Friday, October 30, 2015

Flower for the Day Moss Campion Greenland 10-30

Moss campion (Silene acaulis), part of the pinks family, is a cushion plant. It is an evergreen perennial which is common in the high arctic on sand crevices and tundra. It develops a long taproot which anchors the plant and helps it extract water and nutrients from deep in the ground. The leaves and branches form a compact cushion and the flowers are a showy magenta. Larger cushions indicate older plants. Some have been dated to more than three hundred years of age. 
Moss campion is a remarkable arctic survivor withstanding both cold and drying wind. The abrasion of snow and sand driven by gale force winds can cause much more damage to a plant than just the cold alone. The dead and withered leaves of moss campion do not drop off but accumulate making the plant more like a cushion. The dead leaves shelter the living leaves from snow abrasion in the winter and from drying out in the summer. In the summer the leaves absorb the sun's warmth and trap the warmed air so that the temperature in the cushion is several degrees higher than that of the surrounding outside air. The dead leaves also provide nutrients to the cushion.
On the tundra it is like an old friend that always shows up.

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