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Canadian Eastern Arctic: Encyclopedia Arctica 6: Plant Sciences (Regional)
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Canadian Eastern Arctic

(EA-Plant Sciences. Nicholas Polunin)

CANADIAN EASTERN ARCTIC

CONTENTS
Page
Introduction 1
The Flora 3
The Vegetation 13
Ellesmere Island 14
Devon, Cornwallis, and Somerset Islands 25
Northern Baffin Island 32
Central Baffin Island 39
Southern Baffin Island 46
Melville Peninsula 58
Northernmost Labrador 65
Northernmost Quebec 75
Islands in Hudson and Ungava Bays 95
West Coast of Hudson Bay 115
Bibliography 130

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATIONS
With the manuscript of this article, the author submitted 99
photographs for possible use as illustrations. Because of the high
cost of reproducing them as halftones in the printed volume, only a
small proportion of the photographs submitted by contributors to
Encyclopedia Arctica can be used, at most one or two with each paper;
in some cases none. The number and selection must be determined later
by the publisher and editors of Encyclopedia Arctica . Meantime all
photographs are being held at The Stefansson Library.

EA-Plant Sciences
(Nicholas Polunin)

CANADIAN EASTERN ARCTIC
Introduction
The area to be considered here includes the land and adjacent waters of
Canada lying north of the 60th parallel of latitude and east of the 95th
meridian, with the exception of Axel Heiberg Island, Boothia Peninsula, and
some inland parts of Keewatin. To the east lies Greenland. The land adjacent
to the west of the area thus delimited will for the present purpose be con–
sidered as belonging to the Canadian Western Arctic, whereas that lying im–
mediately to the south in Ungava and Labrador is treated separately. This
delimitation was a mere arbitrary one of temporary convenience, as is the
subdivision of the resulting “Eastern Arctic” area into the following ten
“major districts” (see Fig. 1 and cf. ref. 46, pp. 1-11):
2. Ellesmere Island
4. Devon, Cornwallis, and Somerset Islands
6. Northern Baffin Island
8. Central Baffin Island
10. Southern Baffin Island
12. Melville Peninsula
14. Northernmost Labrador
16. Northernmost Quebec
18. Islands in Hudson and Ungava Bays
20. West Coast of Hudson Bay (Keewatin)
Figure 1. Sketch-map showing subdivisions of the Canadian Eastern Arctic as follows:
(1) Ellesmere; (2) Devon, Cornwallis, and Somerset Islands; (3) Northern Baffin;
(4) Central Baffin; (5) Southern Baffin; (6) Melville Peninsula; (7) Northernmost
Labrador; (8) Northernmost Quebec; (9) Islands in Hudson and Ungava Bays;
(10) West Coast of Hudson Bay (Keewatin).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

The total land area involved (including freshwater lakes) is of the order of
half a million square miles. To this should now be added as belonging to
the Arctic proper, the Kogaluk and Payne River regions as delimited in the
article “Flora and Vegetation in Quebec and Labrador between 55° and 60° N.”
and also part of the Labrador Peninsula, lying immediately south of the
60th parallel as described in the introductory article “General Botany.”
Both the flora (45; 55) and the vegetation (46) of the Canadian Eastern
Arctic have been treated recently in some detail, so the present account
will be for the most part a resume of more extensive works published elsewhere,
although with the addition of data accumulated since they were written (42;
44). The area concerned will for brevity henceforth be styled “our” or “the”
area; the photographs were all taken by the author, but acknowledgement for
their re-use in many cases is due to the National Museum of Canada and in some
to the Journal of Ecology. The more extensive works, cited fully in the bib–
liography, are widely available and can of course be referred to if further
details are desired — for example, about the geographical delimitation and
climate as well as the physiographic features and geology of the major dis–
tricts, the position and character of various “stations,” the ecology and
distribution of individual plant species, or the habitat and composition of
the main plant communities.
Among abbreviations and symbols it may be noted that “agg.” stands
for aggregate and “s.l.” for sensu lato , i.e., in the wide sense. The fol–
lowing frequency degrees are commonly used: d = dominant, cod = codominant,
subd = subdominant, a = abundant, f = frequent, o = occasional, r = rare,
v = very, and l = local.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

THE FLORA
In spite of the long line of investigators, the flora of our area,
especially of the “lower” groups of plants, is still very imperfectly known.
Considerable tracts remain unvisited by civilized man, and vast areas have
never been seen by a trained botanist. Nevertheless we now know the con–
siderably more than three hundred species and almost a hundred additional
intraspecific entities (i.e., delimitable subspecies, varieties, and formae )
of vascular plants from the area as a whole. This complement of species
includes a few that are reported on good authority but needful of final con–
firmation, but excludes several that are considered more doubtful either as
reports or as claimants to specific rank. It also excludes, as previously
explained, a number of species that are known to occur in arctic areas south
of the 60th parallel.
The total number of families of vascular plants so far known from the
Canadian Eastern Arctic north of the 60th parallel is 37, as indicated in
the following paragraphs which list the recorded species and, after each, the
major districts (by numbers) in which it is known to occur. Such generalize–
tions as “all districts” mean what they say, but not necessarily that the
species is really ubiquitous, any more than occurrence in a district indicates
that the species concerned is found throughout that district. The names of
additional intraspecific entities recognized from anywhere in the area are given
in parentheses after the species concerned; their taxonomy is discussed and
their range indicated in more detailed works — especially Botany of the Can–
adian Eastern Arctic, Part I (ref. 45, and a projected new edition) on which
the order and nomenclature of the following list are primarily based.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Artificial keys to and brief descriptions of, the families and genera repre–
sented, and sufficient details of the individual species for their delimita–
tions (with illustrations in representative cases), are given in the article
on “Vascular Plants.”
POLYPODIACEAE: Woodsia ilvensis , ?4,5,7; W. alpina , 1,4,9; W. glabella ,
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8; Cystopteris fragilis (s.l.), 1,3,4,5,7,8,9; Dryopteris
phegopteris
, 7; D. fragrans , all except 2; total 6.
EQUISETACEAE: Equisetum arvense , all districts; E. variegatum , 1,3,4,5,6,7,
8,9; E. scirpoides , 5,7,9; total 3.
LYCOPODIACEAE: Lycopodium selago , all districts; L. annotinum var. alpestre ,
4,5,10; total 2.
POTAMOGETONACEAE: Zostera marina , 10; Potamogeton filiformis (and var.
borealis), 8,10; total 2.
SCHEUCHZERIACEAE: Triglochin palustre , 10; only 1.
GRAMINEAE: Hierochloe odorata , 7; H. alpina (and f. soperi ), all districts;
H. pauciflora , 2,3,?4,5,6,8,9,10; Alopecurus alpinus , all districts;
Arctagrostis latifolia (and f. aristata and var. longiglumis ), all dis–
tricts; Agrostis borealis , 4,5,7,8,10; Calamagrostis deschampsioides ,
10; C. purpurascens (and var. maltei ), 3; C. canadensis var. scabra ,
?2,5,7,8; C. neglecta var. borealis , 2,4,7,8,9,10; C. inexpansa , ?8;
Deschampsia brevifolia , 1,2,3,6,9; D. alpina , 5,7; D. pumila , 1,2,4,5,
8,10; D. flexuosa var. montana , 7; D. caespitosa var. littoralis (agg.),
1,4,5,7,8,9,10; Vahlodea atropurpurea , ?2,8; Trisetum spicatum (and var.
maidenii and var. molle ), all districts; Phippsia algida (and f. vestita ),
1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9; Pleuropogon sabinii , 1,2,3,4,5,6,?7,8,9; Poa abbreviata ,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

1,2,3,6,9; P. nascopieana , 4; P. laxa (s.l.), 8; P. glauca (and var.
tenuior ), all districts; P. hartzii (and var. vivipara ), 1, ?2; P. arc
tica (and var. vivipara ), all districts; P. pratensis (s.l.) (and f.
prolifera ), 1,?2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10; P. alpina (and f. brevifolia ), ?3,4,5,?6,
7,8,9; P. labradorica , 7; Colpodium fulvum (and f. aristatum and var.
effusum and var. effusum f. depauperatum ), 4,5,8,9,10; Dupontia fisheri
(and f. psilosantha and f. micrantha and var. aristata ), all districts;
Puccinellia phryganodes , all except 6; P. paupercula , 2,3,4,5,?6,7,8,9,
10; P. angustata (agg.), all districts; P. vahliana , 1,2,3,5,7,9;
Festuca rubra (and var. arenaria and var. mutica ), 7,8,9; F. vivipara
var. hirsuta , 8; F. brachyphylla (and f. flavida ), all districts;
F. baffinensis , 1,3,5,6,8,9; Agropyron violaceum var. hyperarcticum ,
1,3,?8; Elymus arenarius var. villosus (and var. villosissimus ), all
except 1; total 41.
CYPERACEAE: Eriophorum scheuchzeri , all districts; E. chamissonis (s.l.)
f. albidum 3,?4,5,?9,10; E. spissum , 3,4,5,6,7,8,8,10; E. callitrix ,
3,4,5,7,8,9,10; E. angustifolium (and var. alpinum and var. triste ), all
districts; Scirpus caespitosus var. callosus , 5,8; Heleocharis acicularis
(and f. submersa ), 5,8,10; Kobresia myosuroides , 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9; K. sim
pliciuscula , 1,2,3,5,7,8,9,10; Carex nardina (and var. hepburnii ), all
districts; C. capitata (s.l.), 5; C. maritima (s.l.) (and f. inflata and
var. setina ), all except 7; C. gynocrates , 5,?6,7; C. chordorrhiza ,
5,8,9,10; C. ursina , all districts; C. lachenalii , ?1,?2,3,4,5,6,7,8,
9,10; C. glareosa (and var. amphigena ), ?1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10; C. mac
kenziei , 10; C. canescens , 8; C. macloviana , 8; C. supina , 3,5,9,10;
C. rupestris , all except 4; C. scirpoidea (s.l.), all except 1;

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

C. glacialis , 1,4,5,7,8,9; C. bicolor , 7,8,9,10; C. vaginata , 5,?6,7,8,
9,10; C. capillaris (and f. minima and var. porsildiana ), 1,4,5,6,7,8,
9,10; C. williamsii , 8,9,10; C. atrofusca , all districts; C. misandra
(and f. flavida ), all districts; C. rariflora (and f. erecta ), 4,5,6,7,8,
9,10; C. norvegica , 4,5,7,8,10; C. holostoma , 4,5,?6,8,9,10; C. bige
lowii , all except 1; C. aquatilis (and var. stans ), all except 7;
C. paleacea , 8; C. salina (and var. subspathacea ), 2,3,4,5,?6,7,8,9,10;
C. microglochin , 4,5,8,10; C. saxatilis (and var. miliaris ), 5,8,9,10;
C. physocarpa , 5,?6,?7,9,10; C. membranacea , all districts; total 41.
JUNCACEAE: Luzula spadicea (and var. wahlenbergii ), 4,5,8,9,10; L. nivalis
(and f. nana ), all districts; L. confusa , all districts; L. spicata ,
4,5,7,8; L. suedetica , 8,10; Juncus trifidus , 5,7,8; J. arcticus ,
?4,5,7,8,9,10; J. biglumis , all districts; J. albescens , all except 6;
J. castaneus , 2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10; total 10.
LILIACEAE: Tofieldia pusilla , ?4,5,7,8,9,10; T. coccinea , 2,3,8; total 2.
ORCHIDACEAE: Habenaria obtusata var. collectanea , 8; Corallorrhiza trifida ,
10; total 2.
SALICACEAE: Salix reticulata (and f. oblongifolia ), all except 1; S. vestita ,
9; S. uva-ursi , ?4,5,7,8; S. herbacea , all except 1; S. arctica (s.l.)
(and var. kophophylla ), all districts; S. arctophila , 1,3,4,5,7,8,9,10;
S. hudsonensis , 8,9,10; S. fullertonensis , 8,?9,10; S. glauca (s.l.)
(and var. stenolepis ), 4,5,?7,8,9,10; S. cordifolia (and var. callicarpaea
and f. tonsa and var. macounii ), ?2,4,5,7,8,?9,10; S. richardsoni var.
mckeandii , 3,4,?5,6,?7,?8,9,10; S. calcicola (and var. nicholsiana ), 4,5,
7,8,9,10; S. alaxensis , 6,8,9,10; S. planifolia (agg.) 5,?9,10;
total 14.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

BETULACEAE: Betula glandulosa var. sibirica , ?2,4,5,7,8,9,10; B. nana , 4;
total 2.
POLYGONACEAE: Koenigia islandica , 2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10; Oxyria digyna , all
districts; Polygonum viviparum (and f. alpinum ), all district; total 3.
PORTULACACEAE: Montia lamprosperma , 4,5,7,8,?9,10; only 1.
CARYOPHYLLACEAE: Silene acaulis var. escapa , all districts; Lychnis affinis
(s.l.), all districts; L. triflora , 4; L. apetala (and f. palea ), all
districts; L. alpina , 7; Cerastium alpinum (s.l.), all districts;
C. berringianum , ?3,?5,9,10; C. regelii , 1,2,?3,?4,6; C. arvense , 8;
C. cerastoides , 7,8,9; Stellaria longipes (s.l.) (and f. humilis and var.
subvestita ), all districts; S. calycantha , 8; S. crassifolia , 5,7,8,9,10;
S. humifusa , all districts; Arenaria peploides (and var. diffusa ), 3,4,5,
7,8,9,10; A. humifusa , 1,3,5,8,9; A. rubella (and f. epilis ), all dis–
tricts; A. rossii (and var. daethiana ), 1,2,3,6,9; A. uliginosa (and f.
albina ), 3,5,8,9,10; A. sajanensis , 4,5,6,7,8,9; Sagina nodosa f. bul
billosa , 5; S. saginoides , ?6,7,9,10; S. caespitosa , ?3,4,5,7,8,9;
S. intermedia , all except 6; total 24.
RANUNCULACEAE: Anemone parviflora var. grandiflora , 7,8; A. richardsoni , 8;
Ranunculus trichophyllus var. eradicatus , 3,5,7,8,9,10; R. pallasii , 5,8;
R. hyperboreus (and var. turquetilianus ), all districts; R. lapponicus ,
4,5,?6,8,10; R. reptans , 10; R. nivalis (and f. subglobosus ), all except
10; R. sulphureus , 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,?8,9; R. pygmaeus , all except 10;
R. sabinii , 1,2,4; R. allenii , 7,9; R. pedatifidus var. leiocarpus , 1,3,
4,5,?6,7,8,9,10; Thalictrum alpinum , 7; Coptis groenlandica , 5; total 15.
PAPAVERACEAE: Papaver radicatum (and var. albiflorum ), all districts; only 1.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

CRUCIFERAE; Cochlearia officinalis (s.l.) var. groenlandica (and var. oblongi
folia and var. arctica ), all districts; Eutrema edwardsii , all districts;
Cardamine bellidifolia (and f. laxa ), all districts; C. pratensis var.
angustiofolia (and var. palustris ), all districts; C. richardsonii , 10;
Lesquerella arctica , 1,2,3,5,6,9; Draba alpine (s.l.) (and var. nana and
inflatisiliqua and var. gracilescens ), 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,?10; D. sub
capitata , 1,2,3,6,9; D. fladnizensis (s.l.) (and f. glabrata ), all dis–
tricts; D. fernaldiana , 9; D. crassifolia , ?4,5,7,8,?9; D. nivalis ,
all districts; D. norvegica var. hebecarpa , ?5,7,?9; D. glabella (and
var. brachycarpa ), 2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10; D. cinerea , 1,2,3,5,6,9,10’ Arabis
arenicola (and var. pubescens ), 1,5,6,8,9,10; A. alpine , ?2,4,5,7,8,9;
Erysimum pellasii (and f. himilum ), 1,2,3; Braya purpurascens (and var.
dubia ), all except 10; Parrya arctica , 2,6,9; total 20.
Crassulaceae: Sedum rosea , 4,7,?8; only 1.
Saxifragaceae: Saxifraga rivularis , all districts; S. cernua (and var. exil
ioides and f. latibracteata and f. bulbillosa and f. ramosa ), all districts;
S. caespitosa subsp. encaespitosa (and f. uniflora and subsp. exaratoides ),
all districts; S. foliolosa , all districts; S. hieracifolia , 2,3,4,6;
S. nivalis (and f. labradorica ), all districts; S. tenuis , 1,3,4,5,7,8,9;
S. aizoides , 1,5,6,7,8,9; S. tricuspidata (and f. subintegrifolia ), all
except 7; S. flagellaris (s.l.), 1,2,?6; S. hirculus (and var. propinqua ),
all except 7; S. aizoon subsp. euaizoon , 3,4,5; S. oppositifolia (and f.
pulvinata ), all districts; Chrysosplenium tetrandrum , all districts;
Parnassia kotzebuei , 5,7,8; P. palustris var. neogaea , 10; total 16.
Rosaceae: Rubus chameomorus , 5,8,9,10; Potentilla crantzii , ?2,4,7,8,9;
P. hyparctica (and var. elatior and f. tardinix ), all districts; P. nivea

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

(s.l.) (and var. pallidior and var. subquinata ), ?1,3,4,5,7,8,9,10;
P. rubricaulis , 1,2,3,?6; P. vahliana , 1,3,4,6,8,9,10; P. pulchella
(and var. elatior ), 1,2,3,5,6,8,9,10; P. egedii (and var. groenlandica ),
5,7,8,10; P. palustris, 7,8,10; Sibbaldia procumbens , ?4,5.7.8.9.10;
Dryas integrifolia (and f. intermedia and f. canescens ), all districts;
total 11.
LEGUMINOSAE: Astragalus eucosmus , 5,8; A. alpinus , 2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10; Oxytropis
foliolosa , 5,8; O. terrae-novae ,7,8; O. hudsonica , 6,9,10; O. may
delliana , 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10; O. arctobia (and var. hyperarctica ), 3,5,6,9,10;
O. podocarpa , 5,9; O. bellii , 6,8,10; Hedysarum mackenzii var. pabulare ,
10; total 10.
CALLITRICHACEAE: Callitriche verna var. minima , 10; only 1.
EMPETRACEAE: Empetrum nigrum var. hermaphroditum , all districts; only 1.
ONAGRACEAE: Epilobium angustifolium , 4,5,7,8; E. latifolium (and f. leucan
themum ), all districts; E. palustre , 10; E. davuricum var. arcticum ,
3,5,8,9,10; E. anagallidifolium , ?5,7,9; total 5.
HIPPURIDACEAE: Hippuris vulgaris (and var. maritime ), 3,4,5,7,8,9,10; only 1.
PYROLACEAE: Pyrola secunda var. obtusata , 10; P. gradiflora , all except 2;
total 2.
ERICACEAE: Ledum palustre var. decumbens , 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10; Rhododendron lap
ponicum , 2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10; Loiseleuria procumbens , 4,5,6,8,10; Phyllodoce
coerules , 4,5,7,8; Cassiope tetragona , all districts; C. hypnoides , 4,5,
7,8,9,10; Andromeda polifolia , 8,10; Arctostaphylos alpina , ?2,4,5,6,7,8,
9,10; A. rubra , 9,10; Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum (and var. alpinum
f. langeanum ), all districts; V. vitis-idaea var. minor , 4,5,6,7,8,9,10;
total 11.

EA-PS. Plounin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

DIAPENSIACEAE: Diapensia lapponica , 1,4,5,7,8,9,10; only 1.
PRIMULACEAE: Primula stricta , 8; P. egaliksensis (and f. violacea ), 8,10;
Androsace septentrionalis , 1,3; total 3.
PLUMBAGINACEAE: Armeria labradorica f. glabriscapa (and f. pubiscapa ), all
districts; only 1.
BORAGINACEAE: Mertensia maritima var. tenella , all except 1; only 1.
SCROPHULARIACEAE: Veronica alpina (and var. unalaschkensis ), 5,7,8,9; Cas
tilleja pallida (s.l.) (and var. septentrionalis ), 5,10; Euphrasia
arctica
var. minutissima , 4,5,7,8; Bartsia alpina , 5,7,8,9; Rhinanthus
groenlandicus , ?2,?7,10; Pedicularis groenlandica , 7; P. lapponica ,
4,5,8,9,10; P. labradorica , 5,7; P sudetica , 2,3,4,6,9,10; P. lanata ,
all except 7; P. langsdorfii var. arctica , 1,2,3,?5,?6; P. hirsute , all
districts; P. flammea (and f. flavescens ), all except 1; P. capitata ,
1,2,3,5,6,9; total 14.
LENTIBULARIACEAE: Pinguicula vulgaris , 5; only 1.
PLANTAGINACEAE: Plantago juncoides var. glauca , 5,9; only 1.
CAMPANULACEAE: Campanula uniflora , all districts; C rotundifolia (s.l.),
4,7,8; total 2.
COMPOSITAE: Solidago macrophylla var. thysoidea , 7; S. multiradiata , ?2,5,7;
Erigeron eriocephalus , all except 2; E. unalaschkensis , 2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10;
E. compositus , 1; Antennaria angustata , 3,4,5,7,8,9,10; A. canenscens ,
4,5,7,8,10; A. labradorica , ?1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10; A. burwellensis , 7;
A. compacta , 4,5,7,8,?9; A. nitens , 10; A. fernaldiana , 9; A. pygmaea ,
?6,7; A. arenicola , 10; A. isolepis , 7,10; A. tweedsmuirii , 8;
A. tansleyi , 5,8,9,10; Gnaphalium supinum , 7; G. norvegicum , ?4;

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Matricaria inodora var. nana , 3,5,6,8,9,10; Chrysanthemum arcticum , 8,10;
C. integrifolium , 2,3,4,5,6,9; Tanacetum huronense var. terrae-novae (and
var. bifarium ), 8, Artemisia borealis (and var. pushii ), 4,5,8,10; Peta
sites sagittatus , 9; Arnica alpine (s.l.) (and var. angustifolia ), 1,2,3,
4,5,6,7,8; Senecio congestus (and var. palustris and f. polycricos ), ?2, 3,
4,5,6,8,9,10; Taraxacum phymatocarpus (s.l.), 1,2,3,5,6,9; T. cerato
phorum , 5,?8; T. lacerum (s.l.), 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10; T. lapponicum , ?4,5,
7,8,9; T. torngatense , 7; Crepis nana , 3,4,6,9; total 33.
The number of vascular plant species at present known from each of the ten
major districts is as follows; but, owing to extremely varied extent to
which the different districts have been investigated, these totals probably
indicate to all-too-varying degrees the plants actually occurring: (1) Elles–
mere Island, 115 species 4?; (2) Devon, Cornwallis, and Somerset Islands,
116 species 13; (3) Northern Baffin Island, 145 species 4?; (4) Central
Baffin Island, 160 species 11?; (5) Southern Baffin Island, 207 species 5?;
(6) Melville Peninsula, 124 species 14?; (7) Northernmost Labrador, 175 species
5?; (8) Northernmost Quebec, 211 species 6?; (9) Islands in Hudson and Un–
gava Bays, 191 species 8?; (10) West Coast of Hudson Bay (Keewatin), 184
species 2?.
The “lower” plants such as Algae, Fungi, lichens (Lichenes), mosses
(Musci), and liverworts (Hepaticae), although they tend to be represented by
more numerous species, are far less known than the higher plants in our area,
and the Bacteria have scarcely been investigated at all. Practically all know–
ledge available to date on this cryptogamic flora is summarized in Botany of
the Canadian Eastern Arctic, Part II and, as such detailed interest is almost

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

entirely confined to specialists, need scarcely be considered here. Table I,
however, may prove interesting as giving the total numbers of species belonging
to the various (not always systematic) groups considered by specialist authors
from the whole of our area and its ten major districts when that work was
written (during 1937-39). Even more than with the vascular plants it is evi–
dent that our knowledge is to a large extent a function of the degree to which
investigation has been prosecuted. To bring these numbers up to date there
should be included previous reports especially of Algae and Fungi (cf. 55)
and the subsequent additions of Steef (70; 71), Wynne and Steere (78), Lynge
(29), Polunin (50), and Lepage (26), as well as many others from collections
Table I. Species Totals.
Group Number of species
in groups
Major districts
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Algae 383 6 46 106 88 170 -- 62 126 8 106
Marine phytoplankton 121 a 65 68 66 82 36 -- -- -- 42 --
Freshwater Diatomeae 192 a 76 45 83 71 94 -- 58 54 33 --
Fungi 79 1 6 20 7 27 -- 12 33 5 13
Lichens 275 115 79 76 102 85 53 58 57 85 36
Musci 304 196 133 90 112 87 61 84 70 99 36
Hepaticae 78 57 15 20 20 8 10 5 13 13 --
Total 1432
1

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

not yet worked up. But still some major districts remain virtually unknown
as regards their cryptogamic flora, and there are glaring instances of vast
areas from which reports are lacking for whole groups of plants that are likely
to be represented in them by hundreds rather than by dozens of species.
THE VEGETATION
While the flora of our area is the sum total of different “kinds” of
plants inhabiting it, the vegetation is concerned rather with the question of
their relative abundance, being the total “display” or assemblage that the
plants make collectively. In our area the plants are almost everywhere
dwarf, rising above low bush height only in very limited tracts in the most
favorable districts of the south, and nowhere attaining real tree dimensions.
But, although the vegetation is often so scanty as to be overlooked by the
casual visitor, it is in effect practically ubiquitous in one form or another
except on icecaps, and is the source of sustenance of considerable animal life
both small and large — especially in the sea.
The following account summarizes what is known of the vegetation of each
of the ten major districts, largely following the detailed treatment in Botany
of the Canadian Eastern Arctic, Part III (46), but including some further ob–
servations (44) and marine phytoplanktonic and aerobiological notes. The usual
procedure in dealing with a major district will be to give some preliminary,
general notes on its vegetation, culled principally from the literature, usually
followed by a more detailed, illustrated account of the main plant communities
of one “test” area that has been intensively investigated by the author, whose
field notes or publication of 1948 (46) may be understood to be the source
when no citation is given. The resultant article, far longer than those

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

describing the vegetation of other sections of the Arctic, is offered particu–
larly for reference by those desiring details of the correlation between habi–
tats and plant communities - e.g., as successive lines of latitude are passed
coming south in eastern North America, and then traveling westward from near the
Atlantic seaboard to the west coast of Hudson Bay.
Ellesmere Island
In conformity with the high-arctic position, hard climate, and limited flora,
the vegetation of Ellesmere is almost everywhere scanty, being probably rarely
“closed” over areas of real extent, although even on the north coast there are to
be found “luxuriant patches of sorrel and grasses even at 600 or 700 feet” and
prostrate willows with stems up to seven-tenths of an inch in diameter (23,
pp.114-15). Of the country inland, A. H. Markham observes (36, p.383): “Some
of the hills … were beautifully carpeted with the pretty little purple saxi–
frage, a draba , a potentilla , and other wild flowers, while the valleys were
covered with patches of luxuriant vegetation, consisting of grasses and delight–
fully soft moss.”
Of the Lady Franklin Bay district Nares remarks (39, vol.2, pp.140-41):
“On the southern slopes of Bellot Island, which was sheltered from the north
winds and received the full force of the mid-day su n , the vegetation was remark–
ably rich. Six species of saxifrage were common, and [ Erysimum pallasii]
attained a height of eight or ten inches; … a single species of fern grew
abundantly under the shelter of boulder rocks. Many other plants … were col–
lected on the same spot, and it would thus appear that a favo u rable combination
of soil, shelter from winds, and a full exposure to the sun have more to do with
the development of flowering plants in the Polar regions than parallels of

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

latitude.” Greely (20, vol.1, p.81) writes that in this region “The adjacent
brook-slopes and margins were clothed with vegetation, composed of thick beds
of Dryas , or clusters of Saxifraga , varied with sedges, grasses, or the familiar
buttercup. Higher up, on glacier-drift of clayey nature, countless Arctic
poppies of luxuriant growth dotted with fair yellow the landscape.”
The interior of northern Ellesmere to the west of Lady Franklin Bay is
far from barren or universally icebound. Thus Greely (20, vol.1, p.370) observed
as early as June in the Lake Heintzelman district “the remains of dead willows …
in sufficient quantities to enable us to cook our tea with it … In its whole
extent the valley was entirely barren of snow, and in most places was covered
with a comparatively luxuriant vegetation. This consisted generally of willow,
saxifrages, and dryas, though where the river widened, in occasional places,
grasses or sedges to a height of ten or twelve inches were frequently noticed.”
Not far off Greely noted (20, vol.1, p.371) “a fine level valley about a mile
and a half wide, covered in the main by a very considerable quantity of grass,
which in its manner of growth and appearance resembles the bunch grass of our
western prairies. In addition there are many young willows, saxifrages, dryas,
etc. Enough dead willows can be gathered at almost any spot for the requirements
of any sledge party.”
About the great Lake Hazen, Greely noted (20, vol.1, p.279) “Much grass,
many willows, and other vegetation …,” while on a nearby plateau he found
(p.391) that “The vegetation was the most rank I have seen in the polar regions.
Grass in considerable quantity grew at the margin of … shallow lakes to the
height of eighteen or twenty inches,” later remarking (p.414) on “The discovery
of numerous valleys covered with comparatively luxuriant vegetation, which af–
ford sufficient pasturage for large numbers of musk-oxen.”

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Farther south, in the Hayes Sound region, Simmons (63, pp.468-69) re–
ported that “The vegetation was close and luxuriant over considerable parts
of the plateau which constitutes the interior of the peninsula. Particularly
noticeable was Papaver radicatum , which … was still in full bloom [on
August 21]. Other flowers were also in bloom, probably because the snow had
lain long, and they had been late in regaining their functional activity.
On the slope leading down to Rutherfordeidet, on the other hand, where, on
account of its favorable aspect, ‘spring’ was considerably earlier than
on the plateau, nearly all the flowers, with the exception of Saxifraga tri
cuspidata , were over. I saw, among others, [ Vaccinium uliginosum var. alu
pinum ] and Cassiope tetragona as well-grown as in Foulke Fjord.” This last
place lies considerably to the south in Greenland, and by the extent and green–
ness of its vegetation Simmons had been particularly struck.
In general it would seem that the flora and vegetation are poorer on
limestone than on Archean rocks (cf. 64, p.5). Indeed on calcareous soil
“The ground formed by its products of denudation may be for large expanses
entirely, or almost entirely, without vegetation, at any rate as far as the
higher plants are concerned; mosses were of rare occurrence, and the lichens
also sparse” (63, p.471).
Little is known of the vegetation of the western portions of Ellesmere,
but it seems to be relatively luxuriant (cf. 73, vol.1, p.181; 14, p.343).
The latter author noted “a great herd of musk-oxen feeding on a wide meadow
at the foot of the mountains … Their splendid condition was no doubt due
to the excellent pasturage they found on the grassy meadows among the moun–
tains and along the fjord … Large tracts support a relatively luxuriant
growth of willow, sedge, and grass, the chief foods of the musk-oxen.” To

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the north, about Greely and Borup fjords, musk oxen and vegetation were
again “abundant,” forming in the latter region “a thick close carpet” (14,
pp.351-53).
As our example for detailed consideration we will take Craig Harbour, a
deep and relatively sheltered cove lying on the south coast in latitude 76°12′ N.
and longitude 80°56′ W. The physiography here is rugged, with tall cliffs
and mountain slopes rising to more than 1,000 feet (305 meters) from the sea
or the sides of the gently sloping plains that terminate the cove and in
places stretch back a mile or more from the water’s edge. At the raised back
of the plains, on the side away from the sea, are steeper slopes or tongues
of glacier that descend into the valley but do not here reach the water. The
climate is very severe, with the monthly mean around −20°F. in winter and
only about 43°F. in the warmest month (July), and the annual precipitation
usually much less than 10 inches.
The prevailing rocks of the district are dark-reddish or chocolate–
colored granites capped by a few feet of sandstones succeeded by a thicker
layer of dolomite. The valley bottom is occupied by recently outwashed glacial
material partly covering and partly intermixed with marine deposits. The dark
granitic slopes are much streaked by long screes of light-colored dolomite
or gullies filled with neve, and in places snow patches persist throughout
the summer even at sea level. The general impression from the sea is of deso–
lation and barrenness (Fig. 2), but on closer inspection it is evident that the
frequent “raised” beaches support considerable dwarfed vegetation, while the
plains, where undistrubed, are darkened by a meager investment of Saxifraga
oppositifolia and lichens of poor growth (Fig. 3). As in other high-arctic
lands, still closer investigation soon brings realization that there is a consid–
erable range of plant habitats and different communities, of which the following are

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the most noteworthy: indeed the apparent uniformity is largely due to the
generally poor growth which rarely allows the plants to take a real hold of the
surface.
The uplands , usually covered by ice of varying thickness, occupy almost
the whole of the land area in the vicinity of Craig Harbour, although no major
mountains are to be seen. Thus an ice-free plateau between the cove and the
Fram Fjord coast, extending inland for some 3 kilometers to the edge of the
icecap, was mostly about 1,500 feet (457 m.) high and widely covered by loose
detritus sorted into rough stone “polygons” (cf. 53, p.352), the surface
material being so sorted that the smaller stones and more finely comminuted
particles come to occupy rounded or polygonal areas, generally 1 to 3 meters,
in diameter, separated by narrower intervening tracts composed of the larger
stones and boulders. These last usually have their surfaces about one-third
covered by lichens.
Growth of both cryptogams and phanerogams is extremely stunted, the latter
being on the average confined to a single low tuft (rarely exceeding 15 centi–
meters in diameter) of Saxifraga oppositifolia f. pulvinata to each square
meter; indeed 9 out of every 10 higher plants belong to this species. Puc
cinellia vahliana was the only other vascular plant that seemed at all common,
although 17 more were noted at least several times. With the exception of the
almost ubiquitous Rhacomitrium lanuginosum mosses were far less in evidence
than lichens, although 8 species were easily collected in a 4-meter quadrat.
The most plentiful lichen was the crustaceous Rhizocarpon geographicum . In
spite of the relative barrenness of these exposed uplands, snow buntings
( Plectrophenax nivalis ) and rock ptarmigan ( Lagopus rupestris ) were frequently
in evidence on them in September both in 1934 and 1936.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

The scree and other slopes are extremely various in composition, stability,
and other characters. Those composed of light-colored dolomite or sandstone,
which in many places come down from the edge of the plateau or from weathering
crags or cliffs or mountains, tend to be especially unstable and barren. As
is seen in Figures 2 and 5, they may form large pyramids of accumulated debris
at their bases. Such dynamic “young” screes often bear little more than oc–
casional crustaceous lichens of limited growth on their component particles.
In other instances rapid surface weathering has led to the accumulation of
some finer “soil” that may bear occasional higher plants, such as Saxifraga
oppositifolia and Salix arctica , though these are rarely if ever frequent and
vigorous enough to play an important part in stabilizing the general surface.
The less steep scress, e.g., forming an angle of less than 30 degrees
with the horizontal, tend to be more stable and consequently better vegetated.
Especially is this the case when they are of granitic origin; then the larger
blocks of rock frequently support numerous and quite obvious individuals of
Gyrophora and Rhizocarpon species, and the occasional patches of mineral earth
accumulated in their shelter may be bound for as much as a square meter in ex–
tent by Saxifraga oppositifolia or Salix arctica , or sometimes by other phanero–
gams. Where there is almost complete stability — as for example on or below
rocky crags — plants may take a real hold and darken the surface quite obviously.
In one such instance 13 species of phanerogams, 9 mosses, and numerous lichens
as well as a parsitic fungus were observed in a very small area.
The lowlands consist of gently sloping plains lying at the back of the cove
( Figs. 2 and 3) and occupied by outwashed morainic material mixed with marine
deposits. The raised beaches tend to become leveled to an even slope, the sur–
face consisting partly of barren stream beds which are usually dry in late summer

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

(Fig. 3) and fan out near the sea, and stable tracts darkened by vegetation
that occupy most of the area (at least inland). Their chief community is
a Saxifraga oppositifolia “barren” developed where to surface is gravelly
and statis. The snowfall is light and most of the snow drifts into the stream
beds and depressions behind ridges, leaving these slightly raised banks and
flats largely bare in winter. The surface is relatively dark, due to the
dominant Saxifraga oppositifolia and to the presence of numerous lichens of
poor growth, but no humus has accumulated and no real advance has been made
by the vegetation. The only appreciable organic content of the soil, besides
living roots and rhizoids, is a little fibrous or other almost intact dead
matter. The pH near the surface was 7.0 wh er ever it was tested.
Saxifraga oppositifolia is always the most characteristic plant of these
areas, although in the more favorable situations, such as slight depressions
behind ridges, Carex nardina , Dryas integrifolia , and Luzula confusa may also
be very plentiful and Papaver radicatum , Festuca brachyphlla , Cerastium alpina ,
Salix arctica , and Saxifraga caespitosa f. uniflora are quite frequent. Alto–
gether, 21 species of flowering plants appeared to be characteristic of this
community, including sedges and grasses, and several more occurred as casuals,
All were diminutive, the woody plants tending to be flat-pressed against the
ground and often drastically eroded by the wind (Fig. 4). Mosses are little
in evidence, but numerous lichens grow on the larger pebbles and gray-brown
mineral soil, contributing markedly to the dark color and stability of the
surface which, however, they do not by any means cover.
Marshy areas , in contrast to their reputed abundance on the west coast
of Ellesmere, were very few and limited at Craig Harbour. The only one invest–
tigated that was of reasonable extent proved to have more silt than moss

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

between the higher plants which, however, formed a fairly close sward. This
was dominated by Eriophorum angustifolium , Arctagrostis latifolia , and
Carices — especially Carex aquatilis var. stans and C. membranacea — but
their growth was poor and they rarely flowered. Although in places small
mossy hillocks up to 25 centimeters high were developed, there was practically
no humous accumulation, and the reaction of the soil water approximated every–
where to neutrality. Two 2-meter quadrats transpired to be almost identical
in floristic composition and to contain 16 vascular plant species of which,
apart from the dominants, only Polygonum viviparum , Salix arctica , and Juncus
biglumis had a frequency degree of more than occasional. Lichens were usually
absent, but mosses grew well although varying from place to place. Orthothe
cium chryseum was the most noticeable, but at least 8 other species were con–
siderably in evidence.
The snow effect is seen in slight depressions and behind ridges where the
winter accumulation is sufficient to form a good protective blanket and give
plentiful water when it melts in early summer. There a characteristic post–
climax community dominated by Cassiope tetragona is developed - particularly in
the angle below a slight ridge or gravel bank, where the healthy Cassiope darkens
the area noticeably (Fig. 5). In spite of the dark litter and lichens between
the axes of the dominant, there was no real humous accumulation, the soil be–
neath being light-colored and gritty although slightly acid (hP 6.2) in the ex–
amples investigated. The Cassiope grows at most eight inches high and was apt
to be interrupted by projecting stones on which grew many of the lichens of the
surrounding Saxifraga oppositifolia barrens, or by open areas supporting the
peculiar hepatic Gymnomitrium corallioides or relatively luxuriant but much
mixed mosses and lichens. The result was a considerable flora including often

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

as many as 22 vascular plants in a small area, and a similar number of lichens
as well as several prominent Bryophyta.
Depressions and other spots where the snow drifts deeply and lies until
late summer, thus reducing the gorwing season to a few weeks during which the
surface generally remains damp and the soil beneath it permanently frozen,
are plentiful around Craig Harbor. Indeed, the whole district has its flora
and vegetation limited by the shortness of the summer to more or less high–
arctic types. As a result, the characteristic “late-snow” flora of these per–
sistent snow patches, consisting of species that can vegetate quickly, differs
from that of the exposed surrounding areas much less in Ellesmere than in most
places to the south. The diminutive grass Phippsia algida is perhaps the most
characteristic plant of such snow patches, but sveral Saxifragae are usually
to be found, and, in addition, Caryophyllaceae and small Cruciferae. Although
small tufts of terricolous mosses and a few lichens contributed to the darkness
of the surface, cryptogams were rather little in evidence, while toward the
center of such patches, where the growing season was apt to be reduced to a mat–
ter merely of days, there was little save sterile tufts of mosses. However,
farther out where the snow melted earlier and the growing season was conse–
quently longer, although still too short to allow Cassiope to become established,
the flora of both cryptogams and phanerogams was far more considerable, and the
vegetation more evident.
Special Localized Habitats and Communities . Of these, three should be men–
tioned, namely, ( 1 ) the small pebbly “islands” left in stream beds as illustrated
in Figure 3, supporting communities that may be closed although their composi–
tion is quite variable, depending it seems largely on chance dispersal (in the
example illustrated the dominants were Luzula confusa and Epilobium latifolium );

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

( 2 ) areas rendered orange in color by the lichen Caloplaca elegans which may
form an almost pure investment in slight depressions associated with drainage
and seepage; and ( 3 ) raised beaches which had, however, usually been disturbed
by geodynamic forces and come to support one of the vegetation types described
above.
Freshwater habitats are rather limited, at least in late summer, consist–
ing of small pools and trickles of water below melting snow patches or in
streams that have largely dried up. Many pools or eddies in these streams
appear entirely barren, although some support filamentous and other algae such
as Zygnema sp., Cosmarium curtum , and Phormidium retzii . The last-named also
forms a scum on damp earth in many places, as do colonies of Nostoc , etc. Other
persistent freshwater pools in stream beds had deposits rich in diatoms; no
less than 44 different species and varieties being identified from one small
sample. “Where dry the beds were usually barren, owing to the washing down and
drastic disturbance at snow-melt every summer. Thus, there were often no
plants of any kind to be found in areas of many square metres, although gen–
erally a thin investment of such algae as Oscillatoria tenuis was to be found
on the undersides of stones. On the other hand, where the bed opened out and
became sandy instead of boulder there was often a fair growth of mixed mosses,
almost all in the vegetative condition” (46).
Strand and marine communities were little developed except at deeper levels
than could be investigated from the shore. The tide range is small and the
shore shingly and almost entirely barren, being much disturbed by ice (Fig. 2).
However, in places where the shingle banks are broken by streams or muddy flats,
there occur depauperated “salt-marsh” communities dominated by Puccinellia
phryganodes , with associated Stellaria humifusa (and in drier places Cochlearia

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

officinalis var. groenlandica and Carex maritima ), but none of the other
plants that are to be found in such habitats almost everywhere to the south.
Growing macroscopic algae are also generally absent between the tide marks,
although an abundance of detached algal material may afford a habitat for num–
erous epiphytic and other microscopic types. However, Fucus vesiculosus of
fairly good growth may occur on rocks in sheltered situations.
Even for some distance below low tidemark the growth of algae tends
to be poor, probably owing to the soft substratum and grinding action of ice,
but farther down dense beds of Laminaria and Alaria spp. are to be seen, accom–
panied by many and various smaller types.
Marine Phytoplankton . Observations on the marine phytoplankton were
made northward to 83°19′ N. by the expedition of Nares in 1875-76 (cf. 10; 13)
and, in the south, by Seidenfaden in 1928 (21). The floristic resume (55)
gives also some indication of relative abundance of the individual species and
their phytogeographical relationships in some cases. There seems no doubt
that marine phytoplanktonic organisms are plentiful throughout the salt waters
of the region, at least in late summer.
Grøntved and Seidenfaden (21, pp.293-94) describe the hydrographical
conditions and phytoplanktonic flora off Craig Harbour in mid-August, stating
that “near the shore … A rich plankton occurred, dominated by diatoms such
as Chaetoceros decipiens , C. diadema , and C. furcellatus , Rhizosolenia semispina ,
and Thalassiosira Nordenskjöldi [sic] … [with] a large maximum of Fragilaria
oceanica ” while farther offshore “Similar conditions were encountered,” with
the Rhizosolenia still rather frequent, Ceratium arcticum often present, but
Chaetoceros decipiens less in evidence. “The plankton then consisted prin–
cipally of Fragilaria oceanica and various species of Thallasiosira ,” Achnanthes ,
Melosira , and Chaetoceros .

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Devon, Cornwallis, and Somerset Islands
This group for our present purposes has been taken to include Graham,
Buckingham, North Kent, and Coburg Islands, and, being still rather high-arctic
in position and rigorous in climate, is relatively sparsely vegetated, although
in many places an improvement on the more northerly Ellesmere Island.
The small northern Graham and Buckingham Islands, being “of Mesozoic rocks,
which may have afforded soil favorable enough …” are reported by Schei (62,
p.21) to support “a well developed vegetation … even if the species are
probably few.” On the other hand, North Kent Island was noted by Simmons (62,
pp.19-20) as having a much poo r er flora and vegetation than the adjacent parts
of Ellesmere of similar geological character, though “in some parts … mosses
were unusually predominant” and “Lichens also occurred in great abundance.”
What appears to have been the richest vegetation by far was concentrated around
where numerous birds nest, but “In general, the flowering plants appeared in
single tufts or individuals in the open, bare ground.” Much the same is ap–
parently true of the small limestone Castle Island and Devils Isle (62, pp.10
and 12), the phanerogams comprising a few high-arctic species, although Bryo–
phyta at least were numerous (cf. 7). Simmons concludes (62, pp.14-18) that
birds have been largely responsible for dispersal of plants to these islets,
although in general “wind transport over the snow-covered ice in winter …”
probably “plays a prominent part in the migration of arctic plants.”
Coburg Island in little known and, apparently, little vegetated (73, vol. 1,
p.209). Robert Bentham ( in litt .) compares it with the rather barren adjacent
coast of southeastern Ellesmere, emphasizing its exposed nature and the rapidity
of erosion and surface disintegration; it certainly looks like a bleak and in–
hospitable place (Fig. 6).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Such notes as are available from various points on the north coast of
Devon Island indicate that the vegetation is about as variable and locally
luxuriant there as in southern Ellesmere. Thus, according to Simmons (62,
pp.6-9), the vegetation in West Fjord (lat. 76°8′ N., long. 90°10′ W.) is
extremely poor, at least on the low-lying limestone where “The densest vege–
tation was found along some small brooks and around some shallow ponds near
the shore where, however, mosses decidedly formed the most prominent consti–
tuent of the verdure.” Not so far to the east, about Cape Vera, there is to
be observed “a rather dense verdure in some parts of the low foreland in front
of the … rookery where millions of fulmar petrels breed,” while elsewhere
in the west there have been reported “wide stretches of bogs and grass-grown
plains.”
In general, the eastern parts of Devon Island, where the rocks are gneissic
and granitic, tend to be better vegetated than the western. Thus R. M. Anderson
reports verbally that about Cape Sparbo (Cape Hardy) the low-rolling plains are
particularly rich, with often closed marshy pasturage for the numerous musk
oxen. On the south coast lies Dundas Harbour, the vegetation of which will be
described below; farther west, limestone again predominates and the vegetation
is, in general, poor although appreciable on some gentle slopes, for example,
in the vicinity of Radstock and Baring bays (verbal report from Trevor Harwood).
Cornwallis Island appears on the whole to be rather poorly vegetated (72),
even when compared with its neighbors. These include the large Somerset Island,
where the writer has recently noted from the air quite luxuriant vegetation
especially in such sheltered areas as the slopes around Stanwell-Fletcher Lake.
In general, however, the vegetation of Somerset Island is sparse, for example
in the vicinity of Elwyn Bay (41, p.100) and Port Leopold ( 32, p.178 36, p.175), although

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

in the extreme south there may be “a fair show of vegetation” (32, p.198).
Thus around the Fort Ross “post,” although Saxifraga oppositifolia barrens
appeared to constitute the most characteristic type of vegetation, “Sedges
and grasses are fairly close and thick” in low-lying moist depressions
(D. H. Chitty in litt .).
As regards marine phytoplankton, this appears to be plentiful in mid–
August when, at least in 1928, in waters predominantly flowing eastward out
of Jones and Lancaster Sounds, i.e., past the north and south coasts of Devon
Island, diatoms were dominant — especially Fragilaria oceanica , Rhizosolenia
semispina , Thalassiosira spp., and Chaetoceros spp. (21; 55). In August 1947,
the author made attempts at sampling the living bacterial and fungal spore
content of the atmosphere when flying over parts of Somerset Island as well
as farther west, outside the Eastern Arctic area. From the material brought
back, an unexpected range and abundance of bacteria and fungi have been iso–
lated (56, 57).
As our locality for more detailed consideration we will take Dundas Har–
bour, which is situated on the south coast of Devon Island in latitude,
74°35′ N. and longitude 82°10′ W. The physiography hereabout is rugged, the
geology variable, and the habitats consequently diverse. Inland stretches an
almost continuous icecape, from which tongues of glacier come down to calve
into the sea (Fig. 7). The rocks consist of gneisses of various types and
colors, with often a capping of sandstones, dolomites, and limestones (Fig. 10).
The coastal plains where undisturbed by glaciers and attendant moraines (Fig. 8)
are predominantly of outwashed glacial material underlain by, and largely mixed
with, older glacial material which has been rewashed by marine agencies, and
which frequently contains shell fragments and particles of limestone. Although

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

frosts may occur in any month, the climate and conditions of growth are more
favorable than at Craig Harbour; and the vegetation, in general, is more
luxuriant. The flora is larger (49) and closed communities are much more fre–
quent and extensive, with plants often exceeding 30 centimeters in height and
really affecting the aspect.
Hills and steep slopes of one kind or another were numerous and usually
poorly vegetated — often in a manner comparable to that obtaining at Craig
Harbour, although in the most exposed situations the individual plants tended
to be less depauperate and their assemblage less meager at Dundas. Thus in
the Saxifraga oppositifolia barren, characterizing one exposed hilltop near
the sea, Carex nardina , Luzula confusa , Draba nivalis , and Hierochloe alpina
had frequency degrees of more than vr (very rare), while the surface was dark
with lichens. In less exposed situations nearby there occurred such mat-forming
denizens as Dryas integrifolia , Saxifraga oppositifolia , Cerastium alpinum , and
larger “creepers” of Salix arctica .
The lowlands are extremely variable in the conditions they afford for vege–
tation. Thus on exposed ridges, for example, there may be no more than a Saxi
fraga oppositifolia barren or some less depauperate mossy or lichen-rich facies.
More frequently, there is sufficient shelter to allow Dryas integrifolia to
enrich the community and quite a wide range of other phanerogams to enter. The
most characteristic moss is Rhacomitrium lanuginosum and the most characteristic
lichen, indicating still the lack of an effective snow blanket in winter is
Cetraria nivalis . In some such areas rough polygons are to be seen, whereas in
others the dominance is taken over by Salix arctica or, where shelter and snow–
covering conditions are more suitable, by Cassiope tetragona . Occasional south–
facing gneissic slopes which are well covered with snow in winter and have a lasting

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

supply of water in summer (but nevertheless remain well drained and aerated)
afford the most favorable situations of all. They are vegetated by a luxuriant
“blueberry heath” dominated by Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum and Cassiope
tetragona , which together largely cover the area. The Vaccinium ripens small
but luscious fruits in plenty. The soil is damp, dark, and humous, and in re–
action may be as low as pH 5.4. Associated may be as many as 28 other vascular
plants and many more cryptogams in a small area, including such species as
Salix reticulata , S. herbacea , Rhododendron lapponicum , Tofieldia coccinea , and
Pedicularis flammea that are not known to grow farther north anywhere in our
area, and Carex scirpoidea which here has its northernmost station on earth.
Whereas under present climatic conditions the blueberry heath probably
represents a postclimax, some approximation to the climax may be represented
by the somewhat marshy community to be met with here and there in the lowlands.
The example photographed in Figure 9 may have been affected by grazing of cari–
bou and musk oxen and was certainly disturbed by frost action, the surface being
divided by depressions into large “tundra polygons” (cf. 47, p.354 and pl.XXX).
The chief dominant was Carex aquatilis var. stans , and there were abundant asso–
ciated Arctagrostis latifolia , Eriophorum angustifolium , and Salix arctica
(conspicuously in fruit in foreground of Fig. 9). A host of other phanerogams
were generally in evidence, with mosses and a few lichens weaving the whole into
a continuous sward over the dark and deep, largely humous soil.
Glaciers and recent moraines are plentiful in the vicinity, the former
dissecting the land by their usually barren tongues, but the latter affording
conditions that appear to be suitable for quite rapid colonization by plants.
Thus within 25 meters of the margin of one apparently receding glacier, a con–
siderable number of phanerogamic species was to be found, all being of excellent

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

growth. Cryptogams were less in evidence. Farther back Luzula confusa , which
had been more frequent than any other plant near the glacier, became more and
more plentiful until, the surface being there bound by mosses and lichens, the
community became completely closed at a distance of about 100 meters from the
edge of the glacier (Fig. 8).
Marshes of one sort or another cover considerable areas around Dundas,
especially by the sides of the fjord (Fig. 10). A characteristic denizen of
tracts that are inundated most of the summer is Pleuropogon sabinii , tough
it often gives way to denser clumps of Eriophorum angustifolium in stabilized
areas (Fig. 11). More extensive and typical are the marshes of mixed dom–
inance by Eriophora, Carices, and grasses — including Arctagrostis latifolia
up to 50 centimeters high — which tend to be most luxuriantly developed
around freshwater lakes and pools (Fig. 10), and which may include upward
of thirty phanerogamic and many more crytogamic species in any small area.
Such tracts appeared to be much visited and disturbed by wildfowl, which must
considerably increase the available nitrogenous and other food materials and
probably contribute appreciably to the luxuriance of the vegetation.
The snow effect was most characteristically emphasized by a dark Cassiope
heath subclimax which was remarkably like the community described above as
developed at Craig Harbour in places where the snow lies deeply in winter and
melts only after summer has come to most areas around, so that the growing
season is appreciably shortened in such snow patches. However, the growth of
the dominant tends to be more nearly closed than at Craig, and the flora
rather larger, as is indeed the case with most other communities. As in most
places to the south, the Cassiope heath usually forms a zone surrounding the
more truly “late-snow” areas, over which the snow drifts so deeply each winter

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

and melts so late in summer that their growing season is more and more dras–
tically reduced as the center is approached. Here are to be found plants
still flowering in September when all around have long faded, and here there
is a tendency toward restriction of the species to plants that can vegetate
quickly in the very short growing season, the community becoming more sparse
and open toward the center of the area. The resultant zoned subclimaxes and
exclusively late-snow species are, however, more numerous farther south, so
reference may be made to the accounts given below. In the north there are
more plentiful perennial patches of snow or neve, the innermost zones of which
tend to be almost devoid of vascular plants. Frequently they support merely
occasional algal colonies or young bryophytes, the rocks being devoid of crus–
taceous lichens although often having a thin investment of Cyanophyceae on
their undersurfaces.
Special Localized Habitats and Communities . Only two need be mentioned:
“raised beaches” and old Eskimo encampments. “Young” examples of the former,
near the sea, are usually occupied by barrens of one sort or another, and older
ones by heathy or grassy communities. The Eskimo encampments, although sup–
posedly deserted for at least a century, are still notable for the relative
luxuriance of the predominantly grassy vegetation that covers their area.
Of freshwater habitats , the streams are often pehemeral, drying up in late
summer, so that their beds tend to be barren, though where even the tiniest
trickle persists there may be a considerable range of algae, including macro–
scopic filamentous and colonial types. The only phanerogam seen in such situ–
ations at Dundas was Ranunculus hyperboreus , which rooted in the bed and had
leaves coming up and floating on the surface where the water was not too deep,
as in Far Northern Spitsbergen (51). About the drying-up margins of pools,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

muddy surfaces are frequently darkened by Nostoc or other cyanophycean colonies
that appear to result in quite rapid humous accumulation. In more lasting
peaty or mossy pools, there is to be found a considerable range of algae,
more than fifty species being identified from samples taken as late as Septem–
ber in 1936. In larger bodies of water aquatic mosses are frequently more in
evidence, and the margins support luxuriant beds of Carex aquatilis var. stans
and Eriophorum angustifolium , which are consolidated into mixed marshes behind
(Fig. 10).
Strand and marine habitats are noticeably better vegetated than at Craig,
at least as regards the seashore, where characteristic flat rosettes of Mer
tensia maritima var. tenella have colonized the otherwise barren shingle just
above high watermark. In sandy or muddy places Carex ursina and phases of
C. salina and C. glareosa are to be found, with the usual Puccinellia phry
ganodes and Stellaria humifusa , while in sheltered places and especially
alongside lagoons a more extensive salt-marsh community is developed in
which the same Carices, Puccinellia and Stellaria , tend to be the most char–
acteristic plants. The lower shore tracts are often clothed by a thin invest–
ment of such algae as Enteromorpha micrococca and Pylaiella littoralis .
Between tidemarks in rocky places are to be found Fuci of rather limited
growth, with other Enteromorpha spp., Pylaiella , Rhodochorton rothii , and
Ulothrix implexa ; but it is chiefly below low tidemark that growth is really
luxuriant, the denizens including large laminarians forming dense beds, and
numerous Crustacea and Mammalia (especially white whales and seals).
Northern Baffin Island
The northern part of the approximately 1,000-miles-long Baffin Island may

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

conveniently be cut off from the central sector by a line drawn in a south–
westerly direction from a little north of Cape Adair on the east coast to
the shore of Foxe Basin on the west. It includes all of Bylot Island, which,
with other eastern parts, tends to be more lofty and rugged than the lands
lying to the westward. The climate is not necessarily more favorable there
than at Dundas Harbour.
As regards the vegetation, the earliest account appears to be that of
John Ross (61, p.179),who says about the region of Cape Byam Martin in the
extreme northeast that “The valleys … were found to be covered with verdure
and wild flowers, the mountains on each side were immensely high, and covered
with snow. On the S.E. side of the valley there was a small plain, which was
also covered with verdure.” Of Button Point in southeastern Bylot Island,
Sutherland remarks (72, vol. II. pp.323-24) that it “looked as green as any
English meadow, and the grass upon it was not one whit less luxuriant. The
foxtail grass ( Alopecurus alpinus ) and the chickweed ( Cerastium alpinum ), and
hosts of other grasses and herbaceous plants, grew among the bones of ani–
mals … and the filth which is inseparable to Esquimaux habitations, to a
degree of luxuriance which no one would be willing to assign to the 73rd
parallel of north latitude” — though this luxuriance appears to have been
due in the main to biotic disturbance. To the west, according to M’Clintock
(32, p.152), “The lands enjoying a southern aspect, even to the summits of
hills 700 or 800 feet in height, were tinged with green … Upon many well–
sheltered slopes we found much rich grass. All the little plants were in full
flower; some of them familiar to us at home, such as the buttercup, sorrel,
and dandelion.” On the other hand, of one of the Wollaston Islands not much
farther west, Goodsir (17, pp.110-11) reports “There was scarcely any vegetation

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

to be seen; two species of grasses, and a saxifrage ( Saxifraga oppositifolia )
were all that I could gather.”
An early but reliable observer of the western parts of this major district
was Parry (41), who indicates that the environs of Port Bowen were largely bar–
ren, but reports the presence of some vegetation “wherever the soil allowed
any to spring up,” noting also that Dryas integrifolia , Saxifraga oppositifolia ,
Salix arctica , and Draba alpina were plentiful enough to support ptarmigan —
although to be sure this is the case almost everywhere in the Arctic.
By way of contrast the south coast of Northern Baffin, especially where
it is of Archean rocks, appears to be relatively well vegetated. Thus, of
Whyte Inlet off the north shore of Fury and Hecla Strait, one of Parry’s of–
ficers reported (40, pp.349-50) that “At the head of the inlet we found two
ravines running into it, and the vegetation was here more luxuriant than any
I had seen during the voyage …”; but although this vegetation “was remark–
ably abundant, yet the plants were singularly backward and dwarfish, and
flowers rare.” In the region of Gifford Fjord another of Parry’s officers
reported that “dwarf willow grew to a height and size almost entitling it to
be called a shrub, and the [ Cassiope ] tetragona was in the greatest abundance”
(40, p.466).
On the east coast of Northern Baffin the physiography is especially rugged,
being characterized by tall mountains, long fjords, icecaps, and many glaciers.
The vegetation is in places relatively luxuriant, most notably around the heads
of the fjords and in sheltered side bays (J. M. Wordie voce ). Off this eastern
coast, as well as to the north, phytoplankton investigations have been carried
out by Nilsson and Seidenfaden (21; 55), from which it would appear that diatoms,
especially, are very plentiful at least in the second half of August, when

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

members of such genera as Chaetoceros , Rhizosolenia , and Thalassiosira may
be abundant (21, pp.294-94).
For detailed consideration we will take the vicinity of Pond Inlet post,
which lies in latitude 72°43′ N. and longitude 77°45′ W. on the south shore
of the strait separating Baffin from Bylot Island. Here the land is locally
rather low and rolling, of plains consisting almost entirely of upraised
marine terraces composed of rewashed glacial material. Where marked differ–
ences occur, this account of the vegetation will be supplemented by notes from
Arctic Bay, which lies about 150 miles (241 km.) farther west in the same major
district, and is far more variable physiographically and geologically. Its
main plant communities have already been treated in some detail (46).
Hills and Ridges tend to be very poorly vegetated, especially in exposed
places near the sea (Fig. 12). Frequently there is no more than a Saxifraga
oppositifolia barren with very few vascular plants, and with even the more
numerous lichens and bryophytes showing poor growth. However, with less ex–
treme exposure there is usually a larger flora, including Dryas integrifolia ,
Salix arctica , Carex nardina , and Luzula confusa , and on sheltered slopes the
vegetation may become more or less closed, merging into that of the plains.
That the usual barrenness is due to a combination of factors of exposure and
lack of food salts is demonstrated by the greatly increased luxuriance attained
where either of these inhibitors is removed — hence, the appearance of the
dense sward around the large boulder in Figure 12, due to manuring by scavengers,
and other animals which resort to such prominences, or the immediately more lux–
uriant vegetation developed in almost any depression.
At Arctic Bay the summit of the highest mountain investigated was 1,800

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

feet (549 m.) above sea level and practically flat (Fig. 13), with Saxifraga
oppositifolia frequently showing from six to eight individuals to the square
meter but few other vascular plants. At best, very locally, growth of the
Saxifraga was sufficient to cover as much as one-quarter of the area, which
was of loose detrital material. Although a fair number of cryptogams oc–
curred, their growth was usually poor, the general aspect being that of a
semidesert. With slightly better conditions, such as obtain at lower levels,
less depauperate Dryas barrens tend to be developed, though still only a
very few species of vascular plants are of at all frequent occurrence.
The plains , which occupy most of the area, support more or less contin–
uous vegetation of a marshy type in damp tracts or a mixed heathy type in
drier ones. The marshy type covers considerable areas of the lower-lying,
more sheltered flats and broad, open valleys; although variable from place
to place, it is typically rather tussocky in the manner shown in Figure 14.
The tussocks of this “hillock tundra” supposedly have their incidence in
frost action but become accentuated by tufted mosses. It is largely because
of them that the community is very mixed, for they introduce various micro–
habitats. Thus the depressions between the tussocks may be wet and peaty —
often actually under water for much of the summer, and permanently frozen not
far beneath the surface — and poorly vegetated. Their sides, too, support
marsh plants for the most part. On the other hand the tops of the tussocks
may be largely covered by Salix arctica and heaths. Thus, of the two extremes,
the chief plants are usually those of marshes and heaths, respectively, as
described below. The cryptogams are also much influenced by microhabitat, and
vary from colonial blue-green and other algae in the depressions to xeric
lichens on the tops of the tussocks. In the example investigated, parasitic
fungi were unusually common and evident. A feature of some fresher damp

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

areas is the bushy growth exhibited by Salix richardsoni var. mckeandii (Fig. 15).
The bushes are most obten about 35 centimeters high and 1 to 2 meters in diameter,
with the tops domed or flat, as the twigs cannot persist above the normal winter
snow blanket.
The “mixed heath” of drier areas also varies from place to place but gen–
erally consists of ground shrubs interrupted by light-colored lichens (Fig. 16).
The chief dominant is usually Cassiope tetragona , but other ground shrubs, in–
cluding Ledum palustre var. decumbens , Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum , and
Salix arctica are usually plentiful. The soil is dark and humous at the surface
but gray and gritty below. In reaction it tends to be rather strongly acid for
the region, being often as low as pH 5.5 beneath the layer of cryptogams which
often cover the surface to a depth of as much as 5 centimeters. On the most
favored and drained south-facing banks, the Vaccinium nay exhibit bushy growth
up to 12 centimeters high and sometimes dominate the area almost alone, although
the Ledum or Cassiope or Empetrum nigrum var. hermaphroditum is usually asso–
ciated in the blueberry heath. Noteworthy at Arctic Bay, beneath weathering
crags of calcareous rock, were “flower slopes” with plentiful leguminous plants
which appeared to benefit the community by their nitrogen-fixing activities.
Marshes or marshy areas of the type mentioned above cover much of the low–
lying country around Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. The chief dominants are Carex
aquatilis var. stans , C. membranacea , Eriophorum angustifolium , and Arctagrostis
latifolia , although other genera or species of Eriophorum or Carex may be quite
important locally. The most luxuriant marshes have a deep boggy substratum and
are typically developed around the margins of lakes, behind which they may per–
sist as far as the area remains flat (Figs. 17 and 18). In these most favorable
situations one or more of the dominants may exceed 40 centimeters in height and

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

practically oust competitors. Mosses, which may include Sphagna, are usually
subdominant, forming an almost continous investment of variable composition in
which Aulacomnium turgidum and Orthothecium chryseum are often prominent.
Snow Effect . As in the north, the snow effect is chiefly emphasized by
dark areas of Cassiope tetragona , which at Pond Inlet is often so overwhelmingly
dominant that few other vascular plants are much in evidence, although usually
between 20 and 30 species occur, besides numerous cryptogams. Toward the
center of late-snow patches, where the growing season is greatly reduced, there
is often little humous accumulation, the light-colored mineral earth supporting
an open and generally herbaceous community of variable composition that may
involve more than 30 different vascular plants in a small area and include
such typical late-snow species as Ranunculus pygmaeus and Salix herbacea .
Special Localized Habitats and Communities . There are several that
should be mentioned. ( 1 ) The bed of a lake which had suddenly lost most of
its water came to be colonized within two years by a considerable range of
“open-soil” and other plants and, within four years, by such an abundance
that in places the surface was covered. Growth of the individual plants was
unusually luxuriant in many cases, and flowering often prolific. ( 2 ) Ruined
Eskimo dwellings near the shore bore in one place a profusion of Matricaria
inodora van nana , and Alopecurus alpinus up to 50 centimeters high; a similar
habitat at Arctic Bay supported Agropyron violaceum var. hyperarcticum and
Erysimum pallasii , neither of which is known from elsewhere in this region.
( 3 ) Irregular tufts of grass, etc., are to be seen around the burrows of ani–
mals, decomposedcarcasses, or prominent boulders, which are repeatedly visited
by birds and foxes (Fig. 12). ( 4 ) Solifluction streaks are particularly preva–
lent at Arctic Bay, disturbing the vegetation for example, by leading to its
confinement largely to depressed furrows.
followed by p. 38a

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Freshwater habitats and plant communities are plentiful, with the prevail–
ing arctic conditions including permanently frozen subsoil and consequent poor
drainage. As with most other categories, there is a considerable range of
variation from which a few examples must be chosen, leaving aside intermediate
types. The margins of lakes are usually colonized by Carex aquatilis var. stans ,
Eriophorum angustifolium , or sometimes other hygrophytes, which form beds
stretching out into the water where this is sheltered and not too deep (Fig. 18),
whereas on shores that are exposed to the full blast of the prevailing wind,
and are consequently apt to be frequently and forcibly wave-washed, a scoured
“hard line” or banked-up rampart of matted roots and rhizomes tends to develop
(Fig. 17). The reed-swamp beds often have associated such mosses as Drepano
cladus bre [: ] olius and Scorpidium scorpioides . At Arctic Bay there occurred
Hippuris vulgaris and Ranunculus trichophyllus var. eradicatus — the latter
growing entirely submerged.
Sluggish streams here may be bordered by stands of sedges or Arctagrostis
latifolia , or, in the instance seen in Figure 13 taken low down near the sea,
of Dupontia fisheri . The beds of such streams may support brown aquatic mosses
and a great range of algae, nore than 50 different species being sometimes iden–
tifiable in a single sample taken from such habitats or from damp mud around the
margins of lakes — at least at Arctic Bay. In swifter streams the mosses were
generally greener but still such filamentous algae as Ulothrix zonata and
Zygnema sp. often occurred in eddies. On the other hand the more ephemeral
streams that carry the runoff when the snow melts in early summer often have
beds that are more or less barren, although occasional plants of various kinds
can occur here and there.
Strand and marine habitats and communities are likewise variable at Pond

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Inlet. The seashore where damp and sandy or muddy is colonized in many places
by Puccinellia phryganodes or, higher up, by P. paupercula , Carex glareosa
var. amphigena , and Stellaria humifusa . At Arctic Bay such green algae as
Enteromorpha ramulosa were abundant in brackish or tidal lagoons, as was
Carex ursina about their margins.
On dry sands the community above high tidemark is quite different, though
again highly characteristic, the surface being colonized by the well-known,
sand-bind lyme grass, Elymus arenarius (here all var. villosissimus ), which
has its northernmost known station at Pond Inlet. Miniature dunes may be
formed (Fig. 19). Binding the sand elsewhere may be Carex maritima , flat
rosettes of Mertensia maritima var. tenella , and domed tussocks of Arenaria
peploides (Fig. 19).
The tidal range at Pond Inlet is very small, and the gravelly foreshore
largely barren, although small Fuci may occur, with the usual Pylaiella
littoralis . Lower down there occur much larger algae, including Agarum
turneri , Alaria esculenta , and Laminaria saccharina .
Central Baffin Island
This district extends northward to the southern boundary of Northern
Baffin (see p.000), and southward to a line drawn from the point of intersec–
tion of the Arctic Circle with the west coast of Baffin Island to Neptune Bay
(about lat. 64°30′ N.) on the east coast. The eastern regions tend to be moun–
tainous and rugged, of granites and gneisses, but to the west the country
becomes lower and lower, so that the west coast, especially in the south, is
bordered by wide, flat or rolling plains. These are of limestone; and to
the west, in Foxe Basin, are large, low islands apparently of similar formation

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

(according to the observations of the author from the air in 1946).
The climate at least in favored spots in the east appears to be dis–
tinctly better than to the north. Thus, whereas at Pond Inlet there are gen–
erally only three months having a mean temperature appreciably above freezing
point, and their values over a period of years are 34°, 42°, and 41°F., at
Pangnirtung there are four such months, the values over a similar period
being 38°, 46°, 45°, and 37°F. — an amelioration of great importance to
plant life. Moreover, the precipitation is much heavier than at Pond Inlet
and elsewhere to the north, averaging at Pangnirtung a total of more than 12
inches per annum, and including much rain during the four “summer” months.
The vegetation of the northeastern portions of this district is known to
be poor in some places but relatively luxuriant in others (46; 76; 77), in
conformity with the variable physiography. Phytoplankton investigations have
been made on the eastern seaboard by Gran (cf. 18), and Nilsson and Seiden–
faden (21; 55). In the south, from the western parts of the Nettilling Lake
region, there extend low plains which are in places nearly 100 miles wide,
right to the west coast. They are of “tundra country, abundantly covered
with grassy growth and, in places, moss” (1, p.122). Sedges appear to be the
chief dominants over most areas of these rather swampy plains (cf. 66; 67),
whereas in the more hilly area to the north, “The surface … is composed of
disintegrated limestone, chiefly in the form of gravel. Between the ridges,
which are almost bare of vegetation, there are some areas of semi-marsh and
grassland” (34). The Spicer and adjacent islands of Foxe Basin appear all
to be of light-colored limestone and flat and low (44), with numerous shallow
lakes and tarns but vegetation darkening a considerable portion of the land
area (Fig. 20).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Pangnirtung (lat. 66°06′ N., long. 65°30′ W. in Cumberland Sound) will
be taken as the main example for detailed consideration, supplemented by notes
from Clyde “River” (lat. 70°27′ N., long. 68°35′ W. on the northeast coast),
the usually much poorer vegetation of which has also been investigated in some
detail (46). The physiography at Pangnirtung is rugged, the fjord being
bounded by gently sloping outwash plains which rapidly increase in incline
away from the water’s edge and lead to precipitous sides that in turn give
rise to jagged peaks and mountains often of considerable height (Fig. 21).
The chief rock is a grayish granite; wherever tested the soils lacked cal–
careous materials and were acid in reaction.
Mountains and uplands occupy most of the land area around Pangnirtung
(Fig. 21). They tend to be far less vegetated than the lowlands, especially
on exposed ridges and summits. Thus in the example seen in the background
of Figure 22, which was about 2,500 feet (762 m.) above sea level and had evi–
dently been glaciated, the stony gravel, like the strewn boulders, was darkened
chiefly by lichens of poor growth; vascular plants were limited to occasional
small tufts of Luzula confusa and rare ones of Hierochloe alpina and Cardamine
bellidifolia . Even mosses were little in evidence and largely confined to
depressions. Around perennial snow patches, where the growing season was most
drastically reduced, even lichens were almost absent. However, in more suit–
able, usually sheltered areas, the vegetation may be much more plentiful, for
example, in the foreground of Figure 22, where there is a dry “upland tundra”
of grassy appearance dominated by Luzula confusa , Hierochloe alpina , and Carex
bigelowii. Salix herbacea and such coarse cryptogams as species of Cetraria ,
Cladonia , Polytrichum , and Rhacomitrium may consolidate the whole into a dense
sward. Where water is more plentiful, the dominants are often species of

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Eriophorum , with Juncus biglumis , Saxifraga tenuis , and S. foliolosa the chief
phanerogamic associates, and bryophytes largely covering the damp surface.
Lowlands are largely confined to the vicinity of the shore but are vari–
ously vegetated. The fjord is deeply gouged and almost straight, being fre–
quently scoured by strong winds. Accordingly the most luxuriant vegetation
is developed in sheltered depressions or side valleys, where, especially
along the margins of streams, a thin scrub of Salix cordifolia var. callicar
paea up to 60 centimeters in height may be found (Fig. 23), or, more locally
and rarely, low Betula nana on comparatively deep sphagnous bog (Fig. 24).
Covering a vastly greater proportion of the area are the various heathy and
marshy communities characteristic of the fjordside outwash plains. Although
many intermediate and other facies occur, three main types may be distinguished,
namely, ( 1 ) a poor mossy heath in which most of the area is occupied by silvery–
gray Rhacomitrum lanuginosum or fruticose lichens with which are associated
various grasses and ground shrubs; ( 2 ) in more favorable, sheltered spots
with rich soil, a luxuriant blueberry heath with the dominant Vaccinium uligi
nosum var. alpinum growing frequently 15 centimeters high, and such associated
ground shrubs as Ledum palustre var. decumbens (Fig. 25), Cassiope tegragona ,
and Empetrum nigrum var. hermaphroditum ; and ( 3 ) with more plentiful water a
marshy community dominated chiefly by Eriophorum angustifolium , Carex aquatilis
var. stans , and Arctagrostis latifolia (Fig. 26), with associated Carex rariflora ,
Eriophorum spissum , Juncus castaneus , Luzula spadicea , Ranunculus lapponicus ,
and Salix arctophila , and mosses forming a continuous investment as much as 20
to 25 centimeters deep.
Marshes are developed under conditions of still more abundant water than
is obtained in the case mentioned last above (indeed the tract near the

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

foreground of Figure 26, which is conspicuous because of abundance of white
heads of Eriophorum angustifolium, was so wet as to constitute practically a
marsh). The dominants are much the same, as also are the associates, although
with the addition of such species as Eriophorum scheuchzeri , Dupontia fisheri ,
Polygonum viviparum , and Luzula nivalis . Lichens are rare or locally absent
but mosses, including Sphagna and Aulacomnia, usually form a continuous in–
vestment, even if they are obscured by the taller phanerogams.
The snow effect is very marked at Pangnirtung, the communities developed
in relation to deeply drifting snow being highly characteristic (Fig. 27).
At least four zones are commonly recognizable: ( 1 ) the outermost, where snow
affords a goodly protection in winter but does not melt so late that the growing
season is greatly reduced, and where the surface dries out fairly quickly; this
is usually occupied by blueberry heath or busy Salices with plentiful associated
sedges etc.; ( 2 ) a zone dominated by Cassiope tetragona where the snow lasts
longer; ( 3 ) a zone dominated by Salix herbacea (Fig. 28) where the growing
season is more drastically shortened, and where the cryptogamic associates
include Solorina crocea and Gymnomitrium corallioides ; and ( 4 ) an herb barren
where the snow lies too long for woody plants or lichens to grow at all well,
but mosses and such diminutive phanerogams as Phippsia algida , Luzulae, and
Saxifragea (especially Saxifraga rivularis ) do quite well in the virtual absence
of competition. The very long-lasting or perennial snow patches in the uplands,
as in the Far North, may show an innermost zone characterized by the complete
absence of vascular plants and often also of lichens, the vegetation being
limited to a few algae that may form an investment on mud or the underside of
[: ] stones, and small sterile tufts of Bryum or Andreaea .

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Areas of biotic disturbance are worthy of note, for example, in the large
Eskimo settlement. Among the sealskin tents and other dwellings the bouldery
terrain is virtually devoid of higher vegetation, owing to trampling, but most
areas around are markedly grassy. The trampled areas tend to be filthy with
refuse and excreta (particularly of sledge dogs), but support in damp depressions
a fine green carpet of Prasiola crispa , and in drier spots such angiosperms as
Phippsia algida , Cochlearia officinalis vars., Koenigia islandica , Poa glauca ,
Polygonum viviparum , Puccinellia angustata agg., Sagina intermedia , Saxifraga
rivularis , and Stellaria longipes . Farther afield, the less drastically dis–
turbed but still occasionally manured areas are meadow-like in appearance,
with an abundance of Poa arctica , phases of P. pratensis , and Alopecurus alpinus .
Away from the settlement, man has had in almost all places no appreciable effect
upon the vegetation — as in most other parts of the Arctic, but unlike the
situation almost everywhere else in the world. However, some small influence
of the biotic factor is generally to be found wherever the vegetation is care–
fully scrutinized; for lemmings abound, especially in certain years, and riddle
the surface sward with their runs; arctic hares are plentiful, especially in
the mountains, and eat down the more succulent young tufts of Eriophorum ,
Oxyria , etc.; and caribou may eat and sadly trample the more luxuriant lichens
in heathy areas during their winter feeding, which may result in such a degree
of denudation that the plants take many years to recover. On otherwise almost
barren prominences may be found “birdstones” of the type already mentioned from
Pond Inlet, surrounded by a characteristic grassy sward, or, in places, by a
patchwork quilt of variously colored lichens and mosses reminiscent of that
developing above bird cliffs (cf. 54, pp.175-6 and pl.XVII).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Among freshwater habitats we may note the open boulder stream beds which
are washed by torrents of snow-water in early summer and later dry out. They
tend to be colonized by various open-soil plants, some of which were not en–
countered elsewhere in the lowlands, and which typically include Salix arctica ,
Epilobium latifolium , Cerastium alpinum , Papaver radicatum , and variuos Saxi–
fragae. Where the water is far more lasting, as in the instance shown in
Figure 23, the banks are often well vegetated and the bed may support long
tassels of green algae and dark mosses. Small areas of “red snow”, in which
the surface (1 to 2 cm.) of late-lying snow patches were colored a dull orange
by Sphaerella ( Chlamydomonos ) nivalis , were noted both in the lowlands and on
mountain slopes in early September 1934.
Freshwater habitats tend to be more numerous and extensive at Clyde, where
the vegetation is usually poorer, but the aquatic communities have been more
investigated. The beds of persistent freshwater streams were in some places
devoid of macroscopic plants, in others darkened by a fair growth of such mosses
as Calliergon sarmentosum and Drepanocladus fluitans . On or among these mosses,
or on scums or wefts of filamentous or other algae in slow eddies, occurred a
considerable range of microscopic types. In lakes and tarns with muddy or sandy
bottoms there were often no macroscopic plants to be seen, although, where there
were stones or boulders, dark growths of such mosses as Calliergidium pseudo
stramineum sometimes occurred. Brown or reddish scrapings, taken in mid–
September 1936, from three rocks in one lake, yielded no less than 71 different
species of algae. In some places where the water is very shallow, limited beds
of Pleuropogon sabinii or Ranunculus hyperboreus are to be found, both with
floating leaves, and in some sheltered situations, there may be more extensive
swamps of Eriophorum scheuchzeri , E. angustifolium , Dupontia fisheri , or Carex

EA- [: ] PS . Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

aquatilis var. stans . Distribution is very irregular, being dependent apparently
to a large extent on chance dispersal; for much more often, even where condi–
tions seem suitable for colonization by these or other marsh or semiaquatic
types, the margins of lakes are largely barren.
Of strand and marine habitats there was the usual range at Pengnirtung.
Thus on dry sandy beaches there were to be found Arenaria peploides var. dif
fusa , Mertensia maritima var. tenella , and Elymus arenarius var., and on damp
salt-marsh areas near the water grew plentiful Puccinellia phryganodes ,
P. Paupercula , Stellaria humifusa , and Carex glareosa var. amphigena . The tidal
range is considerable, the foreshore being of mud or boulders that have their
upper surfaces kept bare of vegetation by ice action, although their sides and
the sheltered areas between are generally covered by a luxuriant mat of algae
(Fig. 29). These are predominantly Fucus vesiculosus agg., which had fronds up
to a meter long, though a considerable range of other types occurs. The only
macroscopic algae to be seen on the exposed upper surface of the boulders were
occasional minute squamules of the Fucus or the similarly abundant and wide–
ranging Pylaiella littoralis , both of which were here largely limited to cracks.
Except where the bottom was of mud, large laminarians soon took over the dominance
below low tidemark, and farther down formed luxuriant beds.
Southern Baffin Island
[: ] This district includes all of Baffin Island lying south of a line drawn
from the Arctic Circle on the west coast to Neptune Bay on the east coast, and
also the adjacent islands. Although the coasts are usually rugged and indented,
the country tends to be lower than to the north, with the physiographic changes
giving rounded hills rather than lofty mountains, and lakes and tarns almost

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

everywhere numerous. The geology in the widest sense is relatively simple,
the rocks of the ast and south coasts and most of the hinterland being Archaean
gneisses and granites, and those around Amadjuak Lake and the northwestern
plains being Paleozoic limestones. Locally, however, there are various compli–
cations in the geology; and the surface has been further affected by glaciations,
which persists to this day in the Grinnell Icecap of the southeast.
The climate, although variable, tends to be rather more favorable than to
the north. Thus Lake Harbour, which lies on the south coast and is probably
widely typical, has a slightly higher temperature and heavier precipitation
than Pangnirtung, whereas Resolution Island in the extreme southeast is markedly
maritime in type, with the mean of the coldest months some 10°F. (5.6°C.) higher,
and that of the warmest months nearly 10°F. lower than at Lake Harbour, and
the precipitation averaging 19 inches annually.
As regards the vegation, several observers have remarked ( in litt. et voce )
on its luxuriance in many places about Frobisher Bay; on the other hand at
Acadia Harbour, Resolution Island, growth is poor and the vegetation stunted.
Of the easternmost of the upper Savage Islands, Lyon (31, p.32) remarks: “In
the marshy ground, near the water, the vegetation was extremely luxuriant.
Amidst the various mosses and grasses, the delicate white flower of the Andromeda
[ Cassiope tetragona ], and brilliant yellow poppy, were eminently conspicuous. In
drier places, a beautiful species of butter-cup was very abundant, as was also
the dwarf willow.” Not far to the west lies Big Island, of which Bell writes
(2, p.21DD): “The hills have a rounded sweeping outline, and their summits are
a considerable distance apart. The wide even spaces between them hold shallow
lakes, surrounded with green meadow-like flats and mossy slopes. The general
aspect of the landscape reminds one of some parts of the Highlands of Scotland.”

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Inland to the north, Soper (66, p.34) has reported that “clumps of willow
… range from six to ten feet in height. This is the only place in Baffin
Island where such growths are known to occur.” Soper later (68, p.434) said
they attai n ed “more than 12 feet” inland of where “bushy clumps from three to
four feet high were frequently seen,” elsewhere remarking (69, p.113) that they
“rank as by far the largest willows ever found in the eastern Canadian Arctic
islands.”
The plains bordering on Foxe Basin are low and swampy, with a climate
adversely affected by the proximity of extensive ice fields. The vegetation
is nevertheless locally continuous, consisting over considerable areas of a
closed marshy tundra dominated principally by such sedges as Carex aquatilis
var. stans, and bound by mosses with intermingled lichens. The associates
are chiefly types which are plentiful in such situations even much farther
north, e.g., species of Eriophorum , Poa arctica , Carex membranacea , Arcta
grostis latifolia , Alopecurus alpinus , Dupontia fisheri , Cerastium alpinum ,
Pleuropogon sabinii , Cardamine pratensis var. angustifolia , and Saxifraga hir
culus. Small isolated ridges of granitic material support plants not found
on the surrounding marshy limestone plains, e.g., Cassiope tetragona , Arcto
staphylos alpina , Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minor , and Empetrum nigrum var.
hermaphroditum . To the south, the vegetation becomes progressively less im–
poverished as Foxe Basin is crossed and the north shore of Hudson Strait is
approached (66, pp.30 et seq .; T. H. Manning voce ). Cape Dorchester, the
northernmost extremity of Foxe Peninsula, sounds very poorly vegetated, as
“Patches of grass are few and far between, and vegetation is almost totally
lacking, even moss and the customary heather-like dwarf shrubs being rare.”
(59, p.16).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Grøntved and Seidenfaden (21, pp.235 et seq .) report on the mid-July marine
phytoplankton off Resolution Island, where for a considerable distance eastward
the south-flowing Labrador Current prevails, “with a marked Coscinodiscus
Ceratium arcticum - community. The surface samples … are almost identical,
indicating very uniform conditions.” The only vertical haul made hereabouts
was not far offshore and indicated that the surface is not necessarily the
richest stratum in diatoms and other forms, for “the uppermost vertical sample”
proved “richer in species and quantitatively much richer than the surface
sample; in the deeper layers more eastern species are met with which are ab–
sent or rare at the surface, viz. Chaetoceros atlanticus , C. decipiens , Rhizosolenia
alata , Dactyliosolen , Dinophysis acuta , Peridinium ovatum , all forms whose occur–
rence is either to be explained by the surface water having previously been of
a less Arctic character, or by the occurrence of water masses at the deeper
levels which have penetrated from the east below the Labrador Current.”
As our main example for more detailed consideration we will take Lake Har–
bour, situated in latitude 62°52′ N., and longitude 69°53′ W. Here the south
coast of Baffin Island is indented and beset with islands, but the country is
less rugged than on most of the east coast, being comparatively low although
physiographically varied. The geology, too, is changeable, for although the
fundamental rocks of the region are granites a n d gneisses, there are wide bands
of schist and crystalline limestone or quartz-monzonite to add variety, and
also areas of mixed morainic material. The vicinity of Cape Dorset (lat.
64°10′ N., long. 76°30′ W.) has also been investigated vegetationally (cf. 46).
Here the rocks are mainly dark granites and gneisses; temperature and other
climatic conditions tend to be unfavorable; and the poorer plant communities
may be contrasted with those inhabiting similar situations at Lake Harbour.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Hill summits and slopes rarely exceed 700 feet (213 m.) around Lake Harbour.
They have flat or rounded tops supporting some of the poorest plant communities
of the district, although similar terrain and vegetation may also occur near
sea level in the most exposed or otherwise unfavorable situations. Neverthe–
less, on or near summits, any rock face or projecting boulder may be practically
covered with crustaceous lichens or Gyrophorae, and the depressions between
support quite numerous vascular plants as well as cryptogams. Thus on one sum–
mit at 700 feet Salix uva-ursi formed close mats and Carex bigelowii , Hierochloe
alpina , Luzula confusa , and Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum were all frequent;
among them were collected 18 species of Bryophyta and 38 of Lichenes. It would
seem that the majority of land plants of the district are able to persist well
up the hills, provided the surface is not of unstable crystalline limestone
which tends to be more poorly vegetated than the acid-weathering rocks.
A slightly higher hill near Cape Dorset was relatively barren, with only
Luzula confusa at all frequent among the vascular plants, though rock surfaces
were almost everywhere darkened by quite numerous crustaceous and foliose
lichens. However, on hillside screes and patches of soil, especially in
crevices and behind blocks of rock, there may be a more considerable develop–
ment of phanerogams, as shown in Figure 30.
Lowlands occupy most of the area around Lake Harbour but are so various
and mixed, geologically and otherwise, that their vegetation is extremely dif–
ficult to survey. Ohly a few of the great range of habitats and communities
will be mentioned. On crystalline limestone in exposed situations the vegeta–
tion is frequently very sparse, owing particularly to the properties of the sub–
stratum material which separates into coarse crystals that afford an unstable,
alkaline, porous, and altogether inhospitable surface. Figure 31 shows such

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

an area of Dryas barren in the foreground, in which the diminutive Carex
rupestris was the only other phanerogam attaining a frequency degree of more
than f (frequent), and cryptogams were little in evidence. With more shelter and
stability, Dryas takes much more of a hold, being often so aided by woody and
other associates that a continuous sward develops, e.g., on the lower slopes of
depressions such as that shown in Figure 31. An example of this dwarf heath with
Salix reticulata particularly prominent is seen in Figure 32. The more luxuriant
heath developed under still more favorable conditions of shelter and snow cover–
ing, as for example in the dark depression shown near the center of Figure 31,
is much the same whether basic - or acid-weathering rocks form the substratum.
The chief dominant is most frequently Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum , and
the woody associates tend to be far more numerous than to the north, including
as they may Cassiope tetragona and C. hypnoides , Empetrum nigrum var. herma
phroditum , Ledum palustre var. decumbens , Phyllodoce coerulea , Salix spp., and,
in some places, prostrate Betula glandulosa var. sibirica , Loiseleuria procum
bens , and Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minor .
In spite of a general convergence, at least in their later stages in
favored places, of the successions on rocks of different types, it is chiefly
on acid-weathering substrat a that the highest vegetation of the district is to
be found. This is a Betula-Salix scrub developed under the most favorable com–
bination of conditions — with good shelter and snow covering (but not very
late melting), lasting water supply (but good drainage), and southerly aspect.
It thus represents a postclimax. The dominants are Betula glandulosa var.
sibirica and Salix cordifolia var. callicarpaea , and they form bushlets that
may spread laterally to attain a diameter of 3 meters, although rarely exceed–
ing 50 centimeters in height. The scrub is generally irregular and interrupted
by rocks or patches of lower heath in the manner shown in Figure 33. The chief
associated heathy plants are Empetrum , Phyllodoce , and the two local Vaccinia,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

which together form a layer about 12 centimeters high that is bound by mosses,
or, in some dry and open spots, by fruticose lichens. Only in limited tracts
where the Betula axes form a dense tangle, occasionally exceeding their usual
maximum thickness of 1 centimeter, is the ground largely covered with litter,
so that the usually subdominant heaths are ousted. Notable in this community
at the time of observation were both parasitic and saprophytic fungi, including
a large Lycoperdon , and a Boletus with a pileus up to 8 centimeters in diameter.
The soil was dark brown and largely of humus beneath the litter: where tested
it attained the unusual degree of acidity, at least for the Arctic Archipelago,
of pH 5.0.
Covering far more extensive areas than the scrub are meadow-like flats or
slight slopes, often of morainic origin, that appear in some cases to be influ–
enced by solifluction, although the surface is generally smooth and evenly vege–
tated by a closed but rather dwarf community of mixed heaths, sedges, and forbs
(herbs other than those that are grasslike), with associated cryptogams of rather
limited growth. True dominance is often lacking, the following being at least
locally abundant in a 5-meter quadrat: Dryas integrifolia , Carex rupestris ,
C. bigelowii , Oxytropis maydelliana , Salix reticulata , Vaccinium uliginosum var.
alpinum , and Rhododendron lapponicum . Such parasitic fungi as Cintractia caricis
are liable to be unusually rife.
Marshes occupy many flats and low-lying, poorly drained, slight slopes
around Lake Harbour. In type and composition they vary considerably from place
to place, two extremes being illustrated in Figures 34 and 35, of which the
former is a luxuriant type with water standing in many places, and the latter is
a drier, hillock-tundra area whose composition on the tussocks approaches that
of the heathy meadow last described. The most typical dominants are Arctagrostis
latifolia , Carex membranacea , Eriophorum angustifolium (up to 45 cm. in height),

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

E. callitrix , and Scirpus caespitosus var. callosus . A host of other vascular
plants are usually present, including several Carices and species of Juncus ,
Salix , and Equisetum , and mosses largely “fill in” the surface. These domi–
nants and chief associates are generally much the same whatever the underlying
rock may be. The reaction is neutral or slightly basic on the limestone and,
wherever tested, not markedly acid even in marshes overlying the dark acidic
rocks.
At Dorset the marshes, in conformity with other habitats, tend to be more
poorly vegetated than at Lake Harbour; Carex aquatilis var. stans is fre–
quently the dominant, but, although Eriophora are usually also [: ] plentiful,
there often remain open areas (Fig. 36) allowing the establishment of such
weaklings at Juncus biglumis and Epilobium davuricum var. arcticum , which are
unable to withstand competition and so are largely confined to such young ter–
rain.
The snow effect at Lake Harbour, in spite of the considerable snowfall and
variable physiography, tends, because of the warm summer and consequent early
melting of all except the deepest drifts, to be less marked than in places to
the north or about Dorset where the summer is cooler. Especially are extremely
late-snow inner zones and barren centers of snow patches rare around Lake Har–
bour, where these centers are generally occupied by a relatively luxuriant herba–
ceous community or a mixed and mossy mat, which is succeeded by a narrow zone
dominated by dwarf Salices and then a bor ro ad one of dark Cassiope [: ] tetragona .
This is well seen in Figure 37, which shows the inner zone in the foreground,
and Cassiope heath above, where the snow melts earlier and drainage is better.
Figure 38 is a close-up of the Cassiope in flower, and also shows some of its
chief phanerogamic associates. The open areas between the Cassiope tufts are

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

largely occupied by such associates or by mixed mosses and lichens. Character–
istic members of the inner herbaceous community include Oxyria digyna , Poly
gonum viviparum , Erigeron unalaschkensis , Cerastium alpinum , Lychnis apetala ,
Eutrema edwardsii , Poa alpina , Chrysanthemum integrifolium , Salix herbacea
(with parasitic Melampsora bigelowii and Venturia ditricha ), Arenaria sajanen
sis , Braya purpurascens , Carex scirpoidea , Parnassia kotzebuei , Trisetum spica
tum , and Saxifraga spp.; the majority of which are open-soil plants unable to
withstand competition from ranker denizens.
At Dorset, late-snow patches tend to cover more extensive areas than at
Lake Harbour, and to exhibit more numerous zones, five being commonly recog–
nizable in the following sequence from a marginal zone of deeply covering but
relatively early melting snow: ( 1 ) Cassiope tetragona with other ground shrubs
such as Empetrum , the soil being humous and decidedly acid in reaction; ( 2 ) Salix
herbacea with Luzulae and often Cassiope hypnoides and other species of Salix,
and with such light-colored “crumbler” lichens as Ochrolechia frigida ; ( 3 ) an
herbaceous half-barren where the growing season is too short for most woody
plants, but much the same herbs occur as were mentioned above for such situa–
tions at Lake Harbour, and, in addition, Carex lachenalii , Luzula confusa , Poa
arctica , Sagina intermedia , and Silene acaulis var. exscapa , while the cryptogams
are for the most part characteristic snow-patch species such as Gymnomitrium
corallioides
and Solorina crocea ; ( 4 ) an herb barren of, most characteristically,
Phippsia algida , [: ] Cerastium alpinum , Draba fladnizensis , Luzula confusa , Poten
tilla hyparctica f. tardinix , Saxifraga cernua , S. nivalis , and S. rivularis ,
whose flowering is frequently retarded until late summer (e.g., the end of
August) in an average year, and where lichens are few and usually of poor growth;
( 5 ) in the most deeply drifted areas there is an almost barren central zone

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

where the snow lies longest and may not melt at all in a cool summer, so that
Phippsia algida is often the only phanerogam to attain more than the seedling
stage, Bryophyta and Algae comprising most of the virtually negligible flora.
Special localized habitats and communities around Lake Harbour include
an interesting area of calcareous gravel that had been bared artificially
and soon come to be colonized by numerous herbs, including several that ap–
peared to be absent from surrounding areas but were here waxing unusually
strong, such as Arabis arenicola and A. alpina (axes up to 35 cm. long), Draba
norvegica var. hebecarpa , and Lesquerella arctica . About Dorset Settlement,
too, are some plants that apparently owe their local presence to mankind,
including Chrysosplenium tetrandrum and two species of Taraxacum ; the chief
characteristic of the disturbed terrain is its luxuriant grassiness, which is
due chiefly to dense tufts of Poa glauca .
More important and extensive in the areas they occupy are the sunny flower
slopes at Lake Harbour, which are developed where an unusually favorable com–
bination of shelter, aspect, water, aeration, mixed (preferably friable) sub–
stratum, and other factors results in the appearance of such a mass of more
or less rank herbs that the usual heathy or other dominants are, it seems,
unable to take hold. Most frequently such flowery slopes, which are generally
rather steep, are developed below cliffs or weathering crags, where it may be
that instability of the surface of the slide is chiefly instrumental in main–
taining the herbaceous mixture which lacks true dominance (Figs. 39 and 40).
Two 4-meter quadrats on such a flower slope gave a list of 39 species of flower–
ing plants, almost all of which occurred in plenty, and several of which were
growing more luxuriantly than was observed elsewhere in the vicinity. There
also occurred the ferns Woodsia glabella and Cystopteris fragilis , but few
mosses or lichens.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Freshwater habitats , whether static or running, are variable around Lake
Harbour. So is their vegetation, which changes from one example to another
with obvious changes of the environment, but, especially in streams, may also
differ entirely for no apparent reason in contiguous parts of the selfsame
body of water. Stream beds are frequently darkened by long brown tassels
of aquatic mosses, or give roothold in slow eddies to such phanerogams as
Hippuris vulgaris , Colpodium fulvum var. effusum , Ranunculus trichophyllus
var. eradicatus , R. hyperboreus , or tiny Eleocharis acicularis f. submersa .
The associated algae are also mixed and variable. Thus of 35 species (exclude–
ing Diatomeae) occurring in a total of 5 samples taken from two different
streams in 1936, only 6 were identified in 2 samples and none was found in as
many as 3. Again, in 2 samples of the algal investment of seepage areas on
rocky cliffs, there occurred 21 species, but only 2 of these were identified
from both samples, while only 4 of them were identified from the nearby streams.
The communities of standing bodies of water and their margins are also
extremely variable, the margins of lakes in exposed situations being often vir–
tually barren,whereas in sheltered and muddy places a luxuriant marsh is usually
developed. All conceivable intermediates occur, such as puddly swamps and inter–
rupted areas of the nature of that shown in Figure 36 from Dorset. The swamps
may be vegetated by such plants as Eriophorum angustifolium , Equisetum arvense ,
[: ] E. variegatum , Juncus arcticus , J. albescens , Carex membranacea , C. atro
fusca , C. saxatilis var. miliaris , Dupontia fisheri , and Arctagrostis latifolia .
Also characteristic of the less well vegetated lakesides are Carex rariflora ,
Eriophorum callitrix , Salix arctophila , Tofieldia pusilla , and many other marsh
species where such mosses as Drepanocladus sendtneri and Orthothecium chryseum
partly consolidate the surface, and, in the open muddy areas that are inundated

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

for some time after snow-melt, the smaller Junci, Deschampsia pumila , Eleo
charis acicularis f. submersa , Ranunculus pallasii , Arenaria uliginosa ,
Carex bicolor , and C. chordorrhiza occur. No less than 58 different species
of algae were identified in two small samples of green slime and dark-brown
bubbles formed on mud and taken from the bottom of one large lake near its
margin, while algae were even more numerous in small shallow pools —
especially Desmidiaceae in peaty puddles. Thus within 6 samples taken from
such habitats in 1936, there occurred 179 different species and some further
subsidiary entities of algae, among which Closterium , Cosmarium , Cymbella ,
Euastrum , Navicula , Pinnularia , and Staurastrum were the genera most widely
represented.
The seashore denizens include Fuci (principally Fucus vesiculosus , but
there is also some F. evanescens ) which form luxuriant mats between, and on
the sides of, sheltering rocks and boulders especially toward low tidemark.
Where the shores are of inhospitable smooth rock or shifting mud or sand, how–
ever, Fuci and large associates are few or even absent, although the usual
Pylaiella littoralis and Ralfsia verrucosa are to be found in any pools. The
Pylaiella may be especially plentiful, forming a greenish “felt” where streams
of water (which may be largely fresh at low tide) are left; here also are to
be found Chaetomorpha tortuosa , Enteromorpha micrococca , Ulothrix flacca , and
many diatoms.
In occasional small and shelving, sandy or muddy bays, there may develop
a sward of Puccinellia phryganodes — often interrupted by boulders and beds
of cast-up algae in the manner shown in Figure 41. [: ] Above high tidemark
there may be binding stands of coarse grasses or, particularly in muddy and
sheltered places, a close sward including, besides Puccinellia phryganodes ,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

which is often of a reddish hue at this higher level, such salt-marsh and other
types as Carex lachenalii vars., C. maritima , C. ursina , Cochlearia officinalis
vars., Koenigia islandica , Montia lamprosperma , Phippsia algida , Potentilla
egedii , Puccinellia paupercula , Stellaria crassifolia , and S. humifusa . At
Cape Dorset the shingle was often colonized by Elymus arenarius var. villosis
simus , Arenaria peploides var. diffusa , and Mertensia maritima var. tenella ,
while Matricaria inodora var. nana , phases of Carex salina , and the moss
Calliergon sarmentosum entered the miniature salt marshes.
Melville Peninsula
With its accompanying islands, Melville Peninsula has an area approaching
30,000 square miles, but little is known about its vegetation. Nor is the
flora as well known as that of most other parts of the Canadian Eastern Arctic.
In the absence of any detailed account of the plant communities of even a
single station, we shall have to be content with quotations from the literature
and observations made from the air.
The land, although oval in broad outline, is rendered irregular by bays
and deeper indentations especially in the southeast. The surface is for the
most part rather low, remaining below 300 feet (91 m.) in altitude over con–
siderable areas, especially in the east. However, much of the a i nterior is of
plateaus, undulating about 800 feet in elevation, and some heights exceed 1,000
feet in the west and north (4, p. 30). The whole appears to have been intensely
glaciated, with pointed peaks lacking and the lowlands largely occupied by
glacial deposits that were rewashed by the sea before emergence. Other areas
are occupied by series of long and low “beach ridges” with little or no stabil–
izing vegetation.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

The main rocks appear to be dark-gray or reddish-brown gneisses, but
the northern half of the east coast and its accompanying hinterland and
islands are of light-colored, low, and almost flat limestone. The climate
is evidently more comparable with that of Northern Baffin Island than with
that of the regions lying to the south or east.
The vegetation appears to be everywhere of the rather dwarf arctic type,
nothing approaching tree growth having been observed. Thus, although Hall
(22, p.357) reported from one place in Hoppner Inlet “an abundant growth of
wood in a cluster of undergrowth showing some creeping trees which spread
themselves out,” and said that one of these was “11 feet in height and 2 inches
in diameter at the base,” it appears from the ensuing narrative that these
“trees” were mere creepers or almost prostrate espaliers. Indeed the vegetation
on the whole is unexpectedly poor, often comparing very unfavorably with that
of Baffin Island at similar latitudes or even farther north. This may be due
in part to exposure on either side to seas which are almost perpetually ice–
covered, and in part to the yough of the terrain and the frequently inhospitable
nature of the substrate. In this last connection it has been said (25, p.134)
that “‘loose mineral matter of any kind seldom exceeds a foot in thickness;
and beneath this the ground is literally frozen as hard as a rock, a pick-axe
only bringing off dust and mere fragments, as from a mass of granite.’ Over
this sub-soil lies a layer, more or less thick, of vegetable soil. The depth
of the vegetable soil ‘seldom exceeds a very few, perhaps from four to five,
inches, and that only in a few insulated spots, sheltered and otherwise favour–
able for vegetation.” More frequently, however, the bare surfaces of the strata
are exposed to the weather, and on these, and in the chinks of the rocks, a few
plants, frequently cryptogamous, are seen struggling for existence.”

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

With regard to general features, Freuchen and Mathiassen (16, p.555)
write that “For the most part the peninsula offers a landscape of monotonous
plains of recent unconsolidated material from which project low granite knolls
of a rather rugged gneissic topography. As a rule the plains are occupied by
shallow lakes or marshes, often overgrown with rushes ( carex ), willows, saxi–
frage, cassiope, dryas, and various kinds of grasses.” Later on (16, p.558),
the same authors report that “Driftwood was never seen along the coast, and
the plant life is of little direct use for the Eskimos. Some cassiope and
willows that attain a height of about half a metre in sheltered places in the
extreme south of the peninsula are used for firewood, and the branches are
braided into mats to be used underneath the skins in the snow huts. A few
berries ripen during the summer but are not always gathered.” Parry reports
(40, p.505) that the natives “sometimes eat the leaves of sorrel ( kongolek ,)
and those of the ground willow; as also the red berries ( paoona - tootik ,) of
the vaccinum uliginosum [sic], and the root of the potentilla pulchella ; but
these cannot be said to form a part of their regular diet; scury grass they
never eat.”
Of the islands off the north coast, the geological formation is variable
but the vegetation almost everywhere poor. Thus Liddon Island is said to be
“almost entirely barren of the productions of the animal and the vegetable
kingdoms” (40, p.324), while of Amherst Island, the northern half, which is
composed of hard and resonant limestone, is, according to Lyon (31, p.270),
“entirely void of vegetation,” whereas the southern part, which is covered
with blackish schist, supports “in the valleys or swampy places, a very scanty
covering of moss and shrivelled grass; on this we saw eight deer feeding.”
Better known is the island of Igloolik, seat of the chief Eskimo settlement

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

in these regions. It is of yellow or gray limestone and mostly low, the
surface consisting almost entirely of “raised beaches of loose stones, rising
one behind the other quite regularly and very slowly in towards the interior.
These raised beaches are always bare, but the hollows between them are full
of snow in winter, in summer partly full of swampy ground and small lakes,
and to some extent covered with vegetation” (37, p.71). In a somewhat dis–
turbed area on Igloolik, Parry (40, p.280) observed “a very abundant vegeta–
tion, which is much favoured by the numerous streamlets and ponds, as well
as by the manure afforded by the permanent residence of the Esquimaux near
this spot. In some places were many hundred yards of square space covered
with moss of a beautiful soft velvet-like appearance, and of a bright green
colour such as I never saw before; and perhaps indeed moss cannot well be
more luxuriant.”
The northernmost part of the mainland south of Fury and Hecla Strait
seems tolerably vegetated in some places, though Cape North East is, accord–
ing to Parry (40, p.321), “inconceivably barren and desolate, with scarcely
a tuft of moss or grass.” But “abreast the west end of Amherst Island,”
and westward, are hills “having at their foot a sloping plain covered with
fine pasturage, extending in one place four or five miles towards the sea”
(40, p.339). In the region of Richards Bay, Parry mentions (40, p.333) “some
pleasant valleys covered with grass and other vegetation, and the resort of
numerous reindeer,” and also a low tableland “covered with abundant vegeta–
tion, as well as intersected by numerous ponds of water.”
For a long distance to the south, the east coast and immediate hinter–
land are of relatively flat and poorly vegetated limestone, with monotonous
series of raised beaches rising in regular succession but very gradually

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

toward the interior, and oftenremaining virtually unvegetated, especially near
the sea. Thus flying in from Foxe Basin to a little south of Hall Lake, the
writer noted (44, p.254) that “South Ooglit Island and the adjacent coasts were
all low and apparently of limestone - indeed much like the Spicer Islands in
appearance. But inland the country appeared to get darker and higher, while
away over beyond, probably near the west coast of Melville Peninsula, could
be seen much higher though rounded hills which had almost the status of moun–
tains … All land to the west of Hall Lake appeared to be of rather darker,
acidic rock, the surface consisting mostly of grey scoured ‘hog’s-backs’ and
wider depressions or flats interrupted by numerous small lakes or streams.”
About the center of Melville Peninsula, at least to the south of Sarcpa
Lake, bodies of fresh water occupied a smaller proportion of the area than is
usual in such terrain in the Arctic; indeed sometimes there were scarcely any
lakes or even tarns to be seen, especially in the vicinity of rivers, of which
several of fair size were noted which are not marked on the maps. Figure 42
shows such an area of dark acidic rock that appears to have been little com–
minuted to give soil, and is but sparsely vegetated. Much of the interior of
Melville Peninsula is of this nature, with rounded hogback hills or wider
domes and rather few lakes; rocks predominate and “closed” vegetation appears,
in general, to be confined to merely occasional favorable depressions. These
are most often situated near bodies of water and are usually of quite limited
extent, being probably most luxuriant on riverside flats. Occasionally, how–
ever, there are to be seen plains where the dark-brown heathy or lighter grayish
(probably marshy) vegetation appears from the air to be more or less continuous,
so that although the vegetation as a whole is evidently poor, there are some
considerable areas that may be up to one-third clothed with it. Especially on

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

north-facing slopes in the higher, more dissected country may snow patches
be numerous — as is seen in Figure 43, looking southward from about 5,000
feet.
To the south the country is rocky but rolling and there are some fair–
zied lakes, about which the surface looks smoother, with vegetation more
luxuriant, especially on flattish areas near water. For the most part, how–
ever, the vegetation appeared from the air to be unexpectedly poor; nor was
there much sign of the yellowish or greenish lichenous growth that is usually
to be seen in such interior regions, but instead a preponderance of grays and
browns. Southward from about latitude 67°20′ N., lakes are still more numer–
ous, sometimes covering up to about a quarter of the area, and, although
barren-looking gray rock still predominates, there are some considerable
smooth-looking vegetated areas (44, pp.255-56). On the east coast, the vege–
tation appears, in general, to be more considerable on the Archean rocks of
the south than on the limestone of the north. Thus, according to Mathiassen
(37, p.76), Daugaard Jensen River has its lower course “through a low, grassy
plain,” and Jameson reports (25, p.134) of Barrow River (lat. 67°14′ N.) that
“Its banks are frequently steep and lofty, in some places being nearly 200
feet high, and ornamented by a vegetation unusually luxuriant for so severe
a climate,” while Lyon (31, p.223) observes t g h at farther inland “Rocks of
gneiss and granite sometimes hemmed the stream, but more generally its shores
were gently sloping from the plains, which abounded in flowery vegetation.”
Farther south, opposite Winter Island, the vegetation appears to be rather
poor, and on Winter Island itself the summer is apt to be very late in com–
mencing (31; 40).
In and around Lyon Inlet the granitic and gneissic hills are dark gray

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

in color, irregular in outline, and largely barren about their tops. But in
the valleys and smaller hollows the vegetation according to several observers
is relatively luxuriant, as indeed it appears from the air. Thus Parry
remarks (40, pp.83-84) that around Hoppner Inlet it “was abundant, consisting
chiefly of short thick grass, moss [ Cassiope tetragona ], and [ Ledum palustre
var. decumbens ], a sweet smelling plant which grew very luxuriantly. Much of
the ground was wet and swampy, small lakes occurring in almost every hollow,
and numerous streams of water running from the hills.”
According to the author’s observation (44, p.257). “On the lower southern
plains of Vansittart Island there appeared from the air to be a continous
brownish vegetational investment over considerable areas, though the coast
was in most places rather rocky or undulating, and accompanied by deep shelv–
ing waters. The luxuriance seemed greater than anywhere we saw on Melville
Peninsula” proper.
A little farther to the west, on the south coast near Georgina Island,
the vegetation according to Parry (40, p.107) is again “tolerably luxuriant,”
there being “no want of feeding for” deer and hares; here “The grouhd-willow
was very plentiful, and so dry at this season that we easily procured enough
for keeping up a good fire all day.” Elsewhere on the Frozen Strait coast
“On the banks of the lakes the vegetation was quite luxuriant, giving them
when viewed from an eminence and assisted by bright sunshine a cheerful and
picturesque appearance” (40, p.69). Red snow has been found in this region
(40, p.65) as well as on Igloolik (24, p.428).
Around Repulse Bay the country continues gneissic and rugged though
nowhere high. According to Parry (40, p.52), “There was here no want of

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

vegetation,” although the reports of other explorers indicate that it was
scarcely as abundant as that usually reliable observer later implied (pos–
sibly in enthusiasm following visits to more desolate shores) by saying that
it was “in many parts extremely luxuriant.” To the northwest, in Rae Isthmus,
the vegetation is probably better developed; thus around Muddy Lake, Rae
(60, p.48) observed a coverage of “rich pasturage and a great variety of
flowers,” and near Committee Bay, Burwash (8, pp.46-48) crossed “a wide
grassy flat” and then climbed “steeply several hundred feet to a grassy
plateau which was dotted with ponds and small lakes.” The west coast of
Melville Peninsula is very little known, but such reports as there are of
its vegetation suggest that this is for the most part scanty and poorly devel–
oped.
Northernmost Labrador
Because of the separation of Ungava and of our limitation to land lying
north of the sixtieth parallel, this is by far the smallest of our districts;
the country immediately to the south is dealt with separately. The outline
of the coast of this district is extremely irregular, there being numerous
indentations and accompanying islets. In the north lie the little Button
Islands, and most of the central part is occupied by the larger Killinek
Island, which is separated from the mainland by a narrow strait that is
frozen over during much of the year, and that consequently affords little in
the way of a barrier to plant and animal migration.
The topography has many small local variations; it is only to the south
of our southern boundary that the mountains become really high and the coun–
try is rugged. The terrain consists mainly of rather small rounded hills of

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

inconsiderable height, as seen in Figure 44, and has been intensely glaciated.
So far as has been determined, the bedrock in our area is everywhere of acid–
weathering type, consisting chiefly of granites and gneisses; but the surface
is covered in many places with erractic material, frequently including much
limestone.
Compared with most other districts in our area the climate is maritime
in type, although not so markedly as at Resolution Island. Thus the tempera–
ture fluctuations at Port Burwell (see p.000) are greater than at Resolution
Island, the average monthly means in degrees Fahrenheit for June, July,
August, and September (during at least three of the years 1931-34) being 38°,
44°, 44° and 40° at Port Burwell and only 34°, 39°, 39° and 36° at Resolution
Island. However, Port Burwell is a cold and foggy place, the summer being
less favorable than, for example, at Lake Harbour; it is also very wet,
the precipitation being spread out rather evenly between the seasons and some–
times considerably exceeding 20 inches (50.8 cm.) in a year.
According to Prof. David Potter ( in litt. et voce ), the vegetation on the
east coast is very similar to that developed at Port Burwell (see p.000), al–
though in the southeast around McLelan Strait some of the communities look more
luxuriant than any of those developed in the immediate vicinity of Port Bur–
well, and there occur several plants that have not been found elsewhere in the
entire Canadian Eastern Arctic. Farther south still, in the extreme southeast
corner, is the entrance to Ekortiarsuk Fjord of which Forbes remarks (15, p.95),
though he was concerned largely with the inland regions just outside the south–
ern boundary of our area: “The contrast between the steep, dark cliffs and
the wide, level grasslands in the warm afternoon sunshine was vivid and pleas–
ant; and in the sheltered waters of the fiord we felt that we had come to a

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

singularly favored hav en.” However, to the north, the nearly 1,500-foot
high and exposed Cape Chidley and the less lofty Button Islands are rather
poorly vegetated. The highest of the Buttons, Lacy Island, attains an eleva–
tion of 951 feet (75, p.309) and according to Prof. Potter it has developed a
Cassiope heath as its most advanced community, though the majority of the
species that are most common around Port Burwell are also to be found on
this island.
Port Burwell, lying off the west coast in latitude 60°25′ N., may be
taken for more detailed consideration as being probably representative vege–
tationally of most of this limited district. A much visited place, it is the
only one in our area from which any plant species has been recorded as “just
possibly introduced” (45, p.374, with reference to Stellaria calycantha ). The
land around Port Burwell is complicatedly hilly, with steep rocky scarps and
rounded hills that are, however, never more than a few hundred feet high. As
seen in Figure 44, there is little level ground in the neighborhood.
The hills and steep slopes are insufficiently high to prevent sheltered
depressions in them from supportingclosed mossy heaths that differ scarcely at
all from those developed in the valleys. The more exposed surfaces are occu–
pied by heaths of depauperated kinds, much interrupted by bare rocks. The chief
plants are such ground shrubs as Arctostaphylos alpina , Vaccinium uliginosum
var. alpinum , Salix arctica , and S. uva-ursi , and they are associated with
grassy and other herbs (especially Cardamine bellidifolia f. laxa , Carex
misandra , Festuca brachyphylla , Hierochloe alpina , Luzula confusa , Poa arctica ,
Stellaria longipes , and Drabae) to form mats wherever the substratum allows.
The chief “binder” in exposed situations is the silvery-gray moss Rhacomitrium
lanuginosum , and it may also act as a pioneer, spreading over the rock surface

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

and allowing higher plants that can root in its luxuriant mat to colonize the
area. Such light-colored mats of this moss are seen occupying ledges in the
center of Figure 45, which shows the side of a typical small rocky hill in
this district. The luxuriance of the mosses, which are often more in evidence
than lichens even on exposed summits, is doubtless a corollary of the damp
and foggy climate. However, on the actual rock faces, which are usually intact
and smooth, lichens are the chief or only denizens and more or less cover the
surface. More than twenty crustaceous and other species were noted as taking
an important part in such colonization of one small area. Ledges covered with
mineral material, and crevices or depressions in the rocks, afford a roothold
for a considerable range of open-soil plants, the majority of which reach
high latitudes and are found to the south only in the virtual absence of compe–
tition (cf. 43, pp.271-73).
Many of the lower hills, especially, are more or less covered with trans–
ported erratic material, which is often variable from place to place. It may
even have been rafted on icepans or icebergs, and with it may perhaps have been
transported living i disseminules or even whole plants. Such deposits at Port
Burwell are often highly calcareous, effervescing violently with acid and giving
a basic reaction, and supporting an open community of mixed composition include–
ing each calcicoles as Carex glacialis , Saxifraga aizoides , Salix calcicola ,
Braya purpurascens , Kobresia simpliciuscula , and Puccinellia vahliana , which
were little if at all in evidence in surrounding areas. Figure 46 shows such
a tract in which the vegetation was poor but the flora large and varied, as is
often the case in limestone terrain.
Valleys occupy rather a small proportion of the total land area around
Port Burwell. The substratum is variable in type and composition; although

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the bedrock is of granite or gneiss, there are erratic deposits and raised
beaches in many places. Local conditions such as aspect, drainage, shelter,
and snow covering, also vary within wide limits — often drastically in closely
contiguous areas — and as a result the vegetation is vari o a ble and patchy in
the extreme. Thus, almost all of the communities of the hills are to be found
also in the valleys, where there are in addition others too numerous to men–
tion, besides those described later under “Marshes” and “Snow Effect.” Per–
haps most typical of all, and covering considerable areas in favorably shel–
tered situations (though rarely extending far without interruption by some
other facies or entirely different community), is the ordinary mixed heath to
be found on slopes and well-drained flats. Its chief dominants are Empetrum
nigrum var. hermaphroditum , Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum , V. vitis-idaea
var. minor , and various Salices, and they are generally much mixed and change–
able in different examples, sometimes varying even from one spot to the next
within an area of apparently identical habitat conditions. Associated are
various herbs, of which the most characteristic include Antennaria angustata ,
Carex bigelowii , C. scirpoidea , Juncus trifidus , Hierochloe odorata , Lycopodium
selago , Potentilla crantzii and Pyrola grandiflora . In a few places Anemone
parviflora
and Campanula rotundifolia s.l. are of some ecological importance
in this community, where Salix cordifolia var. callicarpaea may show a tendency
toward bush formation, although no true scrub has been observed in the vicinity.
Indeed, the highest plants around Port Burwell appear to be grasses, which in
favorable places attain 45 centimeters in height, and in the case of Calamagros
tis canadensis var. scabra may considerably exceed this. The growth of the
dominants is often so luxuriant that there is little room for subsidiary vas–
cular plants; thus, frequently only six or eight associates having a frequency

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

degree of more than r (rare) can be found in a 4-meter quadrat, and there
are also few casuals. Cryptogams form a luxuriant investment in which Rhacomi
trium lanuginosum often predominates, and include some relatively hygrophytic
species among the dozen chief mosses; lichens tend to be less important among
the “fillers,” but nevertheless numerous and much in evidence in some places —
especially in open patches in the heath where a [: ] luxuriant caribou-moss sward
is apt to the developed, dominated chiefly by Cladonia mitis . Fingi Fungi are also
plentiful, with the beneficial snow covering, appreciable littler, and slight
but distinct acidity.
Marshes , as a result of the intricately changing physiography, are usually
of small extent around Port Burwell in spite of the damp climate. However,
marshy areas of one sort or another are numerous in the valleys and quite vari–
able in type and composition. The chief phanerogams here include various
species of Eriophorum (especially E. angustifolium and E. scheuchzeri ), Dupontia
fisheri , Salix arctophila , Carex membranacea , C. rariflora , and in places,
Juncus arcticus and J. castaneus . Their more notable associated include not
merely the usual Cardamine pratensis var. angustifolia , Carex lachenalii ,
Equisetum arvense , E. varigatum , Juncus albescens and J. biglumis , Luzula
nivalis , Lychnis apetala , Polygonum viviparum , Saxifraga foliolosa , and Tofieldia
pusilla, but sometimes also such southern types as Cardamine pratensis var.
palustris , Cerastium cerastoides, Deschampsia alpina , and Potentilla palustris .
It may perhaps be in relation to this southern tendency that two of the main
dominants of most marshes to the north, Arctagrostis latifolia and Carex
aquatilis var. stans , are rare and apparently absent, respectively, around
Port Burwell.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Two 2-meter quadrats taken at random a few meters apart in the selfsame
marsh contained a total of 15 vascular plant species, of which only 6 had the
same frequency degree in the two, and only 9 were common to both — indicating
their very different composition and, possibly, the youth of the terrain.
Occupying almost the whole of the area between the axes of these higher plants,
and forming a rather smooth, damp mat, were a mixed assemblage of mosses of
luxuriant growth, into which the feet sank for several centimeters. Ten
species appeared to be particularly involved in the quadrat areas, including
Sphagnum teres ; lichens were generally absent, but a considerable range of
fungi occurred, including plentiful Omphalia umbellifera . The soil was dark
and “squishy” to a depth of at least 30 centimeters, being penetrated by the
roots of the dominants to about 25 centimeters. A rather poor marsh is seen
in the foreground of Figure 47, with behind it a lake at the foot of a low,
rocky hill.
The snow effect around Port Burwell finds frequent but variable expression,
owing to the heaviness of the snowfall and the cha n geable physiography. Thus
the exposed uplands are wind-swept almost clear of snow in winter, the narrower
valleys being contrastingly deeply accumulative. The margin of one ravine-like
valley of deep drifting and late melting is seen in Figure 48; Salix herbacea
is dominant, and there is much Taraxacum lapponicum , Veronica alpina , and Epilo
bium anagallidifolium , with nearby some Parnassia Kotzebuei . Where large and
lasting drifts accumulated, about five zones are to be seen with reasonable
clarity. They follow much the same sequence as similar patches in Baffin Island,
the chief differences being in the local rarity of Cassiope tetragona and in
the number of southern associates — several of which are entirely unknown to
the north, and many of which can be found still in flower until the end of summer

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

in such areas. Most notable among the relatively temperate species charac–
teristic of snow patches at Port Burwell are Draba crassifolia , Epilobium
anagallidifolium , Equisetum scirpoides , Gnaphalium supinum , Parnassia kotze
buei , Sagina saginoides , and Veronica alpina (including var. unalaschkensis ).
A typical sequence of the zoned subclimaxes characterizing the larger
and longer-lasting snow patches in this district is as follows, progressing
from the margin to the center: ( 1 ) A fairly luxuriant, mixed heath usually
dominated by Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum , but with associated Dryas
integrifolia and often the weaker Cassiope hynoides and Salix herbacea .
The pH may be as low as 5.6. ( 2 ) A dwarfed zone where the snow melts too
late to allow the usual dominants to complete their life processes in a normal
summer, so that the diminutive Cassiope hypnoides is generally dominant, with
much associated Salix herbacea and Sibbaldia procumbens — also, frequently,
Arabis alpina , Erigeron unalaschkensis , Juncus trifidus , Poa alpina , and Poly
gonum viviparum . The pH here, as farther in toward the center of the snow
patch, is noticeably higher than in zone 1. ( 3 ) A well-marked Salix herbacea
zone in which this diminutive dominant covers most of the area (cf. Fig. 48),
often with as many as thirty associates, the most characteristic being such
herbs as Arenaria sajanensis , Cerastium cerastoides , Epilobium anagallidifolium ,
Ranunculus pygmaeus , Taraxacum lapponicum , and Veronica alpina . Gray crumbler
lichens and Solorina crocea persist, but bryophytes now form most of the crypto–
gamic investment. ( 4 ) A mossy zone characterized by the luxuriant Gymnomitrium
corallioides and such open-soil herbs as Cerastium alpinum , Luzula confusa , and
Oxyria digyna . ( 5 ) An herb barren characterized by Phippsia algida and a few of
the quickest-flowering denizens of surrounding areas; lichens are here largely
absent and mosses often poorly developed.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Freshwater habitats are numerous and variable around Port Burwell, with
the damp climate, nonporous bedrock, and changeable terrain. Examples
include plentiful small streams which persist throughout the summer; their
beds, where stony, having typically a brown or greenish investment of mosses,
with or without such algae as Chaetomorpha sp. and long tassels of Stichococcus
subtilis . Where the current is slow and the bed is of mud, brownish investments
containing numerous microscopic forms occur, so that 38 different species of
diatoms and desmids were determined in two samples taken from a single stream
in late July 1936. In seepage from rocks and on the surface of damp earth
beside streams and about human habitations, Prasiola crispa was plentiful, as
often to the north. Figure 49 shows a streamlet flowing through the settlement,
where the manuring and general disturbance has allowed luxuriant grasses (in
particular Alopecurus alpinus and Poa arctica ) to replace the usual sedges and
nearby heaths.
Algal life is also abundant around the margins of [: ] tarns, especially in
late summer. Thus, no less than seventy species and some additional intraspeci–
fice entities were identified from two small samples taken from different, rather
peaty pools toward the end of July 1936 — long before late summer in this region.
Here abouts were also to be found such aquatic mosses as Calliergon giganteum var.
fluitans , which may form large, dark-brown beds, and, in a few lakes, Ranunculus
trichophyllus var. eradicatus and Hippuris vulgaris. Ranunculus hyperboreus and
Equisetum arvense may also grow as [: ] aquatics in shallow water, the latter being
then remarkably attenuated. Where the bottom is of mud and the situation fairly
shallow, Eriophorum angustifolium may grow out to form luxuriant beds, although
in exposed situations, at least on the leeward side, a turfy “hard line” of
matted roots and humous is more frequently developed, as in the north.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Uncolonized rocky shores are common, as are muddy ones, although the mud, like
damp depressions in marshes, may support large gelatinous colonies of Nostoc
commune or other common Cyanophyceae, or more rarely, of Lyngbya aerugineo
caerulea .
The strand and marine surfaces consist in most places of smooth rock
supporting such diminutive or chasmophytic algae as grinding ice will allow.
However, in a few places small pebbly or sandy beaches occur and support the
usual beds of Elymus arenariums var. villosus , with or without Mertensia
maritima var. tenella and Arenaria peploides. Festuca rubra var. arenaria
is especially plentiful higher up on such shores. In some more muddy situa–
tions small areas of diminutive salt marsh are to be found, dominated by the
usual Puccinellia phryganodes . The most characteristic associates are much as
in Southern Baffin Island, namely, Carex glareosa var. amphigena , C. salina
[: . ] approaching var. subspathacea , Cochlearia officinalis vars., Koenigia islandica ,
Potentilla egedii approaching var. groenlandica , and Stellaria humifusa . These
areas of salt marsh are best developed around the shores of brackish lagoons
in sheltered situations, where they have the form of a dense sward, principally
composed of matted roots and stolons of the dominant Puccinellia . Typical
algae of these brackish or tidal lagoons include Cladophora arcta , Desmarestia
aculeata , Dictyosiphon foeniculaceus , Enteromorpha ramulosa , Pylaiella lit
toralis , and species of Rhizoclonium and Ulothrix .
In all but the most exposed places, rocks and boulders around high tidemark
support small algae, which may form an almost contin u ous investment. The chief
plants in one such association were Pylaiella littoralis , Rhizoclonium riparium
var. implexum , Ulothrix laetevirens , and U. speciosa — also much Lyngbya nord
gardii on the Rhizoclonium . Between tidemarks the rocks may be festooned with

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

algae in sheltered situations, the dominant here being the familiar Fucus
vesiculosus
, or sometimes, locally, Ascophyllum nodosum . Lower down, where
codfish abound, fine beds of large Laminaria saccharina and Alaria esculenta
are to be seen, with associated Rhodymenia palmata and doubtless a host of
other brown and red algae, as well as several large Chlorophyceae.
Northernmost Quebec
The part of the Ungava Peninsula, comprising northernmost Quebec, which
lies north of the sixtieth parallel, is roughly semicircular in outline and has
an area of some 50,000 square miles. The eastern shore bordering on Ungava Bay
has numerous accompanying islands, the water being shallow and the coast com–
paratively low. To the west, along Hudson Strait, the coast is usually higher
and more rugged, and at Cape Wolstenholme, in the extreme northwest, the cliffs
are truly stupendous; to the south, however, along the east coast of Hudson
Bay, the levels soon fall again. [: ]Inland, the terrain constitutes a plateau
of no great height, dissected by numerous lakes and rivers and consisting for
the most part of rolling country in which the differences of elevation rarely
exceed a few hundred feet and the altitude above sea level is usually of the
order of 1,000 feet (305 m.). In the words of Havergal ( 18 19 , p. 9) “The country
seems unfinished, as if it had been left as a specimen to show what other coun–
tries may have been at the termination of the glacial epoch, when the rivers
had not worn down their beds, and valleys and basins had not been formed.”
Although the hills are rounded and all areas appear to have been intensely
glaciated, no major icecap occurs on the Ungava Peninsula at the present time.
Figure 50 is an aerial photograph from 4,000 feet showing this barren-looking,
undulating country in latitude 66°16′ N. and longitude 70°58′ W. Lakes are

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

numerous, and much of the land surface is occupied by boulder fields or soil
polygons.
The geology in broad outline is comparatively simple, the bedrock almost
everywhere being of Laurentian gneiss or fine-grained granite. Up to 350 feet
(107 m) almost everywhere, and in places to twice that altitude, the surface
is veneered with rewashed glacial material which may form fairly extensive beds
in which particles of shell and erratic limestone frequently occur. The climate
is relatively favorable, at least in places near the coast, being at Cape Hopes
Advance rather closely comparable with that at Lake Harbour — which is not
surprising, considering that it lies not far away on the other side of Hudson
Strait. Thus the two places have a similar growing season of about four months,
with the temperature occasionally exceeding 70°F., and a similar total precipi–
tation of approximately 14 inches (35.5 cm.) in an average year.
Conditions and the attendant vegetation appear to be rather poor on the
east coast to the south of Cape Hopes Advance. Even in the extreme south of
our area around Payne Bay, although the vegetation is fairly luxuriant in
sheltered valleys, it is sparse in most areas according to C. H. Ney ( voce ),
who reports that although occasional specimens of Betula glandulosa var. sibir
ica or Salix cordifolia var. callicarpaea may rise a few inches above the sur–
face of the ground, no real scrub is to be seen near the Ungava Bay coast here–
abouts. However, well inland, where the rocky hills “rise to about 600 feet
farther up the river … the climate … appears to be more moderate than on
the open seacoast as willows grow to bushes several feet high” (according to
ref. 65, p.35). On the banks of the Payne River about 40 miles from its mouth
may be seen what appears from the air to be quite luxuriant willow scrub, though
nothing approaching tree growth has been observed (44, p.151).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Concerning the Hudson Strait coast to the north, S. C. Knapp reports ( in
litt .) that inland of Diana Bay “growth is generally very stunted, even the
willows in the more sheltered valleys rarely rising more than a foot above the
surface of the ground, and … of all the many hundreds of miles I have tra–
velled in the Arctic, I have not yet met the place so rich in lichen as this.
The meadows stretch for acres uninterrupted by rock, and clothed with deep rich
lichen with the usual grass growing up between. There is mil upon mile of
them - dry, rich sandy soil clothed with moss and lichen. The richness and
abundance of the lichen more than the moss is simply wonderful; a reindeer
herd would go for years here without want.” To the west, inland of Burgoyne
Bay (lat. 61°15′ N., long. 71°35′ W.), gray, rocky terrain prevails, lacking
continuous vegetation except over limited tracts in occasional sheltered, brown,
marshy depressions or still narrower, mossy ledges in favorable situations.
Lichens are less in evidence than farther inland, presumably owing to the damper
climate near the coast.
To the north, well sheltered by high and rugged hills, lies Wakeham Bay,
among whose often luxuriant plant communities the writer has made detailed in–
vestigations to which reference will frequently be made below. Farther to the
northwest, in Douglas Harbour, luxuriant scrub may be seen on the gentler, lower
slopes and streamside flats, and on alluvial delta “cones” in sheltered valleys
running in from the coast (cf. 28). Inland of here, even on the uplands which
attain an altitude of 1,500 feet, there are some goodly tracts of brownish or
greenish vegetation developed in many of the more favorable, sheltered situa–
tions in the undulating and otherwise light-colored, gravelly, boulder, or
clay plains, and even around exposed hilltops some smaller colonized tracts
are to be seen, with long and conspicuous solifluction streaks extending down

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the gentler slopes. The dark strips appeared from the air to be covered
and at least partly stabilized by vegetation, the lighter ones that separated
them being probably unstable. However, from a 1,860-foot (567 m.) vantage
point Low observed (28, p.9L) that “The view from the summit is very desolate.
Barren, rocky or boulder-covered hills on all sides, run in low rounded
ridges separated from one another by small deep valleys filled with snow;
the surface, wherever there is sufficient soil, was covered with lichens di–
versified with a few arctic flowers, but not in the beautiful abundance met
with in the valleys.”
To the northwest, toward Cape Weggs, the vegetation appeared not at all
extensive and luxuriant except in the most favorable lowland situations;
more often the domed hills and slopes were largely barren, with various polygon
and solifluction phenomena plainly visible from the air, and snow patches
plentiful even in August. Farther west still, [: ] at Sugluk (lat. 62°15′ N.,
long. 75°21′ W.), the hills are less high than in places to the east and
west; the fundamental rocks are gray or reddish gneisses, but deposits of
rewashed glacial material cover many lowland areas. Such surfaces look an
almost continuous velvety green, at least in July, due to vegetation, which
forms a more or less luxuriant carpet (Fig. 51) almost everywhere except on
exposed hilltops and rocky crags. The flora and vegetation are much as at
Wakeham Bay, the tallest willows, which form a scrub in sheltered depressions
and on some of the most favorable south-facing slopes, being in both places
some 50 to 60 centimeters high. Rather similar flower slopes were noted in
both these places as at Wolstenholme (see below), and the same observation
was made in all three places that vegetation tended to develop earlier each
year on the hills than in the valleys, probably owing to the relative lack

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

of snow covering on all raised areas. Figures 52 and 53 depict xeric and
hydric habitats, respectively, at Sugluk; the former showing a large clump
of Dryopteris fragrans on a dry outcrop of gneiss, with Poa arctica and
Arnica alpina s.l. in the foreground, and many lichens on the rock face,
while the latter shows an area of marsh dominated in the center by Erio
phorum spissum and elsewhere by Carices and Salix arctophila with associated
grasses.
Around Cape Wolstenholme the vegetation, which will be described in
detail below, is noticeably poorer than at Sugluk and Wakeham Bay, though
inland to the southeast, except on rocky outcrops and the taller hills, it
is apt in many places to appear from the air to be almost continuous, with
fine, bright-green scrub in the more sheltered valleys. The Digges Islands
appear on the whole to be exposed and rather poorly vegetated, as does the
east coast of Hudson Bay to the south of Cape Wolstenholme. But inland, as
Bell remarks (3, p.12DD), “the grasses and sedges, and a variety of Arctic
plants which grow around the ponds and lakes, and in sheltered places among
the hills, give the landscape a pleasantly green appearance in many places.”
Farther south still, near Cape Smith, the writer has landed and found
the flora to be large and interesting, including Antennaria tweedsmuirii ,
Chrysomyxa empetri , Festuca vivipara var. hirsuta , Rustroemia poluninii ,
and Staurastrum compactum , which are not known from elsewhere in our area.
However, the vegetation in this region of blackish diabase is liable to be
poor, with only intermittent patches that are really closed — at least on
the exposed coast, which alone was investigated. The communities noted
included an apparently slightly brackish one developed in shallow tarns near
the shore, consisting of dense beds of Potamogeton filiformis , with abundant

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

associated Hippuris vulgaris , and in places much Eleocharis acicularis f.
submersa , Pleuropogon sabinii , and Ranunculus trichophyllus var. eradicatus .
Southward of Cape Smith, for 120 miles to Cape Dufferin, which lies outside
our area, “The Coast … is in the form of a bay and much more broken; it
is a low fenny marsh, with little tufts here and there” (according to 19,
p.247).
In the interior, detailed observations on the vegetation have been made
about McGill Lake (near lat. 60°16′ N. and long. 70°58′ W.), where the vege–
tation proved unexpectedly poor (44). The country here is undulating (Fig.
50), with usually rounded hills rising at most a few hundred feet from a gen–
eral altitude of about 900 feet (275 m.) [: ] the flora [: ] is limited, and plant
growth almost everywhere depauperate, with no proper scrub. Lakes and tarns
account for perhaps a third of the total area, and barren, gray, rocky hills
or fields of loose boulders for nearly another quarter, the remainder being
made up of flattish plains or more gently domed, raised, gravelly tracts that
from a distance look tolerably well vegetated. However, on investigation the
plains prove to be occupied by thin marshes in damp places and scanty, lichen–
ous heaths or polygon-interrupted detrital fields in drier area; where the
vegetation is continuous it is thin and composed largely of [: ] lichens
(especially Alectoria spp.). In spite of the low latitude, the vegetation
around McGill Lake is fully arctic in type, with Cassiope tetragona the most
characteristic ground shrub. Indeed, except in some marshy and heathy areas
to the south, the soil is thin and the vegetation as a whole has taken little
hold of the surface. The following were the main habitats distinguished:
gravelly or sandy flats and banks, rocky barrens and boulder fields, mixed
heathy areas, polygon soils, marshy depressions, lakes and streams and their

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

margins, late-snow areas and surrounding zones. Examples of all these were to
be seen in almost any small tract of country, and between them they accounted
for practically the whole of this disappointing region.
To the south of McGill Lake, willow scrub reappears on the banks of the
Payne River and, more extensively, to the south of our area near Polunin Lake.
To the northwest and north-northwest of McGill Lake and terrain appeared from
the air to be similar but the vegetation somewhat less depauperate. Something
like a quarter of the area was occupied by lakes, and a half by barrens or
else yellowish-green or sooty-looking, probably lichenous heaths. The remainder
was of gray rock or boulder fields, or brown vegetated areas that appeared to
be marshy and here occupied more of the area than for some distance to the south.
The domes of small hills often had their sides yellowish and their tops darker
with lichens. North of about latitude 60°28′ N. and longitude 71°25′ W., the
country looked more interesting, with less standing water but fine green tracts,
probably of willow scrub, along the frequent streams, and rivers. The valleys
here were wide and open, with extensive areas of brown marshy or heathy vege–
tation, until the vicinity of an unnamed lake in about latitude 60°40′ N. and
longitude 71°37′ W. saw a return to lighter gray, relatively barren terrain
strewn with boulders and with much bedrock in situ .
Much of the country in the interior of Ungava farther west is gray and
rocky and relatively barren, the vegetation being discontinuous, and nothing ap–
proaching tree growth being known, although in such favored spots as Kovik Gorge
there may be willows up to 8 or 10 feet high, with trunks up to 4 inches in
diameter (D. F. Coates and W Carr, voce ). Far in from the coast there appears
from the air to be more light yellow coloration due to lichens than is the case
near the sea, but almost everywhere at least one-quarter of the area is occupied

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

by lakes, and much of the rest by raised “tops.” In places the country looks
more rocky and broken, in places undulating and lichen-rich, but for the most
part it seems relatively flat and featureless. However, about the larger
rivers, such as the North Payne and Povungnituk, lakes are fewer and there
tend to be smooth slopes and hummocky domes supporting more luxuriant vege–
tation than most surrounding areas. For example, to the south of Sugluk,
although polygons disturb the surface and snow patches persist in the exposed
uplands, the more favored areas appear to be continuously vegetated, and some
of the most sheltered valleys support quite luxuriant scrub.
As our example for detailed consideration we will take the vicinity of
Cape Wolstenholme, most northerly point of the mainland of Quebec, which is
situated in latitude 62°35′ N. and longitude 77°30′ W. At the cape and during
several visits to Eric Cove, which lies a few miles to the southeast, the writer
has made investigations of the vegetation which have also extended for some
miles inland. The account will be supplemented by notes from Wakeham Bay (about
lat. 61°36′ N. and long. 71°57′ W.), where the vegetation is often more lux–
uriant but on the whole probably less typical of the region, although the country
is almost as rugged and the geology similar.
At Cape Wolstenholme the cliffs are sheer and about 1,260 feet high, and
southward at a considerable altitude extends a broken plateau from which hills
rise to a maximum of some 2,000 feet (75, p.345). These uplands are rocky and
barren and the lowlands in most places far from luxuriant, as the climate is
cool and foggy and the region as a whole very “late,” with persistent snow
patches plentiful even near sea level toward the end of summer. The fundamental
rocks are gneisses, some bands being highly ferruginous and imparting a reddish–
brown aspect to weathered surfaces and the soil. The lowlands and side valleys

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

up to nearly 700 feet (213 m.) show a fine series of marine terraces. These
consist of rewashed glacial material that in places contains a fair amount
of limestone and marine shells, having consequently a considerable calcium
carbonate (CaCO 3 ) content.
The uplands , as far as they were explored, appeared capable, although
with gradual reduction in luxuriance and in the number of associates, of
supporting the blueberry heath and some other relatively advanced communities
of the lowlands to at least 800 feet (cf. Fig. 54). Thereafter, such lowland
communities became more and more restricted to occasional small areas that
offered unusually favorable conditions of shelter, aspect, and soil accumula–
tion. In general, above 1 ,000 feet the plateau and hills are rocky and barren,
even around lakes, as witnessed by Figure 55, showing a typical area of rocky
slopes, crags, and boulder fields devoid alike of soil and vegetation. To be
sure, rock surfaces are often clothed with crustaceous and other lichens, and
patches of more finely comminuted soil may support such high-arctic vascular
plants as Cassiope tetragona , Eriophorum scheuchzeri , Hierochloe alpina , Luzula
confusa , Phippsia algida , Pleuropogon sabinii , Poa [: ] arctica , Ranunculus hyper
boreus , Salix arctica , and S. herbacea ; but growth is almost everywhere poor.
The only moderately luxuriant, carpeting community observed in it was a moss
mat of Rhacomitrium uliginosum supporting a fair abundance of, most typically,
Luzula confusa and Hierochloe alpina .
At Wakeham Bay the rounded hills and uplands proved to be in general far
better vegetated than at Wolstenholme, although the vegetation varies greatly
with such factors as exposure and physicochemical make-up. Thus some spots even
above 1,200 feet are comparable in luxuriance with lowland areas, and most of
the plants of general occurrence in the lowlands can persist on the hills to at

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

least 750 feet, above which such types as Astragalus eucosmus , Oxytropis terrae
novae, Antennaria spp., and Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minor are still fre–
quently met. The flat summit of a hill, slightly over 1,000 feet in altitude,
supported a sparsely open assemblage of mixed and mostly Far Northern species
that totaled about 20 phanerogams and included such cryptogams as Polytrichum
alipnum , Rhacomitrium lanuginosum , Dactylina arctica , Haematomma ventosum var.
lapponicum , Sterocaulon alpinum , and Exobasidium vaccinii var. myrtilli (heavily
parasitizing Cassiope tetragona ). In sheltered depressions the Rhacomitrum ,
especially, was immediately more luxuriant, forming dense mats that sometimes
attained a thickness of 15 centimeters and appeared remarkably retentive of
water. Frequently Cetrariae and Cladoniae and the liverwort Chandonanthus
setiformis grew in this mat, such a cryptogamous carpet in places paving the
way for a rather poor Dryas or Cassiope tetragona heath in which were to be
found such plants as Carex rupestris , Cerastium alpinum , Eutrema edwardsii,
Luzula nivalis , Potentilla hyparctica var. elatior , Pyrola grandiflora (leaves
only), and Salix herbacea .
The lowlands around Wolstenholme supported many and various communities
of which only the most noteworthy will be described. Perhaps most typical
is the mixed heath developed on sandy and gravelly areas, which varies from a
dwarfed and lichenous facies on raised and exposed tracts to a luxuriant one
in sheltered depressions, where Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum is the usual
dominant and Salix arctica , Carex bigelowii , Cassiope tetragona , and Vaccinium
vitis-idaea var. minor are plentiful. Twenty-nine phanerogams were listed from
one 5-meter quadrat, including Arctostaphylos alpina , Antennaria angustata and

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

A. canescens , Luzula spicata , Oxytropis maydelliana , Pedicularis lapponica ,
Salix cordifolia var. macounii , and Tra Taraxacum lacerum . Mosses consoli–
dated the sward and Cladoniae and other lichens were also abundant, while
several parasitic and other fungi occurred, including the usual Calvatia
cretacea and Omphalia umbellifera . The soil was dark and humous but only
very slightly acid (pH 6.6). In surrounding areas Empetrum nigrum var.
hermaphroditum and Ledum palustre var. decumens were plentiful, and Phyllo
doce coerulea occurred. On the other hand, in the more exposed tracts these
additional ground shrubs are usually absent, the result being a relatively
poor or even improperly closed, cryptogamous blueberry heath which covers
considerable areas on the dry valley sides. Two 4-meter quadrats taken
from different examples well inland showed Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum ,
a-vad; Arctostaphylos alpina , o-acod; Carex bigelowii , a; Vaccinium vitis-idaea
var. minor , a; Salix herbacea , f-la; Hierochloe alpina , o-la (for explanation
of frequency degrees, see p.000). Such areas looked yellowish or straw–
colored from a distance, due to the projecting leaves and axes of grasses,
sedges, and Luzula confusa , or, in some places, to light-colored lichens such
as Stereocaulon alpinum , Cetraria cucullata , and C. nivalis . In spite of the
association of numerous other lichens and some mosses, the community frequently
lacked proper consolidation; but, although there was only slight humous
deposition, the reaction was distinctly acid. Several of the more important
phanerogams were attacked by parasitic fungi which, sometimes in combination,
appeared to do them grievous harm. Elsewhere, the valley slopes may be of
Dryas or other barrens, and even the flats and terraces rather poorly vegetated.
The communities are extremely variable and include a characteristic one on

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

sandy areas having Luzula confusa as the only higher plant present and Poly
trichum hyperboreum , efficiently binding the surface between the Luzula
tussocks, as the only lower one. Figure 56 shows a pure colony of Carex
bigelowii stabilizing the sand of a riverside flat; yet other types of
stabilization consist of dense silvery mats of Rhacomitrium lanuginosum with
protruding axes of Hierochloe alpina , spreading ground shrubs such as the
usual Arctostaphylos or Empetrum , or occasionally Salix uva-ursi or Loiseleuria
procumbens , while the sides and lower angles of snowdrift gulches may be vege–
tated by a sward of sedges and such grasses as Calamagrostis canadensis var.
scabra . This last may attain more than a meter in height and so exceed all
other plants in the neighborhood.
At Wakeham Bay the lowlands are rendered a soft, velvety green by an
almost continuous covering of vegetation, which in most ordinary dry areas
conforms to one of three main types: ( 1 ) a much mixed and generally Dryas -rich
mat on relatively recent raised beaches, with prostrate willows and Carex
rupestris and other sedges usually plentiful, Leguminosae conspicuous, and
altogether such a wealth of angiosperms that cryptogams are little in evidence;
( 2 ) on older rocky areas a dryish, lichen-rich heath in which the dominants
are often mixed, Cassiope tetragona , Ledum palustre var. decumbens , Hierochloe
alpina , Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum , V. vitis-idaea var. minor , Carex
bigelowii , and Empetrum nigrum var. hermaphroditum all likely to be important;
( 3 ) in sheltered depressions and on some favorable, south-facing slopes there
may develop a tangled willow scrub dominated by Salix cordifolia var. callicar
paea that is sometimes as much as 80 centimeters high. In addition, Calamagros
tis canadensis var. scabra frequently forms a conspicuous sward that may grow
even higher on sunny, well-drained, sandy or boulder protuberances. Examples

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

from these four categories are seen in Figures 57 to 60. At the very head of
Wakeham Bay the willows are said to grow “about ten feet tall, upright, with
stems as thick as a man’s ankle.”
The marshes encountered around Wolstenholme were of rather limited extent
and poor development compared with those described below from Wakeham Bay,
where Rubus chamaemorus , Salix arctophila , and Eriophorum callitrix were plen–
tiful. The chief dominants at Wolstenholme were Arctagrostis latifolia , Carex
aquatilis var. stans , C [: ] . rariflora , Dupontia fisheri , Eriophorum angustifolium ,
and E. scheuchzeri , which tended to be mixed, with the dominance poor, leaving
space for numerous associates, which most typically comprised other species
of Carex , Cardamine pratensis var. angustifolia , Equiseta Equiseta , Junci, and Saxifragae;
or, more rarely, Calamagrostis neglecta var. borealis , Epilobium davuricum var.
arcticum , and Luzula spadicea . The moss consolidation of these marshy areas
was also rather poor, especially inland in the apparent absence of pasturage
by wildfowl, and no extensive humous accumulation was noted.
At Wakeham Bay the chief dominants were often the same as at Wolstenholme,
with, in addition, Carex membranacea and Scirpus caespitosus var. callosus ;
but the dominance tended to be stronger, although still changeable from spot
to spot. Associates that attained some ecological importance in one or other
of the examples investigated included Carex norvegica , C. holostoma , C. atro
fusca , Equisetum variegatum , Eriophorum spissum , Hierochloe pauciflora , Juncus
albescens , J. biglumis , J. castaneus , Polygonum viviparum , Rubus chamaemorus ,
Salix arctica , Saxifraga hirculus , S. stellaris var. comosa , and Tofieldia
pusilla
. Figure 61 shows the Rubus in flower on a mossy patch of marsh and
illustrates how extremely variable such areas may be, for within a few inches
of where the usual sedgy-grassy dominants are holding their own we have, on

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the right, the mixed sward penetrated by jagged, uncolonized rocks. Usually
the associated mosses number some 20 species that together form a fair mat,
the luxuriance of which may be increased by pasturing and manuring by wildfowl.
Sphnaga are more numerous than is usual in the North and, with Dicranum groen
landicum and Aulacomnia, frequently assist in the formation of tussocks on
which may grow ground shrubs and lichens. The tops of some of the higher tus–
socks may have reaches and maintained at a heath stage, complete with Clad–
oniae and Stereocaulon spp., whereas others may be eroded and show stages of
retrogression right to crustaceous lichens.
The snow effect , with the plentiful persistent snow patches even near sea
level, is in general similar to that described above from Dorset. In view of
the geographical proximity of the latter place, only the additional features
noted at Wolstenholme need be described. Outside the usual Cassiope tetragona
zone there may be a lichenous, grassy-heathy community (seen in the middle back–
ground of Fig. 62) dependent on beneficial winter snow covering which does not,
however, melt so late as seriously to limit the growing season. The c Cassiope
tetragona zone is frequently wide and has abundant associated Vaccinia; in it
may be developed open patches of Cladoniae, Ochrolechia frigida , Pertuseria
dactylina , and Stereocaulon alpinum . Where investigated the soil in this zone
proved to be rather meager, having a thin covering of dark humus and a dis–
tinctly acid reaction (pH 5.6). In the Salix herbacea zone are generally asso–
ciated Polygonum viviparum , Luzula confusa , and Pedicularis lapponica , while
the cryptogams include Polytrichum strictum , Cetraria islandica , Stereocaulon
spp., and both parasitic and saprophytic fungi. Inside, in the half-barren zone,
the characteristic species include such noted snow-patch denizens as Arenaria
sajanesis , Erigeron unalaschkensis , Oxyria digyna , Potentilla hyparctica

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

f. tardinix , Ranunculus nivalis , R. pygmseus , Trisetum spicatum var. maidenii ,
and various Saxifragae. Figure 63 shows the Ranunculi, Oxyria , and much Poa
arctica in this zone. Bryophytes are here more in evidence than lichens,
which may be limited to small squamules of Cetraria crispa , a few gray
crumblers, and silt-binding knobs of Solorina crocea . Farther in, the central
barren, moss mat, and other zones tend to be confused, characteristic species
being Rhacomitrium sudeticum among the mosses, Gymnomitrium corallioides and
G. concinnatum a m ong the liverworts, and Phippsia algida , Saxifraga rivularis ,
and sometimes S. cernua or dwarfed Luzula confusa among the angiosperms. In
these inner zones, vegetative propagation is probably unusually important.
At Wakeham Bay there were developed in some sheltered areas with a goodly
snow covering in winter, fine caribou-moss swards dominated by Cladonia mitis
and C. rangiferina in the manner indicated in Figure 64; in this case the
clayey, damp nature of the substratum is indicated by the cracks and patches
of bare mud due to phenomena attendant on freezing and thawing, as well as
by occasional leaves of Rubus chamaemorus . There were also at Wakeham Bay late–
snow gulches about the lower levels of which occurred such attractive small
herbs as Draba crassifolia , Parnassia kotzebuei , Cerastium cerastoides, and
Anemone richardsoni .
Special Localized Habitats and Communities . Two of these will be described.
First, the flower slopes are developed under a peculiar combination of favorable
factors of shelter, aspect, substratum, and good snow covering but early melting.
The community is loosely closed and the flora large and variable, although cer–
tain rank species that are found in such situations at Wakeham Bay and Sugluk
are lacking at Wolstenholme, where the general luxuriance of the flower slopes

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

is far less than at Lake Harbour. Nevertheless at Wolstenholme between 35
and 40 phanerogamic species are usually to be seen in any small area, where
Astragalus alpinus may be so abundant as probably to [: ] improve the habitat
appreciably through nitrogen fixation, but where usually a number of other
more or less rank herbs are so mixed that true dominance is lacking (Fig. 65).
The other special habitat is the series of communities developed around
the tops of the great cliffs forming Cape Wolstenholme, on the ledges of which
countless Brunnich’s guillemots ( Uria lomvia ) and other sea birds nest each
year in such close formation, and with the production of so much manue and
ultimately guano, that few plants of any sort can attain ecesis. However,
where nests extend to near the tops of the cliffs, it can be seen that any ad–
jacent unoccupied ledges and crannies are vegetated by luxuriant coarse grasses
and Cochleariae, and that the rock faces are largely covered by lichens, often
of extraordinary size. No less remarkable are the changes wrought on the cliff
tops. Here, owing to the activity of such scavengers as glaucous gulls ( Larus
hyperboreus ), and probably also to the foul vapors rising from the nesting
sites, there are developed the luxuriant nitrophilous “patchwork quilt” and
other communities of the type described some years ago from Akpatok Island
(54, pp.174-8). The plateau nearby may be rocky and barren, as seen in Figure
55, but even the most exposed tops above the bird cliffs are covered with a
continuous dense sward of thickly matted “peat” and vegetation which brings
home most forcibly the fact that a general deficiency in food salts is one of
the chief factors inhibiting plant growth over most areas of arctic terrain.
Figure 66 shows the dark cliff face that is inhabited each summer by such teem–
ing bird life, and that drops sheer into the sea some 1,200 feet below. In
the foreground is the cliff top, vegetated by a luxuriant sward of coarsely

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

grown grasses just where the biotic factor is most intense. Behind stretches
the smoother patchwork quilt of mixed and multicolored lichens and mosses
( see Fig. 67) that frequently exten d s 100 meters or more inland. That lichens
in goodly rosettes, frequently as much as 20 centimeters in diameter, tend to
form the more lightly colored elements of this patchwork is seen in Fig. 68,
showing a small but characteristic area. Even on rock faces and projecting
boulders, the crustaceous and other lichens are of almost unparalleled luxury–
iance — including individual fronds of Gyrophorae up to 10 centimeters in
diameter — and suggest a relatively rapid progression of the xerosere from
its early stages. The grassy sward developed near the edge of the cliffs and
in damper depressions behind, is composed mainly of Poa arctica and Alopecurus
alpinus , with such associated forbs as Cerastium alpinum , Cochlearia officinalis
vars., Stellaria longipes , and Saxifragae. Much the same species occurred on
ledges towards the tops of the cliffs, and, in addition Phippsia algida and
Oxyria digyna . Mosses rather than lichens consolidate this grassy sward, into
which the feet may sink as much as 10 centimeters, and which is underlain by
soft, squishy-wet, reddish-brown humus. The patchwork quilt covers most of the
general surface immediately behind, and in it lichens, chiefly in luxuriant
rosettes (Fig. 68) up to 22 centimeters in diameter, occupy most of the surface,
mosses forming rather the general foundation on which they grow. Both factions
are much mixed as regards species; on the other hand, except for Poa arctica ,
which is generally plentiful, vascular plants are few in both species and in–
dividuals. The chief mosses here appeared to Aulacomnium palustre and
A. turgidum , Drepanocladus uncinatus , and three species each of Dicranum and
Polythrichum . The chief lichens included Sphaerophorus fragilis , Thamnolia
vermicularis , and three species each of Cetraria and Cladonia , The surface

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

presents a flat or only gently undulating but pleasingly soft quilt (Fig. 67),
into which the feet sink for about 5 centimeters; beneath lies a considerable
depth of damp, reddish-brown, humous soil [: ] -- except where it thins out behind,
as the biotic influence lessens. About the cliff tops even the most exposed
rock faces were clothed with crustaceous and other lichens of unusual luxur–
iance, including species not found elsewhere in the region.
Freshwater communities observed at Wolstenholme include some rather pale,
thin, pinkish snow in which the only organism that could be identified in sur–
face samples was the usual red-snow alga, Sphaerella nivalis . Stream beds, al–
though often of uncertain duration and largely barren where rocky, are in some
places clothed with dark mosses, or, in one instance, colonized only by little
tussocks of Andreaea hartmanni . These occurred alike in areas flooded or dry
in late August, the earthen banks above colonized by Cephalozia fluitans
and Peltigera scabrosa . Some sterile filaments of a Zygnema were to be found
in shallow eddies, in which numerous smaller algae occurred. Thus in one small
sample taken from the bed of a stream when it had almost dried up in late
August, 32 different species of Diatomeae were identified, and from a similar
habitat at Cape Smith, not far to the south, 16 algae belonging to other groups.
The margins of lakes in the uplands were often rocky and largely barren (Fig. 55),
although in a few places some semiaquatic specimens of Ranunculus hyperboreus
and Pleuropogon sabinii (with floating leaves) were seen. In the lowlands only
a few small and evidently somewhat ephemeral pools were encountered, again some–
times containing Ranunculus hyperboreus . Their shallow or dried-up margins
were liable to be colonized by seedlings of Phippsia algida and Koenigia islandica ,
or, more extensively, by Carex aquatilis var. stans , Eriophorum angustifolium , or
E. scheuchzeri , extending out from the poor marginal marshes. The bed supported

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

a few small algae such as Closterium striolatum , Pediastrum boryanum and its
var. longicorne , Scenedesmus quadricaudus , and Tolypothrix distorta var.
penicillata .
At Wakeham Bay, freshwater habitats are numerous and variable. Thus the
bouldery beds of shallow streams tend to be well clothed with such mosses as
Philonotis fontana and Drepanocladus spp., and also support numerous algae
of various affinities, including in one instance at least two species of
Microspora ( M. stagnorum and M. willeana ). In sluggish eddies there are some–
times to be found Ranunculus trichophyllus var. eradicatus and R. hyperboreus ,
although both of these are more characteristic of standing water. From two
phials of brownish deposit accumulating below where water seeped from late–
melting snow patches, 30 different species of algae were identified, exclusive
of Diatomeae. Although the samples were taken on consecutive say days and the
snow patches were not far apart, only 5 species were common to the two. The
aquatic and marginal communities of a large lake proved extremely variable.
Where the margin was of boulders, these supported only a scum of algae in some
places, although in others there could be seen, extending out to a considerable
depth, fine beds of dark-brown aquatic mosses or glistening white axes of
Ranunculus trichophyllus var. eradicatus . Where the bottom was of mud it was
apt to be colonized to a depth of at least 40 centimeters by large, coarse
plants of Eriophorum angustifolium or Carex aquatilis var. stans . The slimy
scum on the axes of these colonists was made up of diverse and interesting
algae. Deposits on mud at the edge of the water included more than 50 species
of algae (exclusive of Diatomeae), and altogether the freshwater algal flora
of the region must be enormous. Besides the Eriophorum and Carex mentioned
above, E. scheuchzeri , Phippsia algida , and Carex chordorrhiza were frequent
colonists of damp lakeside mud.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

The seashore habitats at Wolstenholme include sandy or shingly banks
above the drift line that, as in most other places in Hudson Bay and Hudson
Strait, are often bound by dense beds of Elymus arenarius var. villosus (here
approaching var. villosissimus ), or sometimes by prostrate Arenaria peploides
var. diffusa and Mertensia maritima var. tenella . Away from the immediate
influence of sale water, the associated plants become more and more numerous,
the first to be met including such hardy species as Arabis arenicola , Armeria
labradorica , Astragalus alpinus , Carex maritima , Cerastium alpinum , Draba
nivalis , Festuca brachyphylla , Papaver radicatum , Poa arctica , P. glauca ,
Sagina intermedia , Saxifraga caespitosa , and Silene acaulis var. exscapa.
The most characteristic cryptogams appear to be Rhacomitrium canescens and
Stereocaulon alpinum , both of which exert a useful binding influence on the
sand. A brackish marsh behind a sheltering bar near the mouth of a stream
was dominated by the usual Puccinellia phryganodes , with associated Carex
glareosa var. amphigena , C. ursina , Chrysanthemum arcticum , Cochlearia office
inalis var. groenlandica , Koenigia islandica , Puccinellia paupercula , and
Stellaria humifusa . Although most of the between-tide range is occupied by
barren sands or smooth rock faces, broken rocks or beds of boulders are found
in many places around low tidemark; these are well vegetated by Fucus vesi
culosus and an abundance of other algae representing all the main groups and
including, chiefly in pools and below low tidemark, large Alaria and Laminaria
spp.
At Wakeham Bay the shingle above high tidemark is similarly colonized by
the usual Arenaria , Mertensia , and Elymus , of which the last forms luxuriant
beds (Fig. 69). Various plants are associated, including Carex maritima , Coch
learia officinalis var. oblongifolia , Festuca rubra var. arenaria , Matricaria

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

inodora var. nana , Poa glauca , and Puccinellia angustata , or in damp saline de–
pressions[], a whole salt-marsh contingent dominated by Puccinellia phryganodes
or forms of Carex salina , and including C. glareosa var. amphigena , Cochlearia
officinalis
var. groenlandica , various phases of Dupontia fisheri , Koenigia
islandica
, Montia lamprosperma , Puccinellia paupercula , Stellaria crassifolia ,
S. humifusa , and the familiar alga Ulothrix flacca . Higher up, apparently away
from the influence of marked salinity, luxuriant clumps of Poa glauca (Fig. 69 ( )
may prevail. Between tidemarks the boulder-strewn shore is dark with algae,
chiefly Fucus vesiculosus (whose growth is fairly luxuriant except toward the
uppermost limits) and, in pools, much Pylaiella littoralis and Ulothrix flacca ,
with sometimes a little Petrocelis cruenta . The darkening by algae is very
noticeable in Figure 69, although the tops of rocks and boulders are largely
scoured of macroscopic growth by the action of ice which may persist through–
out the summer.
Islands in Hudson and Ungava Bays
These comprise Southampton (with White), Coats, Salisbury, Nottingham,
and Mansel Islands in the north of Hudson Bay and Akpatok Island in Ungava Bay,
but for our present purpose exclude such smaller unites as Marble, Igloolik,
Vansittart, Digges, Big, and Killinek Islands, which are considered with the
adjacent mainland regions to which they seem more properly to belong. In size
the islands range downward from Southampton Island, which has an area of approx–
imately 20,000 square miles (cf. 35, p.232). Although the coast lines tend to
be rather even in outline and the surfaces smoothed by glacial action, the
islands have many physiographic variations. Thus, whereas Akpatok Island is
almost surrounded by tall, sheer cliffs and consists largely of plateau undulat–
ing around an altitude of about 700 feet (cf. 48), and Sali / bury and Nottingham

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Islands being granitic a and gneissic so far as is known, and Coats and Mansel
Islands being again largely of limestone, although the former has not a little
acidic rock toward its northern end. The south w estern two-thirds of Southampton
Island are predominantly low and of limestone, and the rest, including most of
the northeastern coast and White Island, is of higher and more rugged, dark
gneissic country (35; 39 38).
As regards climate, Akpatok Island is very exposed, often cool and foggy
in summer (cf. 48), with the humidity frequently as high as 90% for considerable
periods, and little difference in day and night temperatures in spite of the
relatively low latitude. Nottingham Island appears to be somewhat warmer,
though still with only a single month lacking frost, and Coral Harbour on
Southampton Island yet more favorable, with temperatures sometimes exceeding
70°F. and considerable summer rainfall, although it is more continental in type,
with a more severe winter.
Of Akpatok Island the flora (45; 47) and vegetation (53; 54) have been
treated in some detail, with numerous illustrations. In the absence of proper
control of the surface by plants, the vegetation was considered rather in terms
of habitats, of which twelve main types (or in some cases special communities
which stood out as characterizing their area) were recognized as between them
[: ]occupying virtually the whole of the terrain: (1) hilltops, rising to a
maximum of 930 feet (283 m.) and supporting only a very few plants in sparsely
open formation, such as Dryas integrifolia , Salix arctica , or Draba alpina var.
nana, where there is a modicum of comminuted material, but often only crus–
taceous lichens where the surface is covered with jagged limestone particles;
( 2 ) plateau of limestone polygon, fjellmark (frost-shattered particles of all
sizes, including some finer soil), or other surfaces which between them cover

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

most of the island, the vegetation being less depauperate, but still a sparse
barren in most places, including such open-soil calcicolous and other species
as Arenaria rossii , Carex misandra , Dryas integrifolia , Salix arctica and
S. calcicola , Saxifraga aizoides , S. oppositifolia , and the like, which
usually grow best on the intervening tracts between the dynamic polygon sur–
faces, and are there often consolidated by cryptogams; ( 3 ) screes and other
slopes are numerous and variable, the chief binders of the frequently unstable
surfaces being patches of Dryas , Salix spp., Cerastium alpinum , or Saxifraga
oppositifolia ; ( 4 ) ravines, with usually barren beds but variable and some–
times well-vegetated banks; ( 5 ) valley sides, which with favorable shelter
and soil conditions are often darkened by heathy or grassy vegetation dominated
by Dryas or Cassiope tetragona with numerous, well-grown associates; ( 6 ) valley
heads and depressions which are often mars h y and occupied by closed communities
dominated by Carices (especially Carex membranacea ), Arctagrostis latifolia ,
Eriophorum angustifolium , or E. scheuchzeri ; ( 7 ) the snow effect was well
marked, with a series of as many as six subclimax zones developed in relation
to deep drifting and late melting, including a Cassiope heath, a Salix herbacea
mat, an herb barren, and a limited moss mat, as well as a remarkable herb
tangle in “swallow holes,” ( 8 ) erratic boulders of acidic rock, which are
usually much more luxuriantly vegetated by various successional stages of
lichens and mosses, or sometimes phanerogams, than the general limestone;
( 9 ) special localized communities that were closed but variable, being vegetated
by forbs, grasses, or heaths (including Empetrum , Rhododendron , and Vaccinium
uliginosum var. alpinum ), or comprising moss mats or marshy hillock-tundra
areas; ( 10 ) special localized habitats including, first, acidic morainic ac–
cumulations which are usually well clothed with vegetation, and second, the

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

environs of bird cliffs that support thickly matted, grassy or cryptogamous
communities of the type described from Cape Wolstenholme; ( 11 ) freshwater
habitats such as streams and tarns which were variable and usually rather
barren, although with numerous filamentous and other algae, Pleuropogon
sabinii , and Ranunculus hyperboreus among the functional aquatics, and Carices
and Eriophora Eriophora extending out as they colonized shallow water; ( 12 ) marine
habitats, including a tidal lagoon the stony bed of which was clothed by
diminutive algae, exposed shores and cliffs which are often remarkably barren
(Fig. 70), and between-tide rocks which are largely scoured of macroscopic
algae by ice. However, the plankton may be relatively abundant in late sum–
mer and the benthos was extremely luxuriant, including specimens of Laminaria
longicruris up to 47 feet in length and beset with epiphytes belonging to five
different rhodophycean genera.
Mill, Nottingham, and Salisbury Islands are little known vegetationally.
The first is said by Smith (65, p.55) to be “of massive igneous rocks rising
abruptly from the sea. These are worn by ice action and beyond a few grassy
valleys are practically devoid of vegetation,” while on Salisbury Island the
vegetation “is more prolific than on Mill Island, both grass and moss occurring
in the valleys” (65, p.56). From Salisbury and Nottingham Islands, fairly
numerous vascular plants are now known, and on the former “the indications are
that the soil in places is relatively rich, the growth of some plants being
quite luxuriant in spite of the exposed situation” (49, p.10).
[: ]Coats and Mansel Islands were set aside “for the purpose of providing
grazing grounds for reindeer and musk-oxen” (9, p.25) and would seem in the
former instance to be fairly well vegetated and on the whole comparable with
adjacent parts of Southampton Island (see below), with a fair darkening by

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

vegetation of the acidic terrain of the north, and luxuriant marshes in the
low limestone country of the south. On much of Mansel Island the vegetation
is, however, very poor (cf. 2, p.33DD; 53). According to D. Leechman and
T. H. Man n ing ( voce ) this island is entirely of limestone and quite low;
near the sea are found ridge upon ridge of low banks of limestone shingle,
the raised areas being almost entirely barren and the depressions often not
much colonized, although occasionally supporting strips of heathy or marshy
vegetation. Pools are numerous and tend to be surrounded by a continuous
sedgy-grassy community, but even this is usually of small extent. Inland
the country at the north end is low and flat and covered with limestone detri [: ]
tus supporting little except occasional close pulvini or small dark mats of
Dryas integrifolia or Saxifraga oppositifolia . Only the marshy depressions
are at all extensively covered with vegetation; they are generally dominated
by Carices, Eriophora, and Arctagrostis latifolia — all of rather poor growth
and liable to interruption by hillock tundra. It is said that in the central
region there are larger tracts of vegetation capable of supporting caribou.
Southampton Island is relatively well known, and details of the main plant
communities occurring in one district will be given below. Of the northern
part, particularly around York Bay, Parry writes (40, pp.39-41) “In the fis–
sures and hollows between the rocks, the moss, sorrel, ground willow, and a
few other plants were abundant … this land, which rises gradually from the
beach … was full of ponds of fresh water, and in almost all the intermediate
parts there was abundance of fine vegetation, consisting of grass, moss, and
various other plants,” while on the northern part of White Island, Mathiassen
reports (38, p.26) “the usual poor mountain heath … of lichens and mosses,
interspersed with herbs and dwarf bus h es such as Salix , Vaccinium uliginosum ...

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Empetrum , Cassiope tetragona , Saxifraga species species Papaver , Pedicularis , Dryas ,
Oxyria Oxyria … grasses and Cyperaceae, the latter mostly in moist places.” In a
more general vein, Comer (11, p.86) remarks that “The low lands produce an
abundance of grass, waving in the winds like the wheat-fields of the temperate
zone”, but Mathiassen implies that on the limestone, Dryas or Saxifraga opposite
folia barrens of one sort or another cover a large part of the total area, with
associated Salix and other species, and that the interior in parts “has almost
the character of a desert, without any vegetation at all or only very little —
a few small tufts of Dryas which have been able to take root in the crevices.”
On the other hand, “In the large flat and partly swampy areas in the interior,
such [: ] as around Cleveland River, the vegetation is more marked, with many
grasses … cyperaceae … and Salix species; along the banks of Cleveland
River I often saw a narrow belt of knee-high willow thicket” (38, p.25). Of
the low-lying country near the west coast in the south, Low reports (27, pp.33-34)
that “The land behind rises in a succession of ridges each a few feet higher
than the one immediately in front. The ridges are formed of broken limestone,
evidently the surface portion of underlying ledges. Very little vegetation grows
on the ridges, but in the wide depressions between them there is a profusion of
grasses and other Arctic plants on the wet ground surrounding the many ponds
and lakes found there.” It was apparently off this coast that Lyon (30, p.115)
“passed a great quantity of tangle-weed … The stalk of one piece which we
measured, was eighteen feet in length, and the leaf, although a portion had been
torn from its point, twelve feet six inches, making a total of thirty feet six
inches.” Col. P. D. Baird has reported ( voce ) on the Bay of Gods Mercy region
in the southwest, where in places the terrain consists mainly of a “series of
raised beaches with marshy depressions” in which the vegetation may be closed.

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Inland are more gravelly ridges and large areas of polygons and up-ended [: ]
splinters. Dryas is often the chief plant, with some Carex misandra and
Salices. On the most exposed ridges Saxifraga oppositifolia may be the only
flowering plant, but in more favorable places (where there is sometimes a
lossely closed Dryas heath), Pedicularis lanata and Saxifraga tricuspidata
are usually associated. Much the same conditions and vegetation persist
around Cape Low in the extreme south of the island. The some observer has
reported on the small, rocky Walrus Island that lies near the middle of Fisher
Strait, which separates Southampton Island from Coats Island. In depressions
in the rock surface are patches of rather damp soil supporting closed vegeta–
tion which is either heathy, dominated by Empetrum, or marshy, with dry
tussocks characteristically bearing Rubus chamaemorus .
Revisitation of Coral Harbour near the head of South Bay in 1946 enabled
the writer, during a trek inland and flights over various other parts of
Southampton Island, to fill in some gaps, such as the extreme southeastern
portion, which is of light-colored limestone that contrasts markedly with the
dark hills to the north. The surface of this flat limestone country seems
from the air to be varied more by rather numerous shallow lakes than by any
real show of vegetation, which, over some considerably tracts, appeared from
altitudes of around 4,000 feet to be virtually absent, though more often
between one-quarter and one-half of the total area was intermittently bound
by contrastingly dark growth that in some pl a ces looked almost continous. These
most favored tracts were usually in sheltered depressions, and consisted ap–
parently of heathy or marshy communities, according to local water conditions.
Li The surface materials of the limestone plains appeared to be all loose and
comminuted, frost-shattered to comparatively small sizes. Light-colored

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

polygons showed up in places, especially near lakes, which themselves were
relatively dark and apparently well vegetated, particularly around their margins.
Some of these lake margins, which from the air in August looked greenish with
algae, showed long solifluction streaks that even extended down into the water,
well beneath its current level. The limestone country as a whole appeared
from the air to be abundantly dissected and streaked, with beach lines and
ridges rising inland as steps — sometimes lying parallel with one another for
considerable distances, but more often without evident order or regular direc–
tion. Further dissecting influences were steams and dried-up watercourses.
Around Coral Harbour post the rocks are darker and acidic, with lakes
more numerous and vegetation almost continuous over considerable tracts, but
to the west, again, the country is largely of limestone, being low and only
sparsely vegetated. Indeed the light-colored plains about the mouth of Kirchof–
fer River looked desert-like in their undulating monotony. But where the bed–
rock was darker and acidic there was evidently more luxuriant vegetation,
which often appeared almost continuous over considerable areas, except on
gray rocky outcrops that looked scoured and largely barren. Where the terrain
was sandy or of more stable limestone, which had been longer out of the sea
than that near the coast, the country was about half covered with patches of
more or less continuous higher vegetation. Still farther inland, to the west,
the rocks appeared largely acidic and the vegetation almost contin u ous — mostly
of various sa shades of brown or yellow-b or ro wn, interrupted by shallow lakes
that were rarely large. Then again farther west there was a change to more bar–
ren limestone, though even on this the patches of darker vegetation were some–
times confluent over considerable areas of low-lying marshy plains. Much of
the country to the north of Coral Harbour is again tolerably well vegetated,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

though rarely without some light-colored barren tracts or poorly colonized
rock. Lakes are numerous and not always small. But about the hig h er, exposed
north coast, persistent snow patches were numerous even at the end of August
in 1946, and relative barrenness prevailed. Hereabouts the sea rarely if
ever becomes entirely free from ice. At best the gray and rocky hills had
a yellowish-brown mellowing of vegetation. In places the streams have cut
deep and narrow gorges; but the occasional sandy flats in the more open val–
leys looked greenish yellow with vegetation. This became more noticeable
as one flew south again, the and country gradually became lower and smoother —
the stream beds shallower and the hills less steep and rocky.
Inland of Coral Harbour airfield, around the main southern tributary of
Kirchoffer River, the country proved fairly well vegetated, with extensive
marshes and more limited heaths. Scattered and individually spreading shrubs
of Betula glandulosa var. sibirica were found in several places, as were larger
ones of Salix alaxensis and S. richardsoni var. mckeandii, but although the
willows, especially, often grew in such close proximity (Fig. 71) that from
afar the covering looked complete, no extensive consolidated scrub was encoun–
tered. In sheltered valleys, especially by streams, the willows formed domed
bushes up to a meter high and 4 meters in diameter, with prostrate axes some–
times exceeding 10 centimeters in thickness. Hereabouts the plains frequently
supported a continuous investment of mixed heathy vegetation (which was apt to
be especially luxuriant on any broken slope — see Fig. 52); the flora of
the river valleys, though far inland, included some typical seaside plants
(Fig. 73), and there were found several angiosperms not previously known to
occur on Southampton Island (42).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

P Phytoplanktonic observations were made off the east coast of Akpatok
Island in 1931 by Polunin (54, pp.189-91), who collected by horizontal towings
at various depths and vertical hauls through about 31 meters (a depth of the
order of the deepest soundings recorded). According to N. I. Hendey the sam–
ples all “present the appearance of a rich and typically pelagic diatom flora,
while associated are various Dinoflagellata, with Ceratium arcticum very fre–
quently.” There was some suggestion that discoid forms and some species of
Chaetoceros were less abundant at the lower levels investigated. Three species
of Parafavella were determined, and over 40 diatoms, of which Chaetoceros
debilis , Thalassiosira nordenskioldii , C. socialis , T. subtilis , C. atlanticus ,
and Fragilaria islandica were the six most abundant (in the order named).
In Hudson Bay, phytopanktonic samples from surface hauls have been in–
vestigated for diatoms by Davidson (cf. 12), who found only 18 species (16 of
them occurring north of the 60th parallel), remarking that quantitatively the
“genus Chaetoceros comprised well over ninety-five per cent. of the material,”
two species, C. compressus and C. laciniosus , being “dominant in all but two
stations” (12, p.497); Nitzschia was represented by three species, Rhizosolenia
by four (one occurring only to the south of latitude 60° N.), Thalassiosira
by two (one occurring only south of latitude 60° N.) and Thalassiothrix ,
Coscinosira , and Coscinodiscus by one species each.
As our main example for more detailed treatment we will take the environs
of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trading post situated in latitude 64°08′ N. and
longitude 83°10′ W. near the mouth of Coral Harbour which terminates the great
“South Bay” in Southampton Island. The terrain is flat and monotonous (Fig. 74),
relieved chiefly by numerous lakes and low rocky ridges formed principally of

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

gneiss but covered in most places by coarse, rewashed glacial material and
fine marine clays. These deposits tend to be calcareous, with a considerable
admixture of limestone particles and marine shells. It is an exposed and al–
most perpetually windy place with a sever climate, though the summer may be
sufficiently favorable to allow radishes to attain a useful size even with–
out glass, and lettuce to grow to a height of 7 centimeters.
Raised areas are of two main kinds: first, the rocky ridges and pro–
tuberances of gneiss that lieonly a few dozen feet above sea level or the
surrounding land, and, being smoothed by glacial or wave action, support
little save cryptogams — except in crevices or sheltered depressions, where
the communities may be indistinguishable from those of the general plains
(Fig. 75). The chief cryptogams are crustaceous and foliose lichens (es–
pecially numerous species of Lecidea , Lecanora , and Parmelia ) which may
darken the surface (Fig. 74 ) in the foreground), and the moss Rhacomitrium
lanuginosum, which may form luxuriant silvery tussocks (Fig. 76) or even mats
where it can take hold.
The other type of raised area to be distinguished is the low limestone
plateau a few miles inland. Its surface is of loose material, including many
marine shells, and on the whole is much like other limestone surfaces on
Southampton Island both to the southeast and southwest. The vegetation is
in many ways reminiscent of that of the higher and more exposed limestone
plateau of Akpatok Island (cf. 53, pp.352-67 and plates), being sometimes of
rough, frost-shattered Dryas or Saxifraga oppositifolia barrens, containing
only a few diminutive phanerog [: ] a mic associates and comparatively few cryptogams;
but often it is of barren polygons separated by rather well-vegetated inter–
vening tracts (Fig. 77), the sorting of the material and differentiating of

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the areas being due to frost action (cf. 53). The polygons typically cover
rather more than half the total area and have centers that are very slightly
domed and mostly of finely comminuted material, except for small stones that
generally compose the surface at least toward the periphery. This polygon
surface is usually barren, but may support scattered and usually nonflowering
depauperate individuals of Braya purpurascens , Carex nardina , Dschampsia brevifolia ,
Draba alpina var. nana and D. subcapitata , Polygonum viviparum , Puccinellia
vahliana , Saxifraga aizoides , and S. oppositifolia . Individual polygons, which
average about 1 1/2 meters in diam e ter, may be devoid of even a single seedling
of a higher plant; cryptogams also are usually absent from the clayey center,
but a close search of the larger limestone particles toward the periphery will
generally reveal a few very small crustaceous lichens or greenish algal invest–
ments. The intervening tracts are variable in width but may average some 40
centimeters, and, although including most of the larger stones of the surface,
they are usually vegetated by a closed mat of higher plants and thus form a [: ]
continuous though patchy-looking network. Dryas integrifolia is the most plen–
tiful plant, forming domed tussocks often 20 centimeters high with a core of
dark-brown humus, but in the best places calcicolous Salices predominate, form–
ing small gnarled bushlets up to 30 centimeters high. These may again be
overtopped by occasional axes of Carex misandra , which reach nearly 40 centi–
meters in height. Other plants that tend to be frequent in the mat are
Polygonum viviparum , Carex nardina , C. scirpoidea , C. rupestris , and Kobresia
simpliciuscula --, the last two frequently parasitized by Cintractia caricis .
Cryptogams are not much in evidence, though a number of Cetrariae (espec–
ially Cetraria nivalis , in accordance with the poor snow covering) and
other lichens occur, and mosses of tussocky growth, which contribute to the

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

more closely matted strips of higher vegetation, and so insulate the gravelly
soil that beneath the surface it is generally quite damp. As usual in arctic
terrain the vegetation as a whole is, however, variable from place to place,
even the intervening tracts in some polygoniferous areas [: ] being poorly vege–
tated, while in other areas polygons are lacking and the vegetation may vary
from almost closed to almost nil.
The general plains cover most of the area, and even on the gneiss their
communities are far more variable from place to place than their flat terrain
would lead one to expect. The vegetation types fall into two main series,
of which the first is a marshy tundra which will be described later, and the
second is heathy and more or less lichenous. Dryas is usually on the chief
plant here, with or without associated (or sometimes locally dominant) Arto
staphylos rubra , Cassiope tetragona , Empetrum nigrum var. hermaphroditum ,
Ledum palustre var. decumbens , Rhododendron lapponicum , Salices, Vaccinium
uliginosum var. alpinum , and V. vitis-idaea var. minor . In sheltered depres–
sions the Dryas leaves were often four or five times as broad as in exposed
places. More or less plentiful herbs in such situations included [: ] Carices,
Poa arctica , Saxifraga tricuspidata , and as many as 3 species of Oxytropis ,
no less than 34 species of Phanerogamia being listed in one small and rather
poorly vegetated area. Rhacomitrium lanuginosum is often the chief cryptogam,
forming luxuriant mats spreading out over rock faces and constituting a
rapidly advancing stage in the xerosere, but in the same small area at least
7 other bryophytes and 23 lichens appeared to be more or less important.
Projecting rocks accounted for some of these lichens, as well as for a host
of additional small Lecideae and other crustaceous forms. The soil was dark
[: ] brown and humous to a depth of 3 to 10 centimeters, but, being admixed

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

with transported calcareous particles, was neutral to slightly basic in reac–
tion. Figure 78, taken well inland, shows a mixed heathy area that is dom–
inated locally in the foreground by prostrate Betula glandulosa var. sibirica ;
in a damp depression in the center is a dark moss mat surrounded by typical
mossy hillocks. An herb-rich facies is seen in Figure 79, where Carex rupes
tris obscures the Dryas , and Oxytropis maydelliana and Salix reticulata are
associated. Still more sedgy-grassy in nature are extensive, relatively favor–
able areas inland that approached in type the drier facies of marsh (see p.000)
or may occasionally be disturbed by giant tundra polygons where intervening
depressions support busy Salix alaxensis or S. richardsoni var. mckeandii .
Such a disturbed area is seen in Figure 80 in which hillock-tundra tussocks
further invest the surface; these polygons averaged about 15 meters in diameter
and appeared to be largely composed of dark humus. They supported a swarded or
tussocky community of dwarf Salices and other ground shrubs (including Dryas ),
grasses, and sedges — all being much mixed and variable from place to place,
and bound by mosses that occasionally included Sphagna.
On limestone terrain the vegetation is widely different. Thus in the
vicinity of the airfield west of Coral Harbour the ground is smooth, with a
limestone surface that is gently undulating, porous, and usually arid (Fig. 81).
Much of this semidesert of frost-shattered particles ranging from gravel size
upward is devoid of higher or even any evident vegetation, but usually a few
depauperate Saxifragae, Drabae, or Arenariae, or tufts of Dryas or Papaver are
to be found, with xeromorphic Carices or prostrate Salices where slight shelter
allows. On the most exposed barrens the chief and sometimes the only plant to
be seen is Saxifraga oppositifolia Saxifraga oppositifolia , growing in sparsely scattered tussocks
usually 5 to 15 centimeters in diameter, the associates being typically Lychnis

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

apetala , Cerastium alpinum , Braya purpurascens , Papaver radicatum , Draba
alpina var. nana , and Arenaria rubella . A close search over many square
meters will frequently reveal little more in the way of plant growth, the
cryptogams being few and even the dominant Saxifraga little in evidence
among the jagged limestone splinters with rough eroded surfaces. The oc–
casional erratic boulders or even small stones are, however, almost always
better vegetated with crustaceous lichens. The slightest change to a more
sheltered situation tends to be accompanied by a larger flora, including
such lichens as Cetraria nivalis , C. cucullata , and C. islandica s.l. —
with usually some Dryas , the whole passing with improved conditions to a
Dryas barren or even closed heath. The associates here include Carex misan
dra, C. rupestris , C. scirpoidea , Salix arctica , Kobresia simpliciuscula ,
Polygonum viviparum , and sometimes a little Cassiope tetragona . The Dryas
forms tussocks of varying size up to half a meter in diameter, which tend
to be larger toward the bottoms of banks or depressions, and harbor or
actually support most of the associated angiosperms and relatively luxuriant
and exacting cryptogams. In more favorable and sheltered depressions,
Cassiope forms a fair heath, sometimes with associated Arctostaphylos , Rho
dodendron , Lycopodium selago , Salix herbacea , S. reticulata , and others. In
still more favored, damp depressions and lakeside habitats there grow con–
trastingly luxuriant bushy willows and fine beds of Eriophora and Carices,
often extending far out into shallow water. The more important dominants
and characteristic associates in these marshes on the limestone include
Arctagrostis latifolia , Carex aquatilis var. stans , C. atrofusca, C. bicolor ,
C. membranacea , Chrysanthemum integrifolium , Deschampsia brevifolia , Epilo
bium davuricum var. arcticum , Equisetum variegatum , Eriophorum an g tustifolium ,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Juncus albescens , J. biglumis , Saxifraga aizoides , S. hirculus , and Senecio
congestus var. palustris . In Figure 82 is shown such a limestone area as
is frequently encountered not many miles in from the coast; it consists
of intermittent marshy tracts or smaller clumps of Eriophora and Carex aquatilis
var. stans , interspersed by patches of almost barren though damp gravel. Such
vegetation looks unstable and the area young, as if it had only recently
emerged from the sea.
Marshes occupy much of the low-lying country and may be continuous over
considerable areas, whether the substratum be gneissic or of limestone, al–
though more often they are subject to interruption by rocky ridges, gravelly
banks, or [: ]merely drier areas that can still be described as marshy. Such
areas when lying well inland tend to be vegetated by a luxuriant sedgy-grassy
sward (see p.000). A less well-grown example near the sea supported 35 dif–
ferent entities of vascular plants in a small area, of which no less than 9
reached a frequency degree as high as la, as follows: Carex c f. aquatilis
var. stans x bigelowii , vad; Salix cf. calcicola x richardsoni var. mckeandii ,
f-lad; Arctagrostis latifolia , a; Hierochloe pauciflora , o-a; Salix arctica ,
xx o-a; Alopecurus alpinus , la; Carex membranacea , la; Eriophorum angusti
folium , la; Salix reticulate , la. Various other associates and even dominants
occur in other places, the composition f varying from spot to spot. In this
instance the chief Salix formed bushes up to 30 centimeters high and spreading
laterally to attain a diameter of as much as 1 1/2 meters, although no proper
scrub was found, and indeed the grasses and sedges often overtopped the willows.
Such an area, with busy willows particularly prominent but still remaining
dwarf, is seen in Figure 83. Frequently the surface is somewhat hummocky

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

(Fig. 84), with tops introducing a drier, heathy facies including lichens,
though mosses such as Drepanocladus badius usually cover the surface between
the dominant vascular plants, which alone among themselves almost occupy the
area. Below this covering there may lie about 10 centimeters of dark and
wet, humous soil including mineral grits — some of which are apt to effervesce
with hydrochloric acid (HCL), the reaction being neutral. In one small area
listed, 8 species of mosses, 7 of lichens, and 3 of parasitic fungi were par–
ticularly p el le ntiful. The more swampy lakeside marshes of the type seen in
Figure 87 are usually less mixed, as are such young areas of damp limestone
gravel as that shown in Figure 82; the former type is usually well dominated
by such hygrophytes as Eriophorum angustifolium , Carex aquatilis , and Arcta
grostis latifolia , and the latter usually as Eri o phorum angustifolium , Carex
aquatilis , and Arctagrostis latifolia , and the latter usually has Eriophorum
scheuchzeri plentiful and conspicuous.
The snow effect , owing to the general flatness of the country, is less
marked and less frequently expressed in the vicinity of Coral Harbour than in
most other parts of our area. Nevertheless, there are two types of community
that appear to be maintained only in relation to drifted and rather late–
melting snow. The first is developed on the bouldery sides of occasional
morainic or rocky ridges such as are shown in Figures 84 and 85, where a great
drift of snow collects each winter and melts only well on in the summer (in
its center sometimes not at all in a cool summer), so that the growing season
is too short at least for the usual dominants, and even rapidly maturing
colonists are to be seen still in flower as late as the end of August. These
include Antennaria angustata , Arenaria sajanensis , Astragalus alpinus ,
Sardamine bellidifolia , Cassiope tetragona , Cerastium alpinum , Draba

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

fladnizensis s.l., D. fernaldiana , Eutn e ma edwardsii , Oxyria digyna , Oxytropis
maydelliana , Papaver radicatum , Pedicularis capitata , P. lanata , Poa alpina ,
Potentilla hyparctica , Ranunculus pygmaeus , Saxifraga cernua , S. tricuspidata ,
Stellaria longipes , and Trisetum spicatum var. maidenii . In a few places
where the snow lasts longest of all, even Salix herbacea and Saxifraga oppositi
folia may be seen still in flower near its receding margin — even toward the
very end of summer in the center of such patches where Phippsia algida may be
the chief phanerogam.
Earlier-melting areas surrounding the latest snow patches, and many exten–
[: ] sive depressions and banks which are left bare at a similar time each sum–
mer, tend to be vegetated by dark Cassiope tetragona heath whatever the sub–
stratum may be (Fig. 85). A 4-meter quadrat in this zone had the Cassiope , vad,
Salix reticulata , f-a, Dryas integrifolia (including f. intermedia ), la, Salix
herbacea, la, and 24 other species of vascular plants of which several were,
however, apparently mere casuals. This was to be expected in view of the usual
strong dominance by the Cassiope , which often covered about three-quarters of
the area and grew 10 to 12 centimeters high, while other phanerogams occupied
most of the spaces between its tussocks. Nevertheless some 9 bryophytes and
10 lichens were important cryptogamic “fillers.” The soil was dark brown and
humous to a depth of 5 to 10 centimeters, and the pH was 7.2 in the quadrat,
although none of the grits or silt tested would effervesce with hydrochloric
aid (HCL) in the cold.
Special localized habitats and communities are few and unimportant here–
abouts. They include “bird stone” effects such as that seen in Figure 86,
where, in relation to manuring, a luxuriant grassy sward is developed locally
around prominences to which scavengers and birds of prey repair, evenin the

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the most exposed and otherwise barren situations. On gneissic or marainic
areas Hierochloe alpina and Luzula confusa are usually important in this
evidently nitrophilous community, but on the limestone Poa arctica or some–
times Alopecurus alpinus may be unaccompanied by other grasses. Somewhat
similar in grassiness, but with a tendency to more heathy (e.g., with Vac
cinium uliginosum var. alpinum ) and beset with such rampant forbs as [: ]
Saxifraga tricuspidata , are occasional small mounds looking like old skua
hummocks from two to four feet high and sometimes not much wider, composed
largely of peaty muck. They are to be met on the damp plains inland that
are often vegetated by rather scrappy, interrupted marsh (with patches of
heath on any slightly raised area), and are much visited by snowy owls
( Nyctea nyctea ), arctic foxes ( Alopex lagopus ), and other predators and
scavengers. Whatever the origin of these mounds, their effect is cumulative;
the bigger the prominence the more it is visited, the more manured, and the
richer the dependent growth, making it more conspicuous and furthermore
visited, and so on (cf. 44, p.219).
Freshwater habitats investigated in late summer here included persistent
trickles and puddles of water that supported green wefts or a yellowish scum
of filamentous algae, generally sterile Zygnema spp. Like some of the more
open, peaty depressions in marshes, the beds of these streams, where they
were lastingly damp and of moss or mud, supported various open-soil and
diminutive colonists such as Arenaria rossii var. daethiana , A. uliginosa ,
Braya sp., Cardamine pratensis var. angustifolia , Carex atrofusca and C. bi
color , Chrys a nthemum integrifolium , Epilobium davuricum var. arcticum , Equise
arvense and E. variegatum , Eutrema edwardsii , Juncus biglumis , Lychnis
apetala , Ranunculus hyperboreus , Saxifraga tenuis , S. Oppositifolia , and
S. rivularis .

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Deposits of mud about lakes were rich in desmids and other diminutive
algae, including in one [: ] instance much sterile Zygnema sp. or spp. in which
were scattered the hitherto undescribed Closteriopsis brevicula , and also
Cosmarium subarctum , Staurastrum muticum , and S. proboscidium . Luxuriant
dark-brown beds of aquatic mosses covered the bottoms of many lakes, at
least near their margins. In one instance where the water was shallow (1
to 3 feet) the species concerned were Drepanocla [: ] dus revolvens , D. sendtneri ,
and Scorpidium scorpioides . In some of the brownish-green, slimy deposit
taken in late August from the bottom of this lake near its margin were iden–
tified 33 different species of diatoms. Figure 87 illustrates how, where a
lake’s margin is of rock, phanerogamic colonists are usually absent, but
where it is of shelving mud or gravel there may be beds of semiaquatics ex–
tending out into the water. The plants that do this most actively are Carex
aquatilis , Colpodium fulvum var. effusum , Eriophorum angustifolium , and Hip
puris vulgaris , and any of these may form luxuriant beds quite locally, at
least where the water is not more than 30 centimeters deep. Behind may
stretch luxuriant flat or tussocky marshes dominated by the Eriophorum or
Carex which may attain a height of 50 centimeters, and have associated
Sali ces Salices , Carex membranacea , C. physocarpa , and such tall and coarse grasses
as Arctostaphylos latifolia and Dupontia fisheri . Such a marsh is seen in
the foreground of Figure 87 and characteristically supports busy willows
toward its margin.
Seashore and marine communities vary as usual with local habitat condi–
tions, and include fairly extensive salt-marsh areas and evidently plentiful
large algae — to judge by the Laminariaceae and other that are to be found

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

cast up on the shore in a fresh condition. The intertidal banks in most places
slant only slightly and near the Hudson’s Bay Company post consist of rounded
boulders of all sizes embedded in clayey gravel, which is light gray and com–
posed largely of limestone material. Here vegetation is plentiful. Fucus
vesiculosus is abundant almost everywhere that it can get a stipe hold, and
various associated smaller algae occur, including species of Cladophora , Enter
omorpha , and Ulothrix even near high watermark. The shores above are in most
places of rocks or boulders that are devoid of higher plants where reaches by
waves, but behind soon come to support ordinary land vegetation. However, in
places small areas of mud or sand are found, which may support the usual com–
munity of such situations, namely, a tangled mat [: ] of reddish Puccinellia
phryganodes , with associated P. paupercula , Stellaria crassifolia , S. humifusa ,
Cochlearia officinalis var. arctica and var. groenlandica , Matricaria inodora
var. nana , Carex glareosa var. amphigena , C. salina and its var. subspathacea ,
and in places C. ursina . Elsewhere there may be quite extensive mud flats and
salt marshes, or instead a shingly beach colonized by Elymus arenarius var.
villosus and Arenaria peploides var. diffusa , and, in sandy places higher up,
by a host of open-soil and other plants from the raised land behind.
West Coast of Hudson Bay
This remaining phytogeographical subdivision of the Canadian Eastern Arctic
comprises the Hudson Bay and Roes Welcome coast of Keewatin and its adjacent
small islands, but for the present purpose it is taken to exclude areas that
lie more than a few tens of miles west of the general sea coast. It extends
from latitude 60° N. northward to the Arctic Circle (lat. 66°32′ N.). Although
it may be quite hilly in places, with elevations sometimes rising to about 1,000

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

feet (305 m.), the region as a whole is rather low; thus the country belongs
to the coastal plains, most of which here emerged from the sea only in rela–
tively recent times (cf. 6, pp.5 et seq .). The surface may be rocky and
broken, as is also the coast in many places, but in a general way the whole
has been smoothed by glacial and wave action. Especially in the south is
the land low and flat; elsewhere the coast tends to be beset with islands
and reefs (cf. 65, pp.65-70; 5).
Broadly speaking, the geology of this district is simple, the northern
half being occupied by a single series of granites and gneisses, wh e reas the
bedrock in the southern half includes some quartzites and schistose diabases
or gabbros. Many, areas, especially where the land is low and flat, are covered
with rewashed morainic material and other postglacial deposits, including much
alluvium; indeed in the extreme south there is hardly any bedrock to be seen
in situ . Elsewhere the country tends to be rather more hilly, although the
whole shows conspicuous evidence of having been intensely glaciated. Al–
though the climate tends to become severe to the north and more favorable to
the south, Chesterfield Inlet, which lies about halfway down the coast, will
serve to suggest the sort of weather to be expected in other parts. In spite
of the coastal position, the climate of Chesterfield is continental in type,
showing greater extremes than almost anywhere else in our area; thus the
winter is bitterly cold (temperatures of [: ]−60°F. have been recorded) and
the summer sometimes quite hot (temperatures over 80°F. are not infrequent). The
monthly means for July, August, September, and October are: 36.5°, 48.6°, 47°,
and 36.5°F, respectively. Although July and August are usually without frosts,
these can occur at any time in cold years. Inland, to the west, the climate
may be still more severe. The precipitation, too, is temporarily concentrated;

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

generally it totals about 11 inches (28 cm.) in the year and is more thanhalf
in the form of rain, which falls during the four months from July to October.
Regarding the vegetation it will again be necessary to select from the
general literature and personal observations such notes as seen most pertinent
for a brief survey from north to south, [: ]along which line the vegetation
tends to increase in luxuriance, and the flora in numbers, as the climate
ameliorates (cf. 33, p.281). The Roes Welcome coast south of Repulse Bay is
reputedly barren, although to judge by the fame of its flat and monotonous
hinterland as a region for caribou in summer (cf. 5, pp.94 et seq .), there
must be considerable tracts of vegetation, probably closed and marshy. The
flora continues to be arctic in type past Wager Bay (33, p.281), but about
Cape Fullerton the vegetation seems less depauperate (cf. 60), and certainly
plant specimens from there tend to be better grown than from places to the
north. Of the nearby Wi [: ] n chester Inlet it is reported that “The country is
underlain by Archaean crystalline rocks … Long, gently rounded hills, of
slight elevation, form the higher grounds, with wide, shallow valleys between
them. The whole has been intensely glaciated, and the abrasion of the great
ice-cap has reduced the general surface to as near a level surface as is pos–
sible … There is no soil upon the rocky hills, while that of the valleys is
largely boulder clay, in which the coarser material predominates, leaving
little room for the growth of Arctic vegetation upon the finer materials of
the soil. Boulders scattered in profusion over the rocky hills give to the
latter a peculiar ragged ap p earance. Lakes and ponds dot the valleys, and much
of the [: ]land surrounding these is low and swampy” (27, p.19). Similar con–
ditions prevail around the mouth of Chesterfield Inlet (see below), while in–
land of Winchester Inlet, to the north of Chesterfield, the land from the air

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

again appears monotonous and rather dark, with frequent small lakes that help
to make the terrain look like the gneissic parts of Southampton Island, though
often it seems more rocky and barren as regards higher vegetation, with lakes
more numerous and yellowish lichens more noticeable. Still farther inland
toward the eastern end of Baker Lake, however, the vegetation looks more lux–
uriant, with extensive marshes in the valleys and more browns appearing about
the gray and scoured hogback hills, whose rounded tops alone in places show
through the soft and usually heathy covering of changing browns and yellowish
browns.
South of Chesterfield lies (quartzite) Marble Island, of which the shores
look glaring white; “the rocks being free from lichens, etc., and the hills
in the interior, which are rounded, are also pure white, and contrast strongly
with the dark brown of the peaty flats and hol l ows ( [: ] 2, p.35DD). Rankin Inlet,
to the west, has “behind the beach … low grassy hills, with bosses of rock
projecting here and there through the turf” (74, p.82F). Although relatively
barren rocky hills and sandbanks persist in many places, conditions and the
vegetation on the whole improve as we go farther south, to judge from the ac–
counts of this last (generally quite reliable) author. Thus dwarf birches
( Betula glandulosa ) are plentiful around latitude 62° N., while a little south
of Wallace River, in about latitude 61°40′ N., “the tide runs out for a couple
of miles, leaving behind it a wide sandy flat, studded with boulders, and
partly covered with ropy seaweeds. Behind the beach is a wide grassy flat,
dotted with small lakes, which extends back a couple of miles” (74, p.86F).
Again, “For several miles south of McConnell River [lat. 60°50′ N. at its
mouth], a level well grassed sandy plain extends along the shore” (74, p.87F).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

In this southern portion occurs Zostera marina (60, p.193; 58, pp.91-94),
sometimes in great abundance [: ] (T. C. Carmichael voce ), and there and to the
north are extensive beds of laminarians and other algae.
Inland in the north the country tends to be low and flat, with numerous
lakes and tarns which are often rounded, at least in the less rocky terrain
(Fig. 88). Figure 90 shows country in latitude 65° N. and longitude 93° W.
having more physiographic relief, with some beach ridges and a little surface
water in the foreground but rocky hogbacks and numerous irregular lakes behind.
Still farther to the southwest, on Christopher Island, which lies near the
eastern end of Baker Lake, the writer made more detailed observations in 1946.
This island is of irregular outline and rather hilly; built of acid-weathering
rocks, it nevertheless bears a copious veneer of boulders over much of its
surface (Fig. 90), and large beds of marine shells that introduce a considerable
calcareous element at the lower levels. Although extensive scrub is absent,
the vegetation is almost continuous in favorable areas. The flora, too, is
considerable, and includes several angiosperms that are unknown to the east,
at least so far north in Canada. The vegetation survey involved the following
main categories: damp mossy heath, dry lichen-rich heath, mixed willow-birch
scrub, sandy and other lakeside slopes, marshes and lakeside flats, hilltop
rocks and boulders, tarns and their marginal communities. In spite of the
fresh-looking shells and other indications that the smooth lowland plains
had risen out of the sea only in comparatively recent times, the soil develop–
ment was fair. However, little humous accumulation was observed and the soil–
water reaction was usually near [: ] neutrality. The highest type of vegetation
was the loose willow-birch scrub up to two feet high that was developed on
some of the most favorable sandy or bouldery slopes and supported a fair
ground-shrub layer beneath the dominants (cf. 44).

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

South of Christopher Island for 100 miles and more the terrain from
the air looked similarly monotonous, with the vegetation dwarfish. Water
usually occupied at least one-quarter of the area, another one-sixth or so
being of rather barren-looking, [: ]dark-gray hills or bouldery slopes, and
the remainder of brownish or sometimes yellowish vegetation. The lake shores
appeared shelving, but the waters fairly deep farther out. Usually the mar–
gins were boulder-strewn, with boulders sticking out of the water; sandy
beaches were fewer and usually of small extent. Giant or other polygons or
solifluction streaks were often well marked, the latter sometimes extending
quite deep into the lakes. Farther south near the shores of Hudson Bay the
rocky prominences of the north gave way to flattish plains, but, although
the vegetation appeared green and more nearly contin u ous, from the air only
occasional patches of taller scrub were visible in the most favorable situa–
tions, particularly along streams. Nothing approaching tree growth was to
be seen north of the sixtieth par a llel.
As our example for more detailed description we will take Chesterfield
post, which lies in latitude 63°20′ N. and longitude 90°42′ W. on the south
side of the entrance to Chesterfield Inlet, the outlet from Baker Lake, The
surrounding country is rocky but flat and monotonous (Fig. 91), with only a
poor plant investment except in sheltered depressions. The fundamental rocks
are gray gneisses of vari [: ] ous types, rendered more or less reddish brown by con–
tained iron salts. The surface has been smoothed by glacial or submarine action
and is in places littered with rounded boulders. The valley depressions, which
alone are at all well vegetated, are lined with rewashed glacial material that
is usually rather shallow and contains little if any limestone and generally
few shells. The hills are low and rolling, largely devoid of soil, and,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

consequently, of higher vegetation. Most of them have rather the form of
ill-defined, rocky ridges, and few, if any, in the vicinity exceed 200 feet
(61 m.) in height. Although intersected by numerous narrow ravines and lakes,
these ridges project sufficiently to give to the country a desolate, rock–
bound appearance, whose gray and ragged stoniness is further accentuated
in some places by an abundance of rounded erratic boulders (cf. Fig. 90
taken some 120 miles to the west). There is little comminuted soil, so that
only a small proportion of the area is occupied by substrata that are suit–
able for the roots of vascular plants. The climate, as has already been
indicated, is continental in type in spite of the coastal position.
The raised ridges are comparatively low, rocky, and barren, with tops
that are typically of s moothed gneiss about half covered with dark Gyrophorae
and other foliose and [: ] cr ustaceous lichens — especially species of Lecanora ,
Lecidea , parmelia , and Rhizocarpon . In crevices and slight depressions where
they can get a hold, mossy mats (generally of Rhacomitrium lanuginosum ) occur,
in which quite numerous phanerogams may root. These may include almost any
of the hardier xerophytes of the heathy and other areas developed lower down,
although Hierochloe alpina and Luzula confusa are the most typical (almost
constant) members. A 5-meter quadrat (in which the former was f-lvad and the
latter f) included among additional vascular plants only Festuca brachyphylla
and Silene acaulis var. exscapa that had frequency degrees of more than vr,
and only three more or less casual “extras.” Among mosses the usual Rhacmomi
trium and [: ] Nierochloe made the terrain look straw-colored from a distance.
In the virtual absence of mineral soil, except for a few s plinters and grits
that gravitational and other forces had thrown together in depressions and

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

crannies, the phanerogams were practically confined to the more luxuriant
areas of moss, whose closely molded and woven mats came away cleanly from the
limited Rhacomitrium mat, forming a domed tussock supporting Hierochloe , etc.,
is seen on the left in the foreground of Figure 92. The figure giving the
scale is standing in a larger mat supporting a few scrubby willows, and
there are other, smaller, young moss “bobbles” in front, behind the pool of
water. The whole is in a depression in the top of a rocky ridge, the surface
of which was evidently smoothed by wave action before emerging from the sea,
and in many places still supports only lowly cryptogams. Indeed, in places
where the rock was smooth and unbroken, there were often no higher plants at
all over areas many meters in diameter; conversely where the surface had
begun to crumble there were numerous plants, including such heaths as, par–
ticularly, Empetrum nigrum var. hermaphroditum . Figure 93 shows a little of
the Empetrum * (below) and Potentilla vahliana (in flower, above), both having
attained ecesis apparently without the aid of a moss mat in crevices of an
old, broken, rocky surface that is elsewhere largely covered with lichens
of good growth. Figure 94 shows a large, tangled plant of Saxifraga tricus
pidata in flower on a frost-shattered, rocky surface whose youth and attendant
instability has precluded extensive lichen growth; in a crevice on the left is
seen a poor, thin plant of Poa glauca .
The general plains , apart [: ] from the marshy and snow-patch series
described below, are chiefly occupied by two main types of community, each of
which comprises a whole series of variable facies that merge into one another
and into the other vegetational types of the district. The first is a series
of barrens and half-barrens that are extremely various in type but altog [: ]ether

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

cover a large proportion of the land area: in them such vascular plants as
Hierochloe alpina , Saxifraga tricuspidata , Epilobium latifolium , Festuca
brachyphylla , Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minor , Dryas intergrifolia , Luzula
confusa , Oxytropis bellii , Potentilla nivea and vars., and Poa arctica tend
to be the most important, and between them occupy up to about one-third of
the area — e.g., on gravelly material where the cryptogams are apt to be
numerous and much mixed. In the slightest of depressions there are often
to be found quite plentiful heathy plants.
The other main series comprises the proper heaths developed on marine
depos i ts or alluvial or comminuted substrata in sheltered situations. They
are generally luxuriant and fully closed and consolidated, but much mixed.
Thus a 5-meter quadrat had Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum , a-lvd; Empetrum
nigrum var. hermaphroditum , f-lvad; Ledum palustre var. decumbens , f-lacod;
Arctostaphlos alpina , a; Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minor , a; Salix herbacea ,
f-a; Carex bigelowii , f; Cassiope tetragona , o; Luzula confusa o; and only
half a dozen other vascular plants — altogether a small flora, owing to the
over [: ]whelming if mixed dominance of the heaths. Cryptomgams, however, were
numerous and of good growth, including a considerable number of mosses and
several hepatics. Rhacomitrium lanuginosum was still the most plentiful moss,
but the lichens included various large species of Cetraria and Cladonia , and
also Dactylina arctica , Lobaria linita , Peltigera leucophlebia , Sphaerophorus
globosus (va), and Stereocaulon alpinum . An unusual number of saprophytic
fungi, many of them with large fruiting bodies, were noted in this habitat
in August, and also several parasites. Beneath the heathy sward there may
be a few centimeters of humous soil, although frequently this is so meager as
to suggest emergence from the sea only in quite recent times. Such heaths

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

cover altogether considerable areas, chiefly on low-lying flats and slight
slopes of marine veneer, although they may also extend over smooth or broken
rock surfaces; but they rarely persist for many meters in any one direction
without being interrupted by projecting boulders or some other habitat or
community. Sometimes there may be associated prostrate Betula glandulosa
var. sibirica , or low but scrubby willows including Salix alaxensis and, in
one instance that the author saw, upright bushes, 1 meter high, of S. plani
folia . However, these “trees” were all more or less isolated [: ] individuals
that appeared to be limited to areas which were drifted over deeply with snow
in winter, no extensive scrub being encountered.
Marshes are variable and numerous but usually of small extent, as the
habitats change drastically from spot to spot. The vegetation has in general
little real grip on the terrain and alters rapidly in composition and luxury–
iance, in space and also apparently in time. Frequently the marshes are mossy
and well consolidated, but still very mixed as regards dominance; thus in
one small area near the margin of a tarn 25 species of vascular plants oc–
curred, of which the following appeared to be the most ecologically important:
Dupontia fisheri (including var. aristata ), a-lvad; Carex aquatilis approach–
ing var. stans , f-lvad; Salix arctophila , a; Hierochloe pauciflora , f-la;
Carex chordorrhiza , a-la; Carex physocarpa with C. saxatilis , o-la; Poten
tilla palustris , o-la; Arctagrostis latifolia (including f. aristata ), f;
Poa arctica , f; Saxifraga hirculus var. propinqua , f. A dozen mosses (include–
ing Sphagnum squarrosum , Drepanocladus revolvans , and two species each of
Aulacomnium , Calliergon , and Meesea ) consolidated the surface, and there were
also several parasitic and saprophytic fungi. But although some mesophytic

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Arctic

mosses such as Polytrichum juniperinum occurred, there were no mature and
identifiable lichens. A marshy area interrupted by irregular hillocks is
seen in Figure 95, and a close-up with a small, frost-heaved mud patch in
Figure 96. Other noteworthy marsh plants that may be fairly plentiful locally
around Chesterfield include Andromeda polifolia , Carex rariflora , Eriophorum
angustifolium , E. chamissonis f. albidum and E. scheuchzeri , Juncus albescens
and J. castaneus , Luzula spadicea , Pedicularis sudetica , Ranunculus lappon
icus, and Rubus chamaemorus, all of which except the Eriophora and Junci are
characteristic chiefly of the most luxuriant boggy areas, were Sphagna are
usual l y much in evidence. Even here there is rarely if ever a humous deposit
of any real depth; when the feet sink into a “squish” lakeside swamp they
generally meet a hard rock or stony substratum not far down. The mosses are
frequently much permeated by lemming runs, but the vegetation does not appear
to suffer sriously from the attentions of these animals, even the bulbils of
Polygonum viviparum and Saxifraga cernua being frequently left alone.
The snow effect is not well marked at Chesterfield, with the small snow–
fall, regular topography, and warm summer. However, latist snow patches are
fairly frequent in depressions or behind rocky ridges where drifts form so
deeply in winter that the growing season is appreciably, though not drastically,
shortened by their late melting in summer. The characteristic community here
is a dark heath dominated by Cassiope tetragona , a 5-meter quadrat in a typical
example having 16 species of vascular plants, of which only the following were
really important: Cassiope tetragona , vad; Salix herbacea , a; Ledum palustre
var. decumbens , f-a; Rubus chamaemorus , f; Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minor , f;
all the others had lower frequency degrees and seemed to belong rather to the
surrounding damper ground. But in spite of this dampness which had allowed

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

the ecesis of several marsh species, the Cassiope was overwhelmingly dominant,
covering about three-quarters of the area though rising only 8 to 11 centi–
meters above the surface. The soil beneath was dark and humous to a depth
of 12 centimeters before the coarse, snady substratum was reached. Crypto–
gams were plentiful and mixed; they included an abundance of several differ–
ent species of mosses as well as of brown Cetrariae and, in a damp depression,
a close investment of Gymnomitrium corrallioides . The poorness of the flora
is due in some measure to the luxuriance of the dominant Cassiope ; where
this was more interrupted and patchy, various other associates were to be
found.
Freshwater habitats were numerous and variable. Small streams, besides
having their beds frequently clothed with luxuriant felty mats or tassels of
aquatic mosses, where they are sluggish may bear brown or green deposits or
floating masses of algae — from three samples of which, taken in the third
week of August, no less than 41 species of algae (excluding diatoms) were iden–
tified. Similarly numerous and variable are the algae of tarns and peaty
pools. Thus, from one or more of five samples of filamentous or mud-binding
deposits or gelatinous colonies taken near the margins of such bod i es of stand–
ing water, there were identified 13 of the 41 species found in nearby streams,
and no less than 42 further species — again exclusive of diatoms. The desmids
(some of which were being attacked by parasitic fungi) and other small forms
were mostly enmeshed or enclosed in masses of filaments or gelatinous colonies
of other algae.
Colonizing shallow water around the margins of permanent tarns and lakes
were to be found luxuriant beds of, particularly, Carex aquatilis agg.,

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

Colpodium fulvum var. effusum , Eriophorum angustifolium , E. scheuchzeri ,
Ranunculus trichophyllus var. eradicatus , and Hippuris vulag ga ris . Figure 97
shows a dense bed of the Hippuris (a close-up of the sparser margin of such
a stand is seen in Figure 98) pioneering where the bottom is muddy, succeeded
by an equally dense bed of the beautiful Eriophorum scheuchzeri . Often, how–
ever, the bottoms of the lakes were devoid of higher pla n ts and even of macro–
scopic algae. In shallow pools and around lake margins where the level is
likely to recede considerably in late summer, Ranunculus hyperboreus var.
turquetilianus and such mosses as Campylium stellatum , Cinclidium subrotundum ,
Philonotis tomentella , and Splachnum vasculosum frequently form luxuriant mats
that higher up may support a sward of Epilobium palustre , Koenigia islandica ,
Montia lamprosperma , and Stellaria crassifolia . On the drying muddy bed of
one tarn were discover e d Callitriche verna var. minima , Eleocharis acicularis ,
and Ranuchulus reptans ; around grew Desch a mpsia pumila , Carex [: ]bicolor ,
and C. holostoma , and, at the margin where the water disappeared early in sum–
mer, characteristic long runners of Carex chordorrhiza or large clumps of
C. physocarpa , the resulting community being frequently interspersed by more
barren muddy areas whose surface was darkened by a dried and cracking deposit
of colonial Cyanophyceae (Fig. 99).
Behind such lake marginal communities marshes were usually developed wher–
ever local topography allowed; these were of varying types and frequently
remained so wet and boggy even in late August that one sank in them halfway
to the knee, although below there was generally a rocky of stony bed, all
these areas near the coast being evidently young. Their emergence from the
sea only in comparatively recent times is further evidence by the slight
brackishness of some of the lowest-lying lakes — especially as indicated by

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

their algal flora and the occurrence around their margins of such salt-marsh
plants as Carex glareosa var. amphigena , C. ursina , phases of C. Salina ,
Chrysanthemum arcticum, and Stellaria humifusa . Even Puccinellia phryganodes
was twice encountered in such situations well away from the sea.
Seashore and lagoon habitats at Chesterfield included rocks and boulders
between tidemarks (spring tides are reported to rise about 18 feet — (75,
p.403)) that supported at all points visited an abundance of Fucus vasiculosus
with associated smaller algae, especially Pylaiella littoralis, which fre–
quently grew as an epiphyte on the Fucus stipes. No larger laminarians were
observed growing, although a few were to be found cast up on the beach in a
fresh conditi o n; however, tidal pools supported an abundance of small algae,
including, in addition to the Pylaiella , Anabaena variabilis , Calothrix con
tarenii , Dichotrix rupicola , Enteromorphy intestinalis , Tolypothrix lanata ,
and Ulothrix flacca . Some of these were best developed near high tidemark,
where the water was at times only brackish and the Fucus was absent; here on
sheltered and shaded rocks the Pylaiella and Ulothrix often formed a greenish
“felt,” with associated larger thalli of the Enteromorpha . A b ove high tidemark
the sandy or gravelly beaches often supported plentiful Elymus arenarius var.
villosus (approaching var. villosissimus ), Arenaria peploides var. diffusa , and
Mertensia meritima var. tenella , as well as a host of smaller colonists includ–
ing Arabis arenicola , Artemisia borealis , Carex maritima , Castilleja pallida ,
Matricaria indora var. nana , and Sagina intermedia .
A lagoon, where water was quite drinkable but presumably somewhat brackish,
supported an abundance of algae which included a few desmids, Pediastrum bory
anum , Scenedesmus obliquus , Cladophora kuetzingiana , and Zygnema spp. Around

EA-PS. Polunin: Canadian Eastern Arctic

its margin persisted a salt-marsh community dominated by Puccinellia phry
ganodes , Dupontia fisheri , and Carex ursina , with such associated seashore
plants as C. glareosa var. amphigena , C. salina approaching var. subspathacea ,
Chrysanthemum arcticum , Cochlearia officinalis var. groenlandica, Matricaria
indora var. nana , Potentilla egedii , Puccinellia paupercula , Stellaria
crassifolia , and S. humifusa . This seeming relic was being invaded by more
or less freshwater hygrophytes including Deschampsia caespitosa var. lit
toralis agg., Epilobium palustre , Eriophorum scheuchzeri , Juncus arcti c us,
Koenigia islandica , Luzula spadicea , Sagina intermedia , Salix arctica , and
Saxifraga spp., the whole being woven into a close mat by such mosses as
Calliergon giganteum and Campylium stellatum . Behind these was rather rapid
transition to one of the heathy or other communities of the general hinterland—
as on the open coast, where something less than a meter above the level reached
by the highest tides was usually sufficient to see the disappearance of almost
all seashore species, though where the ground shelved gradually these often
extended well back.

EA- II PS . Polunin: Regional Flora

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45. ----. “Botany of the Canadian Eastern Arctic. Part I, Pteridophyta and
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46. ----. “Botany of the Canadian Eastern Arctic. Part III, Vegetation
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47. ----. “The flora of Akpatok Island, Hudson Strait,” J.Bot . Lond. vol.72,
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48. ----. The Isle of Auks . London, Arnold, 1932.

49. ----. “On some plants from Salisbury Island, collected by Major L.T.
Burwash in 1924 and by the Hon. J.N.S. Buchan in 1938,”
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50. ----. “Perlustrationes plantarum arcticarum. I, ‘Parry plants’ in the
possession of (i) the University of Durham, and (ii) the
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53. ----. “The vegetation of Akpatok Island. Part I,” J.Ecol . vol.22,
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54. ----. “----. Part II,” Ibid . vol.23, pp.161-209, 1935.

55. ----, and others. “Botany of the Canadian Eastern Arctic. Part II,
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Biological Series no.26.

56. ----, Pady, S.M., and Kelly, C.D. “Aerobiological investigations in the
Arctic and Subarctic,” Arctic vol.1, no.1, pp.60-61, 1948.

57. ----, ----, and ----. “Arctic aerobiology,” Nature , Lond. vol.160.
pp.876-77, 1947.

58. Porsild, A.E. “Notes on the occurrence of Zostera and [: ]
Zennichellia in arctic North America,” Rhodora, vol.34,
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59. Putnam, G.P. “The Putnam Baffin Island Expedition,” Geogr. Rev . vol.18,
pp.1-40, 1928.

60. Rae, John. Narrative of an Expedition to the Shores of the Arctic Sea in
1846 and 1847 . London, Boone, 1850.

61. Ross, John. A Voyage of Discovery, Made Under the Orders of the Admiralty,
in His Majesty’s Ships Isabella and Alexander, for the
Purpose of Exploring Baffin’s Bay, and Inquiring into the
Probability of a North-West Passage . 2d ed. London, Longmen,
Hurst, 1819. 2 vol [: ] .

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62. Simmons, H.G. Stray Contributions to the Botany of North Devon and
Some Other Islands, Visited in 1900-1902 . Kristiania, Brøgger,
1909. Report of the Second Norwegian Arctic Expedition
in the ‘Fram’ 1898-1902, no.19.

63. ----. “Summary of the botanical work of the expe d ition, and its results,”
Sverdrup, Otto. New Land. Four Years in the Arctic Regions .
London, N.Y., Longmans, Green, 1904, vol.2, pp.467-76, App.2

64. ----. The Vascular Plants in the Flora of Ellesmereland . Eristiania,
Brøgger, 1906. Report of the Second Norwegian Arctic
Expedition in the ‘Fram’ 1898-1902, no.2.

65. Smith, F.C.G. Sailing Directions for the Hudson Bay R route from the
Atlantic Ocean to Churchill Harbour . Ottawa, Acland, 1932.

66. Soper, J.D. The Blue Goose . Ottawa, Acland, 1930.

67. ----. A Faunal Investigation of Southern Baffin Island . Nat.Mus.Can.
Bull . no.53, 1928. Biological Series no.15.

68. ----. “The Lake Harbour region, Baffin Island,” Geogr.Rev . vol.26, no.3,
pp.426-38, 1936.

69. ----. “Solitudes of the Arctic,” Canad.Geogr.R J . vol.7, pp.102-15, 1933.

70. Steere, W.C. “Bryophyta of arctic America. II, Species collected by
J. Beway Soper, principally in southern Baffin Island,”
Amer.Midl.Nat . vol.21, pp.355-67, 1939.

71. ----. Bryophyta of Canadian Arctic . (No imprint)

72. Sutherland, Peter C. Journal of a Voyage in Baffin’s Bay and Barrow ’s Straits,
in the Yeers 1850-1851, Performed by H.M. Ships Lady Franklin
and Sophia, under the Command of Mr. William Penny, in Search
of the Missing Crews of H.M. Ships Erebus and Terror . London,
Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1852. 2 vols.

73 [: ]. Sverdrup , O. New Land. N.Y., Longmans, Green, 1904. 2 vols.

74. Tyrrell, J.B. Report on the Doorbaunt, Kazan and Freguson Rivers and the
North-West Coast of Hudson Bay . Ottawa, Dawson, 1897.
Can.Geol.Surv. Ann.Rep . 1896, n.s. vol.9, pp.1-218F.

75. U.S. Hydrographic Office. Sailing Directions for Northern Canada . Wash.,
D.C., G.P.O., 1946. HO Pub . no.77.

76. Wordie, J.M. “An expedition of Melville Bay and north-east Baffin Land,”
Geogr.J . vol.86, pp.297-316, 1935.

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77. ----. “An expedition to north West Greenland and the Canadian Arctic
in 1937,” Ibid . vol.92, pp.385-421, 1938.

78. Wynne, F.E., and Steere, W.C. “The bryophyte flora of the east coast
of Hudson Bay,” Bryologist , vol.46, pp.73-87, 1943.

Nicholas Polunin
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