Friday, 7 June 2013

The Moment We've All Been Waiting For

Sofia Jain

It has been a little bit surprising how cold June can be in Iqaluit. My daily dress is long underwear, 2 fleeces, a jacket and a down vest. I must admit it felt a bit ridiculous to be looking for plants in flower, when all bundled up and leaning forwards against the bitter wind. Would you expect to be seeing flowers in this?

Unexpected blizzard- June 3, 2013
Pack ice- June 6, 2013

Snow bank- June 7, 2013

 Last week, before we were hit by a blizzard, I decided that I had a good feeling about June 6th. It just seemed like a good day for flowers. Soon our house hold all had there guess for the first flower marked on the calendar. On June 6th I jokingly emphasized that there would be flowers today. Just as we were contemplating why a bumble bee would be bustling about something caught our eye. It was a huge surprise when we found four different species in flower! Here are pictures of three of them:

Arctous alpine (Bearberry)
Salix female catkin (Willow species)
Salix female catkin (A willow species)
Saxifraga tricuspidata (Purple saxifrage)
These little plants just blow me away. Here I am half numb, and stumbling in the wind and these delicate centimeter tall plants put on these extraordinary displays. It is interesting though when we stop for lunch or take pictures, it is quite noticeable how warm the ground is. Putting a cold hand on the moss quickly warms it up. You can also often see a mirage just above the ground because the temperature difference between the ground and the air is so different. This is why arctic plants stay so small. The closer to the ground they are the more access they have to warmth. Many arctic plants also keep dead leaves from previous years to provide insulation. Well, now our job monitoring flowering and fruiting really begins!


  1. Zoe and Sophia,

    Do you have any instrument to measure such local variations in temperature? Do you see much insect activity? In particular are there bees and flies that might be pollinating these flowers?

    When you get to your main field site, you might try some experiments in which you increase the temperature of plants and see how long it takes them to respond; the easiest way would be to take cuttings of plants or potted plants and bring them inside.

  2. Hi Richard,
    We have seen a bee and several spiders while out monitoring the plants. We are actually making sure we appreciate these few days because the mosquitos will be sure to be out in force soon. We have not actually observed any insects on the few flowers that are out but we did see one Purple Saxifrage flower with the ovary swelling indicating it has been pollinated.
    There is several ITEX (International Tundra Experiment - that do experiments on increasing temperatures around the plant.