A List of Vascular Plants from Polaris Bay, Northwest Greenland


  • John M. Powell






The flora of the northwest coast of Greenland, north of 800 is not as well known as that of the northeast coast. Wulff collected about 70 species at various locations along the northwest coast between 81°25' and 83°O6'N, and Simmons reviewed the earlier collections largely made at points south of 81°N. Two collections are reported from the vicinity of Polaris Bay, on the east side of Hall Basin at about 81°36'-40'N. Bessels lists 22 species collected there in 1872, and Hart lists 22 species collected by himself in May 1876, and in July and August 1876 by Dr. Coppinger of the same expedition. No recent reports are known of collections made in the Polaris Bay area. On 17 August 1958, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours collecting vascular plants near the shores of Polaris Bay (81° 36' N, 61° 26' W). Inland from the Bay a lowland gravel and clay plain extends east-wards towards Newman Bay. Along the coast of the Bay are dry, rocky-gravel and sandy terraces, with no prominent rock outcrops. A major river with its associated gravel and clay terraces and sand bars extends on to the coastal flats. Only a few coastal marshes exist above the intertidal zone which is very unstable owing to the action of large ice floes which are driven ashore. Generally the vegetation is sparse and is largely restricted to local areas favoured by more moisture. Collecting was restricted to the shores of the Bay for a distance of about one kilometre north of the river delta and for a distance of about 400 metres inland, onto the terraces of the lowland plain at a height of about 50 metres above sea level. ... The most significant range extension is for the littoral species Carex ursina, which had not previously been recorded north of 76° on the east coast and to 73° on the west coast of Greenland. This species was recently collected from 81° 25' N on the west coast of Ellesmere Island, but the present collection is the northernmost record of this species in the world. The collection of Stellaria monantha is a considerable range extension for Greenland, not having previously been recorded north of 78°, but is known from farther north in Canada. Several other collections - Poa alpigena var. colpodea, P. hartzii, Puccinellia andersonii, and Saxifraga rivularis - are important range extensions in northwest Greenland, but are known from higher latitudes in northeast Greenland. Puccinellia andersonii has not been collected as far north as this in Canada, but the other 3 species are known from higher latitudes. The collections of Carex maritima and Draba bellii are small northern range extensions in northwest Greenland. Several other species - Deschampsia brevifolia, Carex stans and Arenaria rubella would appear to be range extensions from Porsild's maps, but Ostenfeld reported them collected by Wulff at more northern latitudes in northwest Greenland. ... Ruling out any species for which the identification is in doubt, we can add 13 species from the lists of Bessels and Hart, giving a combined total of 50 species for the Polaris Bay area. This total is poor in number of species when compared with other areas of the High Arctic. Additional collecting will undoubtedly add other species, especially if habitats occurring at higher altitudes on Polaris Promontory, or further inland are included.