Plants In The Arctic: Here's A List Of Plant Species That Grow In the Arctic!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Mar 11, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 16, 2021
Edited by Sarah Nyamekye
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Blooming Arctic willow in the tundra

The Arctic Tundra is the region of Earth around the North Pole, roughly between the latitudes 55° to 70° North.

The Arctic Tundra comprises the northernmost landmasses of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, Iceland, Svalbard, Russia, and Siberia. The term tundra is a derivation of 'Tunturi', which is the Finnish word for a 'barren or treeless land', referring to the treeless land of the Arctic Tundra.

Plant species capable of growing and living in the Arctic environment have to bear long durations of extremely cold temperatures.

The annual average temperature in the Artic Tundra is around -18.4 °F (-28 °C), which can drop to nearly -94 °F (- 70 °C) during the winter season. A striking feature of the tundra is the permafrost, a layer under the topsoil that remains frozen.

Winter in the Arctic Tundra can last for around 6-10 months as you go close to the North Pole.

This leaves a short summer and an even shorter growing season for the limited vegetation to grow and thrive in this frigid and harsh environment. The plants that grow there also face water scarcity, with annual precipitation being as low as 6-10 in (15 - 25 cm), primarily snow.

Despite these harsh conditions, the Arctic Tundra is home to 2,218 vascular plant species, along with bryophytes in the form of mosses and liverworts.

Explore these diverse species of Artic plants and know what makes them incredible living organisms. If you are looking for interesting facts and trivia about flowers, you might enjoy our articles on Flowers That Start With D or Lilac Symbolism.

What kinds of plants grow in the Arctic?

Among the 2218 species of vascular plants in the Arctic, the most common are flowering plants, herbs, grasses, and dwarf shrubs. In contrast, mosses and liverworts are the only known bryophytes that grow in the region. The kinds of plant species most abundant in the Arctic tundra are listed below.

The plants typically grow in the tundra regions are - Arctic willow, Artic poppy, Pasque Flower, and Cottongrass.

The Arctic Bearberry, also known as the 'Arctous rubra' or 'Kimnickinnicik', is a rare species of the genus Arctostaphylos, specifically adapted to survive in the Arctic climate.

Purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) is another one of the common plants found in the high Arctic areas that are less vegetated.

Saxifrages found near freshwater areas in the Arctic are - yellow marsh saxifrage (Saxifraga hiriculus), brook saxifrage (Saxifraga rivularis), leafy stem saxifrage (Saxifraga foliosa), Ottertail pass saxifrage (Saxifraga tenuis).

Golden saxifrages (Chrysoplenium spp.), also called 'water carpets', and northern water carpets (Chrysoplenium tetrandrum) are another genera of plants found in the Arctic.

Marsh of grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris) and Kotzebue's grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia kotzebuei) are common species of perennial herbs that grow near waterbodies in the Arctic Tundra.

The Arctic mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium articum) is another perennial herb adapted for growing on open gravel in humid regions.

Most edible plants found in the Arctic are perennial, such as - Oyster plant (Mertensia maritime), Silverweed (Potentilla anserina), Sea sandwort (Honckenya peploides), Moss campion (Silene acaulis), and Northern dock (Rumex longifolius).

Arctic dandelions (Taraxacum arcticum) are a common species of perennial dandelions that grow in the Arctic and are edible.

Lyme grass (Leymus arenarius or Elymus arenarius) is a grass family of semi-evergreen plants.

Two kinds of edible trees that can grow in the lower, warmer latitudes around the border of the Arctic Tundra are - Birch (Betula pubescens) and Spruce (Picea sitchensis).

Do plants grow in the Arctic?

Yes, plants do grow in the Arctic. But, as listed above, only small plants are capable of growing in the region.

This is because access to energy, nutrients, and water is scarce, and the permafrost prevents the growth of deeper root systems. In this section, you can find out more about the prominent plant families and conditions that enable the development of Arctic vegetation.

The overall species of vascular Arctic plants represent 430 genera and 91 plant families.

Among the 2218 species of vascular plants, nearly 400 are seed-bearing, flowering plants of the order Angiosperm.

The grass family of Poaceae and the sedge family of Cyperaceae are the only monocotyledonous Arctic plants with around 100 species.

The eudicotyledonous Arctic plants families with more than 100 species include - Asteraceae (plants of the composite family), Rosaceae (plants of the rose family), Brassicaceae (plants of the mustard or cabbage family), Fabaceae (plants of the pea or bean family), Caryophyllaceae (plants of the pink family), and Ranunculaceae (plants of the buttercup family).

A variety of about 50 Arctic plant species can be found within the genera of Carex (sedge family), Potentilla (rose family), Oxytropis (legume family), and Salix (willow family).

Gymnosperms are vascular plants that bear seeds but do not produce flowers. These are a rare order of plant species found in the Arctic.

Key adaptations of the Arctic plants are - their small size to conserve energy and water intake, shallow spread-out root systems to survive above the permafrost, and small leaves to reduce loss of water and energy.

Arctic plants are also adapted to grow and reproduce in extreme climate conditions. The plants can photosynthesize under low-intensity sunlight and cold temperatures, with some species capable of growing under snow.

The growing season for Arctic plants is only a short span of around 50 - 60 days, during which time several plants have to produce flowers and seeds.

Many species of Arctic plants are perennials that undergo vegetative reproduction and require no seeds. These plants grow through the short summer, die during the winter, and regrow from their rootstocks the next summer.

Main Groups Of Plant Species Found In The Arctic

The entire Arctic vegetation can be broadly classified into three main species groups based on the origins of the different plant species. Keep reading to learn about the interesting characteristics of these species groups and some of the notable polar plants from each group.

Endemic species of Arctic flora

There are 106 species of endemic or native plants that grow in the Arctic, belonging to the families - Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Fabaceae, Papaveraceae, and Poaceae.

The most species-rich genera of endemic polar plants of the Arctic are - Puccinelia (grass family), Oxytropis (legume family), Papaver (poppy family), and Draba (cabbage family).

A genus of grasses known as Poa and a genus of flowering plants called Braya include four species of endemic Arctic plants.

Almost all endemic species of polar plants of the Arctic are grasses or some type of herb, along with some sedges.

Borderline species of Arctic flora

The layer of vegetation covering the southern edges of the Arctic Tundra is part of the borderline species.

These account for nearly 190 species of polar plants that do not originate in the Arctic but just below it.

Asteraceae and Cyperaceae are the most species-rich plant families

Some hydrophytic polar plants that grow in the Arctic as borderline species are - water lilies, pond lilies, arrowheads, rannochrushes, water-plantains, pondweed, and flowering rushes.

Some tree and shrub species like willows (Salix), alders (Alnus), and Fir (Abies) also grow in the southern end of the Arctic Tundra.

Introduced non-endemic species

101 species of non-native polar plants underwent stabilized introduction by reproducing in a generative or vegetative manner.

The orders Poaceae and Asteraceae account for most of the stably introduced non-native species of plants in the Arctic. Common plantain and red clover are the most abundant plants in this category.

The native Arctic plants that were stably introduced are - white clover, common chickweed, European alkali grass, woodland draba, and meadow grass.


Mosses and liverworts, the most common type of bryophytes that grow in the Arctic, account for about 900 varieties of polar plant species.

Mosses generally appear to grow in the form of turfs, while liverworts typically grow in the form of mats or carpets.

Some varieties of mosses that grow in the Arctic are - Bryum moss, bog moss, feather moss, tuft moss, and dung moss.

Common liverwort species include - earwort, earthwort, pincerwort, threadwort, and notchwort.

Why do Arctic plants grow hair?

The polar plants of the Arctic can produce silky hairs as adaptations for insulating themselves against the cold and protection from strong winds. This can be seen in a Pasque flower or Bearberry.

Plants like the Arctic crocus trap heat from the sunlight and preserve it for the winter season.

Arctic plants have waxy leaves to hold moisture and provide food for themselves during the snow.

Did You Know?

Arctic moss (Calliergon giganteum) is the most common polar plant in the Arctic and grows throughout the year. It serves as a nutritious food for the growth of other aquatic creatures.

The Arctic willow (Salix arctica) is also called a 'tongue plant' by the Inuit people because of its peculiar shape. An Arctic willow can grow in various colors but only until 6 in (15 cm).

The plants that can grow and survive the freezing temperature of the Arctic Region are known as polar plants.

Seeds of certain species of polar plants of the Arctic may also develop adaptations like hair projections. This ensures the seed is protected in cold soil and can undergo successful germination.

There are two seasons in the Arctic region - summer and winter.

Snow is the root cause for the survival of the plants in the polar region because it helps the plants in insulation.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You


See All

Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

Read full bio >
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

Niyati Parab picture

Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

Read full bio >