Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen: Encyclopedia Arctica 6: Plant Sciences (Regional)
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

EA-Plant Sciences
(Johannes Lid)

FLORA AND VEGETATION OF SVALBARD AND JAN MAYEN

CONTENTS
Page
Svalbard 2
Investigation of the Flora 2
Composition of the Svalbard Flora 3
Ecology and Vegetation 9
Jan Mayen 13
Investigation of the Flora 13
Composition of the Flora 13
Ecology and Vegetation 16

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATIONS
With the manuscript of this article, the author submitted 2 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
(Johannes Lid)

FLORA AND VEGETATION OF SVALBARD AND JAN MAYEN
The flora of these islands in the European sector of the Arctic does
not differ greatly from the general aspect of the flora of Greenland in the
west, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya in the east, or Kola and northern–
most Norway in the south. This especially concerns Bear Island and Jan
Mayen, both of which are inhabited by a meager flora. The somewhat larger
Svalbard proper (West Spitsbergen and the eastern islands) may be said to
give refuge to a rather rich flora in relation to its high-arctic situation.
This is certainly due to the warm sea current on the western coast of
Svalbard.
The phanerogams and vascular cryptogams occurring on the islands with
which this article is concerned are much the same as those growing in the
neighboring countries. Endemic species are extremely scarce: in Svalbard
we know only one Ranunculus spitsbergensis , and in Jan Mayen perhaps three
apospecies of Taraxacum - T. brachyrhyncum , T. recidens , and T. torvum .
Bear Island is both geologically and botanically closely skin to West
Spitsbergen and the other islands of Svalbard, and is therefore treated
together with that group. Jan Mayen, however, is quite different, being
an oceanic-volcanic island separated from Svalbard by deep sea, and will
accordingly be treated separately.

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

SVALBARD
Investigation of the Flora
The first scientific record of plants from Svalbard (in fact from any
part of the Arctic) was given by the German physician Friedrich Martens,
who paid a visit to the whaling establishments at the northwestern corner
of Spitsbergen in 1671. In his list of plants from this outpost, near
latitude 80° N., we find 14 species, which can now be identified as:
Cerastium alpinums Cochlearia groenlandica , Dryas octopetala , Oxyria digyna ,
Polygonum viviparum , Potentilla hyparctica , Ranunculus hyperboreus ,
R. pygmaeus , R. sulphureus , Salix polaris , Saxifraga foliolos , S. nivalis ,
S. oppositifolia , and S. rivularis .
A century later, in 1772, the English explorer C. J. Phipps brought
home more plants from northern Svalbard, among them the snow grass, Phippsia
algida . In 1818, some species were added by the Scottish explorer William
Scoresby, Jr. The first representative list of plants from Svalbard, how–
ever, was published by W. J. Hooker in 182 7 8 ; it was based upon the collections
brought home from Sorgfjorden, in 1827, by the English explorer William
Edward Parry. Parrya nudicaulis , which has never been rediscovered in
Svalbard, was one of his most remarkable finds. Additional finds were due
to the Norwegian geologist B. M. Keilhau in 1827, and yet others to
Jens Vahl who accompanied the French expedition of 1838-39; these last
included the grass Puccinellia vahliana .
A considerable number of additional species turned up during the
Swedish expeditions of 1858, 1861, 1868, 1872, 1873, and 1882; and 123 species
were listed by Nathorst in 1883. Since then the number of species has been
increased by several collectors, particularly during a series of Norwegian

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

expeditions (1896-1926). The latest detailed investigation of Svalbard;s
flora were carried out by P. F. Scholander (1931), Nicholas Polunin (1933),
Eilif Dahl (1936), and Emil Hadae (1939).
From Bear Island, Keilhau brought home a fine collection of plants in
1827. His list of plants, published by Sommerfelt, 1833, contained 29 species.
The Swedish expeditions of 1864-68, 1898, and 1899 increased the number of
plants known from Bear Island to 48. Most of the species added afterward
were found by the Norwegian explorer Olaf Hanssen in 1923. Fifty-seven
species of vascular plants are now known from Bear Island, including two
species Hippuris vulgaris and Rhododendron lapponicum that are not known
from Spitsberg. The total number of vascular plants now known from Svalbard as
a whole (i.e., the Spitsbergen Archipelago and Bear Island) amount to
144. A series of weeds and other anthropochores introduced to Svalbard by
whalers and miners is not included in that number.
Composition of the Svalbard Flora
Most of the 144 vascular plants belong to the circumpolar group. Eight
species are “east arctic,” viz., Melandrium affine , Ranunculus auricomus ,
Parrya nudicaulis , Petasites frigidus , Phippsia concinna , Potentilla
multifida , Puccinellia vacillans , and Salix polaris . Only three are
definitely “west arctic,” viz.;, Carex nardina , Poa martzii , and Woodsia
glabella . From the systematic enumeration given below, it will be seen
that the monocotyledons are fairly well represented. Moreover, we notice
the great abundance of apeta[: l ] ous and polypetalous plants up to the family
Rosaceae. There are no leguminous plants, and the rest of the Polypetalae,
and particularly the Gamopetalae, are very poorly represented. The genus

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Hieracium , which is so abundant in Scandinavia, has not a single species
in Svalbard. In the systematical sequence of vascular plants up to and
including Rosaceae, we find in Svalbard 87% of the total number. The
corresponding percentage in the Scandinavian flora amounts to only 60%.
Apparently the plants ranking highest in the vegetable kingdom do not
thrive well in the Arctic.
Vascular Cryptogams . Four species, Equisetum arvense , E. scirpoides ,
E. variegatum , and Lycopodium selago , are rather frequent all over the area.
Cystopteris fragilis can be found in the western fjord district and in
Wijdefjord, but the rare Woodsia glabella is know only from Kapp Waern
in Isfjord. All of them except the last one are known from Bear Island.
Gramineae . No other family in Svalbard is as well represented as this,
no less than twenty-seven species being found. Most genera can easily be
interpreted, but in the critical genus Poa , the interpretation of the
viviparous forms may lead to different numbers of species being recognized
by different authories. Common and widespread and Alopecurus alpinus ,
Deschampsia alpina , Dupontia fisheri , Festuca rubra , F. vivipara , Phippsia
algida , P. concinna , Poa alpigena , P. alpina var. vivipara , P. arctica , and
Puccinellia phryganodes . Rather common in Spitsbergen but lacking on
Bear Island are Poa abbreviata , “ P. stricta .” Puccinellia angustata ,
P. vacillans , P. vahliana , and Trisetum spicatum , Arctophila fulva ,
Calamagrostis neglecta , Poa alpina s.str., and P. glauca occur on Bear
Island and on the western coast of West Spitsbergen. The following species
are found only in Isfjord and in the northern fjords of Spitsbergen:
Arctagrostis latifolia, Deschampsia brevifolia, Festuca brachyphilla,
Pleuropogon sabini, and Poa hartzii. Hierochloë alpina is reported

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

f only from Isfjord.
Cyperaceae . This family is represented in Svalbard by fourteen species,
eleven of them belonging to the genus Carex . Strangely enough not a single
species of Cyperaceae has been found on Bear Island. Carex subspathacea
and Eriophorum scheuchzeri are rather common and widespread, but otherwise
Cyperaceae are far from being as frequent as Gramineae. Carex lachenalii
and C. ursina are fairly common in the south but rare in the north, while
C. maritima , C. misandra , C. nardina , C. rupestris , and Eriophorum angusti
folium are rare in the south. Rare and found only in the western central
part of West Spitsbergen are Carex glareosa , C. parallella , and C. saxatilis .
The rare C. bigelowii was found once in Bellsund, once in Isfjord, and once
in Kongafjord. Kobresia simpliciuscula occurs in the Mimerdalen in Isfjord.
A hybrid of Carex maritima and C. parallela was reported once from Isfjord.
There is also found a plant which is supposed to result from hybridization
between Eriophorum angustifolium and E. scheuchzeri .
Juncaceae . Four species of Juncus and three of Luzula are known from
Svalbard; only two of them, J. biglumis and L. confusa , are found on Bear
Island. Common and widespread are J. biglumis , L. arctica , and L. confusa .
The others are rare; J. arcticus , J. castaneus , J. Triglumis , L. wahlenbergii
being found only in a few places in Isfjord.
Liliaceae. Tofieldia pusilla has been found in Skansdalen and
Dicksonfjord in the Isfjord area, in Kongsfjord, and in Wijdefjord on
the north coast.
Salicaceae . Salix polaris is a common plant throughout the whole area.
S. reticulata grows on Bear Island, in Bellsund, in Isfjord, and in Kongsfjord.
The western arctic species, S. herbacea , occurs on Bear Island and near the

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

the southernmost promonotory of West Spitsbergen. The hybrid S. herbacea
X polaris appears somewhat farther north than does pure S. herbacea .
Betulaceae. Betula nana can be found in the valleys of Isfjord, but
it occurs rather scantily.
Polygonaceae. Oxyria digyna and Polygonum viviparum are common everywhere.
Koenigia islandica is fairly frequent on Bear Island and in West Spitsbergen
to the north toward Sorgfjord.
Caryophyllaceae . This family is represented by fifteen species, many
of them being widespread, and conspicuous when in flower. Cerastium alpinum ,
C. regelii , Sagina intermedia , and Silene acaulis are familiar all over the
TERRITORY. Common (but lacking on Bear Island) are Melandrium apetalum ,
Minuartia biflora , M. rubella , and Stellaria crassipes. M. rossii and
S. humifusa are not found in the south. Arenaria pseudofrigida , Honckenya
peploides , and Melandrium affine are not common. Minuartia stricta is
recorded from Bellsund, Kongsfjord, and Sorgfjord, while A. humifusa is
recorded from Kongsfjord only.
Ranunculanceae . This family is represented by ten species of Ranunculus ,
of which R. hyperboreus , R. pygmaeus , and R. sulphureus are common and
widespread. R. nivalis is less frequent. These four, also known from Bear
Island, persist north of 80° N. latitude in the northern islands. R. affinis ,
R. lapponicus , and R. spitsbergensis occur in the western fjords and in
Wijdefjord; R. auricomis is known from Isfjord only. R. pallasii is found
in Hornsund, a few places in Isfjord, and on Forlandet, while R. glacialis
is restricted to the South Cape area, not being found north of Hornsund on
the western coast.
Papaveraceae . The arctic poppy, Papaver radicatum , is a common plant

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

on the tundra and slopes throughout Svalbard including the northern islands.
Its flowers are sometimes, yellow, sometimes nearly white.
Cruciferae . Seventeen cruciferous species are known from Svalbard,
including nine species of the critical genus Draba . Very common are
Cardamine bellidifolia , C. pratensis , Cochlearia groenlandica , Draba alpina ,
D. lactea , D. micropetala , and D. subcapitata . Less frequent are Braya
purpurascens , Draba bellii , D. daurica (lacking in the north), D. cinerea
(lacking in the south), D. nivalis , and D. norvegica. Eutrema edwardsii
occurs in Bellsund, Isfjord, and the northern fjords; Arabis alpina has
been found in Hornsund, Bellsund, Isfjord, and Magdalenefjord. Cakile
maritima is recorded from Isfjord, and Parrya nudicaulis from Sorgfjord.
Crassulaceae. Sedum rosea grows on Bear Island, and was found once
on Forlandef off the western coast of West Spitsbergen.
Saxifragaceae. Chrysosplenium tetrandrum is rather common and
widespread, but scarce in the north. The genus Saxifraga , with its repre–
senatation of eleven species, makes up a plentiful and characteristic
feature of the Svalbard flora. S. groenlandica and S. oppositifolia are
the most numerous. Very common also are S. cernua , S. hieracifolia , S. nivalis ,
S. rivularis , and S. tenuis . In the north, S. aizoides , S. foliolosa , and
S. hirculus are rather rare, while S. flagellaris is seldom met in the
southernmost part. The last one mentioned, S. foliolosa , and S. hieracifolia
are lacking on Bear Island.
Rosaceae . This comprehensive family has but few representatives in
Svalbard, and not a single species belongint to it is known from Bear Island.
Common species in Spitsbergen are Dryas octopetala and Potentilla hyparctica ;
scattered, but rathe e r common in the Isfjord area, is P. pulchella .

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

R. nivea occurs in the central and northwestern part of West Spitsbergen,
while P. crantzii is restricted to some few places in Isfjord, Kongsfjord,
and Krossfjord. P. multifida and Rubus chamaemorus are very rare, having
been found only once or twice in Isfjord.
Hippuridacea. Hippuris vulgaris was discovered, in 1923, in some ponds
in the northern part of Bear Island.
Ericaceae . The species of this ff family are all very rare except one,
Cassiope tetragona , which is rather common in Isfjord and the northern fjords
of West Spitsbergen. C. hypnoides is recorded from Isfjord, Kongsfjord, and
Krossfjord; Vaccinium uliginosum only from Colesdalen in Isfjord. Rhododendron
lapponicum was recorded in 1864 from Bear Island, but has not been rediscovered
there.
Empetraceae. Empetrum hermaphroditum is found many places in Bellsund
and in the Isfjord, and in the area between these fjords.
Gentianaceae . In 1873, Gentiana tenella was reported from Wijdefjord.
Polemoniaceae. Polemonium boreale grows plentifully here and there
in Bellsund and in the valleys of Isfjord.
[: H]oraginaceae. Mertensia maritima is found in some places in Bellsund,
Isfjord, Raudfjord, and Wijdefjord.
Scrophulariaceae . Pedicularis hirsuta is rather frequent and wide–
spread, while P. dasyantha appears more scattered in Isfjord and in the
northwestern fjords of West Spitsbergen; it was once reported from Bellsund.
No Pedicularis is known to grow o i n Bear Island.
Campanulaceae. Campanula uniflora appears scantily in Isfjord,
on Forlandet, in Kongsfjord, and in Wijdefjord. C. rotundifolia is known
only from Colesdalen in Isfjord.

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Compositae . The only common species of this family is the nearly
white-flowering Taraxacum arcticum which is also the only composite found
on Bear Island. T. brachyceras grows in the bird cliffs of the western
fjords. In the interior parts of the western fjords, one can find Arnica
alpina , Erigeron unalaschkensis , and Petasites frigidus , the first two
also occurring in the fjords on the north coast. The only record of
E. eriocephalus comes from the Westfjord in Wijdefjord.
Ecology and Vegetation
In Svalbard there are no trees and no tall shrubs. The plants are
mostly low and creeping, even the woody Betula nana and Salix species
never reaching more than 4 to 5 centimeters above the ground. The grasses
may grow to a height of 20 to 30 centimeters, occasionally to 40 to 45
centimeters. The longest culm of spontaneous grass ever seen in Svalbard
was a specimen of Arctophila fulva , in Sassendalen, which was 60 centimeters
long. Usually we do not find any closed vegetation of vascular plants.
Locally, extensive patches of green may be seen, but looked at more
closely these usually turn out to be carpets of moss.
Mosses and lichens in general make up a far greater part of the vege–
tation in Svalbard than in countries farther south. Only on the bird cliffs
and some few other places are there patches of some square meters with
properly closed vegetation of flowering plants. These patches are often
dominated by Cochlearia and species of Poa and Festuca . In damp parts
of the tundra, they consist of various kinds of grass of the genera Alopecurus ,
Dupontia , Phippsia , Poa , and Puccinellia , and also of Eriophorum scheuchzeri ,
Petasites frigidus , and others. On drier tundra and on slopes, there may
be found small patches of heath made up of Cassiope tetragona , Dryas octopetala ,

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Saxifrage oppositifolia . On the whole, however, the plants appear singly
and scattered as they do on the tops of mountains in the Temperate Zone.
The vegetation of Svalbard thus differs greatly from the closed heaths
and pastures which are so commonly met with on the mainland of northern
Europe, being in a way more like a type of vegetation found in more arid
places far to the south. Although the plants are scattered, they make
the scenery more lively with their beautiful colored flowers.
Frequent on the tundra are the white-flowered Cerastium alpinum ,
C. regelii , Dryas octopetala , Melandrium affine , Saxifraga cernua , S. groen
landica , and S g t ellaria crassipes ; also much in evidence are the yellow
Papaver radicatum , Potentilla hyperetice , P. pulchella , Ranunculas sulphureus ,
and Saxifraga flagellaris ; and the more or less red-flowered Pedicularis hirsuta ,
P. dasyanthe , Saxifraga oppositifolis , and Silene acaulis. Campanula rotundi
folia , C. uniflora , and Polemonium boreale have blue flowers, but the only
the last-mentioned is at all widespread.
The most prolific and varied vegetation is to be found in the great
fjords on the west coast. The Isfjord district in particular has a rich
flora with 132 species. The fjords on the north coast, especially Wijdefjord,
also have an abundant and various flora; 123 species are known to occur
north of Isfjord, but only 110 south of that fjord. The damp climate of
the southern part of West Spitsbergen is not favorable for plants requiring
insolation.
The different kinds of soil, often lime-charged, that are found in
Isfjord are often faborable for plants. In Svalbard calciphilic plants
are not rare, examples being Braya purpurascens , Carex misandra , C. rupestris ,
Dryas octopetala , Equisetum scirpoides , Kobresia simpliuscula , Potentilla nivea ,

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Salix reticulata , and Saxifraga aizoides . The last of these is also
abundant on gypsum.
Most of the plants of Svalbard are mesophilous or xerophilous, aquatic
plants being few and very rare. The most notable are Hippuris vulgaris on
Bear Island, and Pleuropogon sabinii in Isfjord and Wijdefjord. The sea–
shore plants are likewise infrequent, and only three — Cakile maritima ,
Honckenya peploides , and Mertensia maritima are obligate ones. The other
halophious species , Carex glareosa , C. Maritima , C. subspathacea , C. ursina ,
Puccinellia phryganodes , and Stellaria humifusa may occur well up in the
valleys. Cochlearia groenlandica does not behave well as a seashore plant
in Svalbard, but grows mostly on the tundra and on bird cliffs up to some
550 meters above sea level.
The analysis of ten test patches, listed in Table I, gives an
impression of common form of vegetation of the Svalbard tundra. Figure I
shows this “ Deschampsia-Phippsia tundra” on Cape Bohemann [: ]
[: ] Isfjord, West Spitsbergen, September 1, 1924 . Table II indicates
the composition of another typical form of Svalbard vegetation — that in
which Saxifraga [: ] oppositifolia is the most abundant vascular
plant. It was developed on a horizontal plain at Öyrlandet.

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Table I. Deschampsia-Phippssia Association on Cape Bohemann,
Isfjord, West Spitsbergen, September 1, 1924
Plant Test
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Deschampsia alpina 2 2 3 2 2 2 1 3 2 2
Phippsia algida 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 2 2 1
Cardamine pratensis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Cerastium regelii 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga foliolosa 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga oppositifolia 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga rivularis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Luzula confusa 1 1 1 1 1 1 - 1 2 1
Ranunculus hyperboreus 1 1 1 - 1 - 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga cernua 1 - 1 - 1 1 1 1 1 1
Draba subcapitata - - 1 1 1 1 1 - 1 1
Saxifraga tenus 1 1 - 1 1 1 - - 1 1
Luzula arctica 1 1 1 1 1 - - - 1 -
Stellaria crasspipes - 1 - 1 1 - - 1 1 1
Sagina intermedia 1 - - - 1 - - 1 1 1
Cardamine bellidifolia 1 - 1 1 - - 1 - - -
Cochlearia groenlandica - 1 - - - - - 1 1 1
Draba micropetala - - - - - 1 1 - 1 1
Saxifraga groenlandica 1 - - 1 0 - - 1 - -
Equisetum variagatum - - - 1 1 - - - - -
Ranunculus sulphureus - - - 1 - - - - 1 -
Oxyria digyna 1 - - - - - - - - -
Salix polaris 1 - - - - - - - - -
Poa alpigena - - - - - - - 1 - -
Saxifraga hieracifolia - - - - - - - - 1 -
Table II. Saxifraga Tundra at Oyrlandet on Svalbard, August 20, 1920
Plant Test
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Saxifraga oppositifolia 3 5 4 2 5 3 5 2 3 3
Saxifraga groenlandica 1 1 1 1 - 1 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga cernua 1 1 1 1 - 1 1 1 1 1
Juncus biglumis 1 1 1 1 - 1 1 1 1 1
Draba subcapitata 1 1 1 1 1 - 1 1 - 1
Saxifraga nivalis 1 - 1 1 - - 1 1 - 1
Draba micropetala - 1 - 1 - 1 - - 1 1
Cerastium alpinum - 1 - - - - - - 1 1
Cochlearia groenlandica - - - 1 - - - - 1 1
Oxyria digyna - - - 1 - - - - - -
Salix polaris - - - - 1 - - - - -
Ranunculus sulphureus - - - - - 1 - - - -

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

JAN MAYEN
Investigation of the Flora
The botanical exploration of Jan Mayen has been carried out in the
course of the last 130 years. From the Dutch period, in the seventeenth
century, we have no information on the flora, nor are there any botanical
records from the eighteenth century. The first record of plants in litera–
ture is that of the Scottish explorer William Scoresby, Jr., who visited
the island in 1817. In his narrative (1820) he mentioned six species of
flowering plants, which can be identified as: Draba norvegica , Honckenya
peploides , Oxyria digyna , Saxifraga groenlandica , S. oppositifolia , and
Silene acaulis .
Further records were contributed by George Berna and Carl Vogy, who
visited Jan Mayen in 1861, and by the Norwegian North Atlantic Expedition
in 1877. The Austrian Polar Expedition, 1882-83, worked out the first
representative plant list, containing 29 species of vascular plants. Other
expeditions contributed new plants until the number was increased to 39
by the Danish botanists N. Eartz and C. Kruuse, in 1900, and to 40 by
Johannes Gandrup in 1919. The Norwegian expedition of 1930 thoroughly
studied the flora and raised the number of species to [: 3]7. One further
species was found in 1937, and another in 1948, both by British expeditions,
bringing the number of vascular plants up to 59.
Composition of the Flora
Of the 59 species 3 appear to be endemic apospecies, namely Taraxacum
brachyrhyncum , T. recidens , and T. torvum . One species, T. acromaurum ,
Jan Mayen has in common with Iceland. The remaining 55 species are all

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

found in Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, and most of them are circumpolar.
The central part of the island is botanically the best known; all species
except 3 are found here. In Nord-Jan (that is, north of Beerenberg), only
23 species are known, while in Sör-Jan (that is, south of Engelskbukta),
43 species occur, 3 of which, Cardamine pratensis , Lycopodium selago , and
Puccinellis retroflexa , are not found elsewhere on the island.
Vascular Cryptogams. Equisetum arvense is rather common, while
Cystopteris fragilis is rare, being found only in a few places. Lycopodium
selago was recorded once, from Sör-Jan.
Gramineae . is the family with the greatest number of species on Jan
Mayen, nine in all. Festuca vivipara , Phippsia algida , and Poa alpina var.
vivipara are very common. Rather frequent also are Festuca rubra , Poa
alpigena , and Trisetum spicatum , while Calamagrostis neglecta , Poa glauca ,
and Puccinellia retroflexa are rare.
Cyperaceae is represented by three species of Carex , the most common
being C. lachenalii and C. maritima . The rare C. bigelowii occurs in a few
places.
Juncaceae. Luzula confusa is one of the most common specia, while
L. spicata was recorded only once, from the Ullereng.
Salicaceae. Salix herbacea is very common and widespread.
Polygonaceae . Oxyria digyna is probably the commonest flowering plant
in Jan Mayen; Koenigia islandica and Polygonum viviparum are also common.
Caryophyllaceae . Next to Gramineae Caryophyllacea has the largest
number of species, with eight in all. Cerastium alpinum is one of the
commonest plants. C. cerastoides , Sagina intermedia , and Silene acaulis
are also rather common, as is Honckenya peploides on the seashore.

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Rather rare are Minuartia biflora , M rubella , and Sagina caespitosa .
Ranunewlaceae. Ranunculus glacialis is common everywhere. R. pygmaeus
is less common, while R. hyperboreus is scarce.
Cruciferae. Cochlearia groenlandica and Draba norvegica are common .
throughout the island; somewhat less common is Cardamine bellidifolia .
D. alpina and D. nivalis are rather rare; C. pratensis has been recorded
only twice.
Saxifragaceae . As usual in the Arctic, Saxifraga groenlandica , S. nivalis ,
S. oppositifolia , S. rivularis , and S. tenuis are common and widespread.
S. cernua is fairly common, while S. foliolosa is less frequent.
Rosaceae. Sibbaldia procumbeus is found in many places; Potentilla
grantzii in only a few.
Onagraceae. Epilobium anagallidifolium is found at Cape Fishburn.
Empetraceae. Empetrum hermaphroditum grows on both sides of Sörbreen
and beneath Vestbreen.
Boraginaceae. Mertensia maritima is rather frequent on sand in the
lowlands.
Scrophulariaceae. Veronica alpina is found at Cape Fishburn and
beneath Vestbreen. Euphrasia sp. is reported from Cape Fishburn.
Compositae. Gnaphalium supinum grows east of Sörbreen and beneath
Vestbreen. What are claimed to be five different Five species of Taraxacum have been found on Jan Mayen, the
most common one being T. acromaurum . Less common is T. lapponicum , which
is also known from Greenland and Scandinavia. Rarer are the endemic
T. brachyrhyncum , T. recidens , and T. Torvum .

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Ecology and Vegetation
Trees and shrubs do not occur on Jan Mayen, the only woody plants being
the creeping Salix herbacea and Empetrum hermaphroditum . Mosses and lichens
often dominate the vegetation, especially on fresh lava soil. For miles the
gray moss Rhacomitrium languginosum may cover the lava soil with a carpet
up to 10 c d e ntimeters thick. In this carpet, isolated flowering plants may
be entangled here and there.
Aquatic plants are unknown on Jan Mayen; nor are there any ericaceous
plants. This may be due to the fact that the soil is decidedly basic. The
only obligate seashore plant is Honckenya peploides. Carex maritima , Mer
g tensia maritima , and Puccinellia retroflaxa usually occur in sandy
places somewhat apart from the seashore.
On the sandy and clayey plains, there is no closed vegetation; the
plants are scattered singly or appear in small tussocks (see Fig. 2). On
the other hand, great areas are without any appreciable vegetation at all.
An analysis of ten test patches taken on a sandy plain south of Wildberg
is given in Table III, each test area being one square meter. As mentioned
previously, the figures in the table refer to the increasing degree of
covering, ranging from 1 to 5.

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Table III. Phippsia-Cochlearia Association on Sand
Near Wildberg, Jan Mayen, August 17, 1930.
Plant Test area
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Phippsia algida 1 1 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 2
Cochlearia groenlandica 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Ranunculus glacialis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Sagina intermedia 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga groenlandica 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 - 1
Cerastium alpinum 1 1 1 - - - - 1 1 -
Sagina caespitosa 1 1 - - 1 - 1 1 - -
Oxyria digyna 1 - 1 - - 1 - - 1 1
Festuca vivipara 1 - - 1 - 1 - - - -
Luzula confusa - 1 - - - - - - - -
Saxifraga tenuis - - - - - - 1 - - -
On some parts of the slopes, however, more abundant vegetation is
developed — partly in close patches some 30 to 40 meters . in diameter.
Grasses and species of Taraxacum often constitute the greater part of this
vegetation, but Equisetum, Oxyria , and species of Ranunculus and Saxifraga
are also abundantly represented — as may be seen in Table IV which
gives an analyses from the southern slopes of Wildberg.

EA-PS. Lid: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Table IV. Taraxacum-Oxyria Association on the Slopes of Wildberg,
Jan Mayen, July 21, 1930.
Plant Test area
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Taraxacum sp. 5 4 4 3 3 4 4 4 4 4
Oxyria digyna 4 5 4 4 3 5 2 2 5 5
Ranunculus pygmaeus 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 2
Cerastium cerastoides 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Luzula confusa 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Poa alpina var. vivipara 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Sàxifraga cernua 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga groenlandica 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Saxifraga nivalis 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Polygonum viviparum 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Equisetum arvense 1 3 4 2 2 2 2 1 - 1
Saxifraga tenuis 1 1 1 - 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Arabis alpina 1 1 - - 1 1 1 1 1 1
Cerastium alpinum 1 - 1 1 - 1 1 1 1 1
Salix herbacea 1 1 1 - - 1 - - 1 1
Saxifrage oppositifola 1 - - - - - 1 1 1 1
Ranunculus glacialis 1 - - - 1 - - 1 - -
Sibbaldia procumbens 1 - - - - - - - 1 1
Saxifraga rivularis - 1 1 - - - - - - 1
Festuca vivipara - - - - 1 - - 1 - -
Draba norvegica 1 - - - - - - - - 1
Sagina intermedia 1 - - - - - - - - 1
Carex lachenalii - - - - - 1 - - - -
Solifluction is a widespread phenomenon on Jan Mayen. About the bases
of the banks or folds of earth that face south, the insolation is stronger
than elsewhere; besides this, the vegetation is somewhat sheltered from
the wind in summer, and covered by snow in the winter. At the foot of
these banks, the plants frow luxuriantly, as they also do on bird cliffs
and the steeper slopes. Relatively luxuriant vegetation also exists in
several places on the lower southern slopes of Beerenberg, from Mary Muss
Bay to Cape Fishburn, just within the area where most of the rare species

EA-PS. Lidd: Flora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen

have been found. Here the plants reach their maximum height, in Jan Mayen,
specimens of Poa alpigena and Taraxacum torvum some 45 centimeters high
being observed in 1930. The luxuriant appearance of the dandelions may
be partly due to the basic soil, but surely the more to the intense
manufing by sea birds.
Johannes Lid
HomeFlora and Vegetation of Svalbard and Jan Mayen : Encyclopedia Arctica 6: Plant Sciences (Regional)
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only