, puffballs, and scurvy grass, none of which were ever eaten by aboriginal tribes. Likewise, berries, such as the mountain cranberry and bilberry, and to a lesser extent baked-apple, are perhaps the most frequently used by Europeans, whereas these fruits are generally ignored by aboriginal peoples, who prefer the crowberry, which is not favoured by Europeans.

Small and Catling (1999, 2000a, b) have reported on poorly known, potentially economic, plants of Canada, including arctic plants such as Labrador or muskox tea and cloudberry. They include information on historical and possible medicinal uses of plants. The publication by Andre and Fehr (2000) was the result of a project during the summer of 1997 when the staff from the Inuit Research Centre and the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute worked with the Gwich’in Elders to document knowledge about the traditional uses of plants. Burt (2000), in her book Barrenland Beauties, drew on considerable time spent around the Bathurst Inlet region of Nunavut, and included information on the uses of plants by people living in that area. Ootoova et al. (2001) interviewed Inuit Elders on Baffin Island and documented perspectives on traditional health, including a chapter on ‘Piruqtuit — plants of the land’. Information from these sources is in the database under the heading Indigenous Knowledge, and additional information is welcomed.


Plants as Climatic Change Indicators

The value of plants in monitoring climate is the basis of the ITEX (International Tundra Experiment) program and network that has attempted to set up experimental sites in the circumpolar tundra regions (Molau and Molgaard 1996). The goal of ITEX is to understand the response of tundra plant species through simple manipulations and transplant experiments to be conducted at multiple arctic and alpine sites. The objectives are as follows:

         to quantify the change in the environment (i.e., temperature, moisture, and nutrient availability) brought about by experimental warming,

         to quantify the change in the environment from the point of view of the plants by quantifying the shift in phenotypic selection,

         to understand the potential of tundra plant populations to adjust to climatic warming, either through acclimation or adaptations, and

         to partition the effect of global warming on key phenological, morphological, and physiological traits into environmental and genetic components.

Climate change is usually perceived as producing an increase in summer temperatures that will allow an increase in the growth of plants. In the case of arctic plants, climate change that alters snowfall distribution patterns in the winter may be as significant, or more so, in the development of ‘trees’ in the Arctic Islands. In Nunavut, there are two species of willows, which in most areas grow no more than 1 m high. In two localities, they grow as ‘trees’ that are taller than people. On Baffin Island, at Willow Creek, a tributary of the Soper River, Salix planifolia grows more than 3 m tall.

Tall willows. Salix planifolia Pursh. Willow forest with trees over 3 m high. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Soper River Valley, Willow Creek tributary. Aiken and Iles.

The location is a deep and narrow valley and a sheltered site that may be relatively warmer in summer. Possibly more significant is that the area may fill up with snow drifts in the winter and in doing so protect the plants from abrasive blowing snow that tends to ‘prune’ off new growth in other sites. On Southampton Island, near Sixteen Mile Brook, west of Coral Harbour, Salix alaxensis grows tree-like to 2 m high on an exposed hillcrest. The area has no distinguishing summer microclimatic features to suggest localised enhanced growing conditions, but may well be a place where blowing snow builds up to such levels that the snow bank protects the plants in the winter. Both these willows are represented by many other plants of the same species growing in different microclimates in the adjacent geographic areas where they occur. Such plants are in a position to grow more, and survive winter better, if changes in climate that favour summer growth and winter survival occur. If this occurs, it should be easily observed. Perhaps it is time to stake significant plants and date growth height.

Grass plants record growing conditions each year in the height that the flowering stems reach. In a good year, the stems are tall, and in a bad year, they are short. After a winter, the previous season’s stems are often present as straw around the plant when the snow melts. To collect such straw from tagged plants, year after year, would be relatively simple and the basis of a graph of average stem height against year. Such a graph would be expected to show trends over time if climatic change is occurring.

If dramatic climate change occurred in the Arctic Islands, so that temperatures were suitable for a growing season for wheat or corn, there are very few places where there is sufficient soil development or summer moisture for such plants to grow. One geologist estimated that it would take 150–200 years for soil formation that would allow significant crop cultivation to occur (L. Lane, personal communication, 1990). A candidate crop for growth in the Archipelago, if a longer summer growing season occurs, might be wild rice (Zizania) in shallow tundra ponds that already have a suitable substrate. The plant has been grown with limited success in southern ponds of the Yukon (Aiken et al. 1988).


Plants as Monitors of Anthropogenic Activities

Accidental introductions

In 2002, the finger of suspicion points to the Hudson Bay Company for the introduction of four or more species to the Arctic Islands. Plant seeds were probably introduced in the straw used by the company for packing. Freighter canoes arriving from Quebec were packed by placing them on a large piece of sackcloth or hessian, putting straw on the material so the sides of the canoes would be protected, and then wrapping them in the material for shipping (B. Rose, personal communication, 2002). There was a significant amount of straw between the boat and the cloth, and seeds may have been introduced in the straw.

Wild barley Hordeum jubatum is reported from only one site in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, which is in front of the former Hudson Bay Manager’s house in Apex. It is known that one manager in the 1970’s had a goat, which he tethered at this site and fed the packing straw that came up with the freighter canoes. Wild barley is a common weedy species near Montreal where the canoes were made, and it may well have been introduced as seeds in the packing straw.

‘Yukon’ Fireweed Chamerion angustifolium, the territorial flower of the Yukon, is mapped from very few sites on Baffin Island. One is near Kimmirut where the Hudson Bay Post was established in 1911, and the other is Pangnirtung where ‘the Bay’ was established in 1921. Both hamlets were active in the 1920’s, with trade coming from England and southern Canada (Soper 1981a). ‘Yukon’ fireweed was the first plant to establish on the bombed sites in London after World War 2. The limited distribution records of the fireweed on Baffin Island suggests accidental introduction, possibly in packing material brought in from England, and distribution of seeds by hunters and trappers into the interior.

The orchid Corallorhiza trifida is more difficult to explain. The single orchid distribution record for the islands is from a rather isolated location in the Pangnirtung Fiord (J. Gould, personal communication, 2000). Orchid seeds are very light and are known to be wind-borne for long distance. As a result, seeds accidentally arriving at the hamlet of Pangnirtung may have been blown a considerable distance or, after becoming established, may have formed plants that bore seeds that have travelled on the wind to another site, while the parent plants have been destroyed.

Documented at CAN is a single collection of a weedy member of the mustard family collected at the Causeway in Iqaluit in 1986. There is also an opium poppy plant less than 15 cm high, collected on the hillside behind Arctic College in Iqaluit in 1989. Thus, these alien plants are known to have reached the Arctic Islands and to have the ability to grow for one season, but neither of these records has been found in the areas since.

Flax Linum lewisii is known from two locations on northwest Victoria Island. The label on one of the specimens indicates that it was collected from a rocky ledge above the nest of an American Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) and that the plants were very scarce elsewhere in the area. Thus, birds are implicated in bringing plants into the Arctic Archipelago accidentally.

Deliberate introductions

Since the 1980’s, there have been deliberate introductions of Kentucky blue grass and red fescue into Iqaluit, for example, in the grounds of Nunavut Arctic College in attempts to establish lawns. Initially the Kentucky blue grass was successful and plants reached heights of 30–45 cm in 1992. After that the plants lost vigour gradually but acted as a nurse crop in the establishment of native species such as the grass Festuca brachyphylla and other early native colonising species with seed sources in the area. In 1986, red fescue was observed in Iqaluit on disturbed ground near the Northern Store. In 1992, it was growing well where it had been planted beside the main drive of Nunavut Arctic College, Iqaluit. It was no longer at either site in 2002, as the areas had been dug up during road works. Commercial red fescue seed, obtained from seed growers that developed the cultivar ‘boreale’ in the Peace River district of Alberta (55N), is likely to be more successful as a ‘lawn’ grass in Iqaluit and elsewhere in the Arctic than Kentucky blue grass, the seeds of which have been selected from cultivars developed at more southern latitudes.

Dandelions Taraxacum. On Baffin Island, at Apex near Iqaluit, dandelions are dense behind the beach and on disturbed ground beside the road at the top of the hill in line of sight of the former Hudson Bay Post.

Dandelions. Taraxacum hyperboreum Dahlst. (=T. ceratophorum (Ledeb.) DC). View of the Hudson Bay Post, Nunavut, Baffin Island, Apex, with dandelions in the foreground. Aiken.

This was the main location known for dandelions in the area in 1986, and it was suggested that these may be southern dandelions that had been introduced. Seeds from the site were deliberately planted in a garden on the eastern side of Iqaluit, and dandelion plants have been observed to be spreading across the town from this site (J. Rose, personal communication, 2002). Detailed observations in 2002 and 2003 confirmed that the dandelions illustrated are native arctic plants that probably grow naturally on disturbed beach shores. They have been able to flourish around Apex and Iqaluit in the disturbed terrain associated with the building of the city.

Garden introductions

Cummins et al. (1988) noted that the Hudson's Bay company officials insisted that their northern traders make themselves self-sufficient, so gardens were planted at northern posts and forts along the shores of Hudson Bay and James Bay. Agriculture Canada investigated this in a report published by Nowosad (1963). For many years, missionaries in continental Nunavut tried raising small crops with some success (Moodie 1978). In the 1970's, government-encouraged greenhouse operations at Sanikiluaq and Iqaluit struggled and died. Romer (1987) reported on the design and operation of a solar greenhouse and gardens at Pond Inlet on northern Baffin Island (72N). Private greenhouses have existed in Iqaluit for many years.

Cummins et al. (1988) operated two experimental research gardens from 1981 to 1984 on Continental Nunavut, at Rankin Inlet (63N) and on Ellesmere Island, at Alexandra Fiord (79N). They cultivated both native tundra plants and a large assortment of common 'garden' vegetables in specially designed, solar-heated greenhouses in a medium of local sand, peat, and lake-bottom sediment. The resulting crops were substantially less expensive than imports and had higher nutritional quality and appeal due to their freshness. They concluded that small-scale food production can be an enjoyable hobby, and has the potential for employment opportunities as well. The frames of the greenhouses used at Alexandra Fiord were moved to Eureka and used by people at the weather station there until a small formal greenhouse was built in the 1990's.

In 1990, three species of plants from the Yukon, latitude approximately 68N, were deliberately introduced to gardens in Iqaluit (62N). Twelve small trees of white spruce (Picea glauca), 30 cm high, or less, were offered to people with gardening interests. In 2002, only one of these trees was known to still be alive. It had struggled for several years, but appeared to be doing better from 2000 to 2002 and with new growth had reached the soaring height of approximately 45 cm. It was growing beside a house in an area covered by snow in winter. A second garden introduction, a delphinium-like plant with deep blue flowers (Aconitum delphifolium), came from parent plants about 50 cm high in the Yukon. In Iqaluit, the plant flowers and reaches about 25–30 cm high most years. After 12 years, a second plant had developed, presumably from seed, in the adjacent enriched, protected, garden soil. Both garden introductions show no tendency to spread to adjacent tundra and would not be expected to be able to compete with native tundra species in the area if the seed did germinate.

About 20 plants of the grass Festuca altaica were introduced from the Yukon in 1990 to an experimental plot in the grounds of Nunavut Arctic College. They have persisted since then and regularly flower, but apparently fail to set seed. They have shown no signs of spreading into adjacent disturbed ground, but look more like they will be eventually out-competed by native tundra species that are becoming established as ‘weeds’ in the experimental garden. This grass can persist on Baffin Island but does not occur naturally there. The species has an unusual distribution in eastern continental North America, with isolated sites in Michigan, Quebec (Table Mountains), and Newfoundland. This may reflect random reintroduction of this predominantly western species to eastern North America after the last glaciation.

With increasing numbers of people visiting or moving to live in the Arctic and with frequent air traffic from the south to previously fairly isolated communities, both more accidental and deliberate introductions of alien plant species to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago can be expected.


Flowers as Arctic Ambassadors

There are territorial flowers for each of the Canadian Arctic Territories: for the Yukon, the fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium); for the Northwest Territories, mountain avens (Dryas integrifolia); and for Nunavut there are three arctic flowering plants on the coat of arms. The official flower of Nunavut is the purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia), which is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring. The summer flower is the arctic poppy (Papaver sp.) and the fall representative is the crowberry (Empetrum nigrum). This plant grows as far North as Ausuittuq (Grise Fiord — the northernmost Canadian community), and has several traditional uses. There are about 100 other arctic plants with showy flowers or berries that contribute to the joys of ecotourism. These flowers produce colourful displays in whites, yellows, and various shades of pink, purple, and blue. Conspicuously absent are flowers with vivid red or orange petals. This may be related to the absence of pollinating species that are attracted to these colours. There are nearly 100 other species that have small, often inconspicuous flowers with petals 2–5 mm long, and there are over 100 species that have really inconspicuous flowers without petals, including relatively large numbers of grasses, sedges, and willows.


Historical perspectives

Much of the botanical research in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago has been linked to major events in history. Early expeditions to the Canadian Arctic, such as the Parry Expedition in 1819-1820, sampled plants as part of scientific data collecting projects (Levere 1993). In the case of the Parry Expedition, approximately 30 type specimens were collected on Melville Island at Winter Harbour by medical Dr. Sabine and other members of the party when the Parry Expedition overwintered while looking for the Northwest Passage (1819-1820). The species with type specimens described by Robert Brown from the Parry Expedition are in a special collection at the British Museum of Natural History. Collecting was probably done in the summer of 1820 when the land had 'warmed' up and the plants were flowering, but ice was still on the ocean.

Left. Parry’s Rock at Winter Harbour, Melville Island. Note the position of the plaque on the left-hand side, the tiny yellow poppy flowers in the foreground and the ice still on the bay in the background. It is likely that the many type specimens from Winter Harbour were collected here, while the party was waiting for the ice to move out. Photograph by S.E. Edlund. Right. The books at the British Museum containing the plants collected on Parry’s voyage. Many of the specimens are the types for the species.

Between 1829 and 1833, John Ross spent 4 years in the Arctic looking for the Northwest Passage. Some plant specimens that he collected are housed at CAN. In 1845, the Franklin Expedition left England, looking for the Northwest Passage. After 3 years, when the ships did not return, extensive searches by several parties were undertaken to determine what might have happened. One result was the mapping outline of much of the Archipelago. The searches also conveyed the impression that the inhospitable environment was not conducive as a trade route through a northwest passage and the British lost interest in the area.

Much of the northern part of the Archipelago was explored by Norwegians, and plants were collected by the expeditions. The voyage of the Fram by the Norwegian Arctic Expedition from 1898 to 1902 made very important collections on Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands (Sverdrup 1903). Herman G. Simmons was the botanist on the expedition under Sverdrup. Most of the expedition's botanical research was on and around Ellesmere Island in 1892-1902. The specimens collected are deposited at the herbarium in Oslo. The results were written up by Simmons (1906) and Ostenfeld (1909), and many of the reported sites have not been visited since by plant collectors. The Gja Expedition, led by Roald Amundsen, reached King William Island in 1903. They were based at Oqsuqtooq (Gjoa Haven, 6838'N, 9552'W), where scientific activities were centred, for nearly 2 years. This was part of making the first full transit of the Northwest Passage between 1903 and 1906 (Amundsen 1908). In the years 1898-1906, the Norwegian voyages of discovery added almost as much new land and sea to Canada's Arctic Archipelago, especially in the area of the Sverdrup Islands, as all the ships of the 30-year Franklin search (Levere 1993).

In 1883 and 1884, the German Franz Boas worked in the Cumberland Sound region of Baffin Island and while his work was mainly anthropological, he did collect some plants (Boas 1885). From 1909 to 191l, an ardent German plant collector, Bernhard Hantzsch, collected extensively on Baffin Island.

From 1913 to 1918, a major event for botany in the western Arctic involved the Canadian Arctic Expedition. The expedition explored parts of Banks and Victoria islands, and as part of a multidiscipline study, collected a relatively limited number of botanical specimens that have been deposited at CAN. The report on the botanical findings of this expedition (Holm 1922) makes fascinating reading. It is a perspective on how much more is now known, in less than 100 years, about many of the species they collected and the taxonomic relationships of these plants.

Between 1904 and 1911, the Canadian Government’s ship Neptune made extensive voyages under the leadership of geologist A.P. Low. Several cruises were made by the C.G.S. Arctic under Bernier.

Bernier’s cabin on Melville Island.

Between 1923 and 1931, Dewey Soper, who was employed by what has become the Canadian Museum of Nature, carried out extensive work on Baffin Island (Soper 1981b). Many of his plant collections deposited at CAN are still the only records of a species at most locations in southern Baffin Island.

The use of aircraft in Arctic regions has had a major impact on the amount of research done. In 1927, Wilkins made the first landplane descent on pack ice, and this was followed by many other successful descents, some of them forced landings. By 1930, scientists agreed, virtually unanimously, that arctic flying conditions on the average were good. Icing on planes is less of a flying hazard in polar regions than it is in the northern half of the north temperate zones (Stefansson 1939).

The Second World War (1938-1945) produced a flurry of activity in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Although the RCMP schooner St. Roch under Henry Larsen made the first crossing of the passage in both directions in 1944, no botanists were involved. Weather stations were set up on Cornwallis, Ellef Ringnes, Ellesmere, and Prince Patrick islands and provided the logistical support for the collectors of many of the plant specimens from these sites.

In the twentieth century, there have been baseline and systematic studies done at specific locations. In 1941, during the Second World War, a military base 'Crystal Two' was set up in what has become Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut on Baffin Island (Eno 2003). In 1948, two researchers from Agriculture Canada, Senn and Calder, spent 6 weeks from late June until early August in the area. Among their other projects, they collected about 750 voucher plant specimens from 149 flowering plant taxa. These were deposited at DAO. Details on the collection and habitat notes were published as an annotated checklist (Calder 1951). A military base at SNAFU, near Coral Harbour on Southampton Island (6408'N, 8304'W), provided the opportunity for W.J. Cody to collect on that island in 1948. Collections are reflected in the maps in Porsild and Cody (1980).

In 1955, the Geological Survey of Canada research program ‘Operation Franklin’ set out fuel and supplies in early spring with ski-equipped DC-3 aircrafts. These widely placed fuel caches across the Arctic Islands supplied helicopter-supported field parties during the summer. The International Geophysical Year (IGY) took place in 1957-1958. Lake Hazen in northern Ellesmere Island was chosen as the locale for part of the Canadian contribution to the program. The botanical studies done in connection with this project were reported by Soper and Powell (1985). They found 127 species of flowering plants in the area and collected 3800 specimens, the first set of which was deposited at CAN, the remaining sets of which were sent to several herbaria in Canada and around the world. Soper and Powell (1985) provide a detailed history of botanical exploration, particularly in the eastern Arctic.

During the ‘Cold War’ period after the Second World War, DEW (Defence Early Warning) sites were established at 150 mi. intervals across the Arctic from Komatuk in the Yukon (6935'N, 14012'W) to Broughton Island off eastern Baffin Island (6735'N, 6350'W). These sites had regular military transportation and accommodation for visiting researchers, which resulted in extensive collections from places like Hall Beach (6846'N, 8111'W). In 1988, a major Geological Survey team worked near the DEW-line site at Shingle Point Yukon, and in 1990, used the DEW-line site at Komatuk for refuelling while working near the Alaska-Canada Border. These places are no longer available as bases to do research from, because DEW-line sites have been updated and automated. They are unmanned, or in many cases closed down and the facilities removed.

Following the productive Operation Franklin and the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958, the Polar Continental Shelf Project (P.C.S.P.) was begun and has carried on the work envisioned by Hattersley-Smith (1959). The project made possible the Jacobsen-McGill expeditions that were launched in 1959 to Axel Heiberg Island, particularly in the region of Expedition Fiord (7920'N, 9110'W). While the primary research program focussed on meteorology, most of the botanical collections from that island have come from researchers who worked from the bases of ‘upper house’ and ‘lower house’ used by that project (Mller 1963). In 1960, ‘The Arctic Institute of North America’ established a base camp at Cape Sparbo, Devon Island (7550', 8402'W). The camp on Truelove Lowlands has been the site of many research projects, including the extensive International Biological Programme (IBP) Devon Island project (Bliss 1977).

Support from P.C.S.P. made it possible for the National Museum of Natural Sciences (now Canadian Museum of Nature) to establish the High Arctic Research Station at Polar Bear Pass on Bathurst Island in 1968. It was the base for research in many different disciplines, including botany (Brassard and Steere 1968, Brodo 1978, Miller and Ireland 1978, Geale 1980, Aiken et al. 1995). The specimens from the thesis work by Geale (1980) around this location are deposited at the University of Saskatchewan herbarium. Adjacent to the station is the type location for Festuca edlundiae that was distinguished from F. hyperborea in an isozyme study based adjacent to the Polar Bear Pass station (Aiken et al. 1995b). By 1995, at the time of staff and budget cutbacks, the Museum handed the High Arctic Research Station over to the Canadian Wildlife Service, and almost no botanical research has been done at the site since.

Between 1979 and 1985, a group of more than 20 people from several Canadian Universities and many different disciplines gathered data at the high polar oasis Alexandra Fiord, Ellesmere Island (7853'N, 7555'W), and their findings were published in Svoboda and Freedman (1994). Many of the plant specimens from this site are deposited at the University of Toronto, Erindale herbarium. With the help of P.C.S.P., Dr. Svoboda, University of Toronto, maintained an active research base that focussed on studying plants in Sverdrup Pass. The base was closed after Dr. Svoboda retired in 1994.

The P.C.S.P. base on Cornwallis Island provided the opportunity for botanist Sylvia Edlund to do extensive botanical work in surveys with Geological Survey teams (GSC) that were based there. Many of the specimens that she collected between 1979 and 1988 are deposited at CAN. In 1985, Sylvia invited Susan Aiken to join a party of more than 20 people in a GSC team on Melville Island. Invitations to join large GSC teams allowed Aiken botanical opportunities then, and in 1988 at Shingle Point, Yukon (69N, 13727'W), 1990 near the Canada-Alaska border (Craig Creek, 6937'N, 14055'W), 1992 at Vendom Fiord, Ellesmere Island (7745'N, 8310'W), and in 1996 at Scoresby Bay, Ellesmere Island (7957'N, 7130'W). Opportunities to work with GSC teams are currently curtailed by cutbacks to that organization.

In the 1980’s and 1990's there was a P.C.S.P. facility at Tuktoyaktut (6927'N, 13302'W), which supplied logistic support for studies in the Mackenzie Delta and adjacent Yukon and N.W.T. It has been closed for many years.

Researchers have based at weather stations, particularly at Mould Bay (Prince Patrick Island, 7614'N, 11920'W), Isachsen (Ellef Ringes Island, 7847'N, 10332'W), and at Eureka (Ellesmere Island, 8009'N, 86W). Both Mould Bay and Isachsen have closed, and while the buildings remain, they are more challenging sites to work from now than when the weather station was active.

There have been cutbacks to the budget for P.C.S.P. and the closing of the Polaris mine on Little Cornwallis Island has reduced air service there. Early in the twenty-first century, the logistics of doing research in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are becoming very expensive, and the opportunities to reach and explore places that have never been surveyed botanically are severely curtailed.

Parks Canada supports opportunities for botanical work from headquarters in the National Parks. Aiken is grateful for opportunities to work in Ivvavik National Park (Yukon, Sheep Creek, 6932'N, 13922'W, 1990), in Ellesmere Island Reserve (Tanquary Fiord, 81N, 7620'W, 1994), and Aulivik National Park on a canoe patrol along the Thompson River and from the Park headquarters (Banks Island, Sachs Harbour 7159'N, 120W, 1999).

In 1999, the Swedish Northern Tundra Expedition travelling by ship, with helicopter support to take Scientists to landing sites, worked in the Arctic Archipelago for over 10 weeks and visited several new sites. The team of botanists, mainly from Europe, collected 10 taxa of plants not previously known from the Archipelago. The original or best sample of these specimens has been deposited in herbaria in Norway and Sweden. Duplicate specimens were donated to CAN.

For many years Danish researchers working in Greenland did a great deal of detailed botanical work (see, for example, Bay 1992; Bcher 1952, 1954; Bcher et al. 1968; Dalgaard 1988, 1989; Elkington 1965; Frederiksen 1977, 1981; Feilberg 1984; Fredskild 1996, Gelting 1934; Hamsen 1958; Holmen 1952; Jrgensen et al. 1958; Nygren 1951; Philipp 1972, 1997, 1998; Philipp et al. 1990; Srensen 1933, 1941, 1953; Sulkinoja 1990; Weimarck 1971). Greenland became independent from Denmark in 1978. Since 1997, no botanist living and working there has been found to represent the botanical interests of that country on the Panarctic Flora project. A German, who teaches an ecology course on Greenland, represented that country at the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Botany work group in 1991 and 1993.

Nunavut became a distinct territory on 1 April 1991, and since then the permit requirements to do research there and in the Northwest Territories have increased. The education department has produced a book on the Plants of Nunavut, which draws heavily on the database behind this flora (Mallory and Aiken 2004). The activity is already generating interest in the study of local plants among the people living in the Archipelago.

Researchers at the Canadian Museum of Nature, such as Laurie Consaul (Consaul and Gillespie 2001) and Lynn Gillespie (Gillespie et al. 1997, Gillespie and Boles 2001), are undertaking DNA-based studies on collections from the Arctic Archipelago, mainly of grasses. Other DNA-based studies on specimens from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are being carried out in Norway by Brysting, Christensen et al., Grundt, Holstad, and Steen (ongoing work that extends published work in the references).

The Canadian Museum of Nature Collections Division is in the process of entering specimen records of plants deposited at CAN into an extensive database. From these records, a list of people who have collected in the N.W.T. Arctic Islands and Nunavut Islands was produced. It was supplemented from our mapping database by the names of some collectors who have deposited at DAO.

List of collectors. Names of Canadian Collectors in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

This database for the specimen records when completed will provide a history of botanical collecting in the Arctic Archipelago, mostly by Canadians. Some of the names on the list are those of people from other disciplines who were in the Arctic and collected plants on the side, for example, geologists W. Blake, R. Christie, C.R. Harington, and Hattersley-Smith. Prominent botanists who collected in the twentieth century were Aiken, Baldwin, Cody, Consaul, Gillespie, Gillett, Malte, Porsild, and Polunin, from the Canadian Museum of Nature, and Soreng, from the Smithsonian Institution.

Many organizations such as the Arctic Council, and its many sections such as CAFF (the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna) and CPAN (Circumpolar Protected Areas Network), and CAVM (Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Mapping) meet to arrive at international co-operation and understanding of the circumpolar area, but do not finance or attempt to undertake research. They compile existing information and write reports for nonspecialists (see, for example, CAFF 2001). The products of the work rightly give the impression that much is known. However, they usually fail to indicate how very much more there is to learn.

It is hoped that this flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago will provide a basis for much more research on arctic plants in Canada in the coming years. There are many potentially very interesting areas that have never been botanised, or only superficially visited, in particular the east coast of Baffin Island opposite Greenland and the southern coast of Victoria Island closest to Continental North America. In these sites, certainly new records, as well as interesting new species to the Arctic Archipelago, are waiting to be discovered.

This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.