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Flora and Vegetation of Greenland: Encyclopedia Arctica 6: Plant Sciences (Regional)
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

(EA-PS. Tyge W. Böcher)


Introduction 1
The Flora 2
List of Vascular Plants 3
Climatically Conditioned Distributions 14
Edaphically Conditioned Distributions 16
Historically Conditioned Distributions 16
Distribution of Western and Eastern Species 18
Regions of Vegetation 19
Plant Communities 20 -a
Scrub and Wood 20 -a
Dwarf Shrub 21
Xerophilous Grasses and Grasslike Plants 23
Xerophilous Pteridophytes and Herbaceous Dicotyledons 25
Nondwarfish Hygrophytic and Mesophytic Herbs 26
Dwarfish Herbs and Woody Plants 27
Helophytes 30
Cryophilous Algae 32
Marine Algae 32
Hydrophytes 31
Bibliography 35

EA-Plant Sciences
(Tyge W. Böcher)

The investigations of the flora of Greenland started in the eighteenth
century, but systematically planned collections, particularly of vascular
plants, were only begun after the beginning of the nineteenth century. The
most important collections in the past century were made between 1828 and
1836 by Jens Vahl, the Danish botanist, who traveled the southern part of
the east coast and the greater part of the west coast. His collections
constituted the nucleus of the first comprehensive floral work, Johan Lange’s
Conspectus florae Groenlandicae (17), which is still of great scientific
interest. Later surveys of the flora have been written by Ostenfeld (20) on
the whole of Greenland, Porsild (25) on the central part of West Greenland,
Seidenfaden and Sorensen (32) on East Greenland, Polunin (22) on southwestern
Greenland, and Böcher (1) on southern East Greenland.
Investigations of the flora particularly from an ecological point of view
(plant communities, structure and biology of arctic flowering plants) were
started in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The pioneer in this line
of investigation was E. Warming, whose book Om Grønlands Vegetation [ On the
Vegetation of Greenland ] (38) was epoch-making. The most important descrip–
tions of the vegetation published during the Warming epoch deal with southern
Greenland (30), Scoresby Sound (10; 11), and the Angmagssalik region (15).

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

From comparatively recent times we have, moreover, comprehensive descriptions
of the vegetation of the coast south of Scoresby Sound (5), Godthaabs fjord
(37), on account of the ecological conditions in the region of Søndre Strømfjord
(2), and, in regard to northern East Greenland, a survey of the vegetation between
latitude 74°30′ and 79° N.
Cytogenetic investigations of the flora of Greenland were started in 1927
with Hagerup’s investigations of Empetrum hermaphroditum . Since then, several
papers have dealt with chromosome numbers determined on material from Greenland,
a recent example being that of Böcher and Larsen (6).
The approximate number of species of the Greenland flora is given in Table I.
In 1870 there were 360 known species of vascular plants; within the next 56
years only 30 additional species were identified. By 1949 there were 456
species known, composed of: 31 pteridophytes, 1 gymnosperm, 148 monocotyle–
dons, 173 Apetalae and Polypetalae, and 103 Sympetalae (Gamopetalae). As our
knowledge particularly of fungi and freshwater algae is rather defective, the
Table I. Greenland Flora .
Group Number of species Group Number of species
Vascular plants 456 Marine algae 200
Bryophytes 600 Freshwater algae 400
Lichens 400 Diatoms and dinoflagellates 650
Fungi 1,000

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

figures for these groups are too low. We may confidently expect an aggregate
number of more than 4,000 plant species in Greenland.
A list of all the vascular plant species known to the author as occurring
in Greenland is given below; for each species, information is given as to its
distribution in Greenland as far as this is yet known. It has been attempted
to divide the country into floral “provinces,” the delimitation of which is
indicated in Figure 1. The boundary lines between the provinces have been
drawn largely in accordance with the boundaries of the known areas of a great
many species. Special stress has been laid on boundaries of species considered
to be good indicators of climate, e.g., Alchemilla alpina , Carex supina , Cas–
siope tetragona
, and Ranunculus sulphureus .
List of Vascular Plants
The following is a key to the abbreviations used in the listing of vascular
plants and throughout this article:
N North Greenland CE central continental part
of East Greenland
NW northern West Greenland
NW(T) Thule District SE southern East Greenland
NW(U) Upernivik District n northern part
CW central continental part
of west Greenland
s southern part
SW southern West Greenland intr introduced by man
S South Greenland alp alpine
NE northern West Greenland isol isolated
r rare
EQUISETACEAE (5): Equisetum arvense , N to S; E. scirpoides , CW, SW, S; Fig 1.

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

E. sylvaticum , SW, S; E. trachyodon , S; E. variegatum , N to S (r in SE).
LYCOPODIACEA (5): Lycopodium alpinum , NW(U), SW, S, Se, CE (r in s);
L. annotinum , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE, CE (r); L. clavatum , SW (r), S;
L. complanatum , SW, S; L. selago , N to S.
SELAGINELLACEAE (2): Selaginella rupestris , S (5); S. selaginoides, SW, S, SE.
ISOETACEAE (2): Isöetes echinospora , CW (r), SW, S; I. lacustris , S (r).
OPHILOGLOSSACEAE (4): Botrychium boreale , SW (s), S, SE (s); B. lanceolatum ,
SW, S, SE: B. lunaria , NW(U) (s), CW (isol in n), SW, S, SE, CE (isol in
s), NE (r in s); B. tenebrosum , S.
POLYPODIACEAE (13): Asplenium viride , SW, SE; Athyrium alpestre , S, SE;
Cystopteris fragilis , N to S; C. montana , S; Dryopteris austriaca , SW, S;
D. filix-mas , SW, S; D. fragrans , NW, CW, SW (r in n), CE (isol in s);
D. linnaeana , SW, S, SE; D. phegopteris , SW, S, SE; Polystichum lonchitis ,
SW, S, SE; Woodsia alpina (r), NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE, NE (s); W. glabella ,
N to S (r in S); W. ilvensis , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE, NE (r), CE (r in s).
CUPRESSACEAE (1): Juniperus communis , CW, SW, S, SE.
SPARGANIACEAE (2): Sparganium antustifolium , CW (isol at lat. 68°40′ N.), SW,
S, SE (at lat. 65°37′ N.); S. hyperboreum , CW (s), SW, S.
POTAMOGETONACEAE (6): Potamogeton alpinus subsp. tenuifolius , CW (s), SW (s), S;
P. filiformis , CW, SW, S, SE (r), NE (r), CE (r); P. gramineus , CW (s),
SW (s), S; P. natans , S; P. pusillus subsp. groenlandicus , CW, SW (r),
S (r); Zostera marina , SW (r).
JUNCAGINACEAE (1): Triglochin palustre , NW(U) (s, r), CW, SW, S, SE (r), CE (r).
GRAMINEAE (59): Agropyron (see Roegneria ); Agrostis borealis , CW, SW, S, SE,
CE (r); A. canina , CE (r in s), SW (s), S, SE; A. gigantea , S; A. stolo–
nifera , SW (r in s), S; A. tenuis , intr to S; Alopecurus aequalis ,

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

NW (r in s), CW (r), SW, S, SE (r); A. alpinus , N, NW, CW (n), SW (r),
NE, CE (n); A. pratensis , intr to S; Anthoxanthum odoratum (diploid
type), S, SE (s); Arctagrostis latifolia , N, NW, CW (n), CE (n), NE;
Arctophila fulva , SW (r); Calamagrostis hyperborea , SW, S, SE; C. langs–
, CW (s), SW, S, SE (s); C. lapponica , CW; C. neglecta , NW(U), CW,
SW, S, SE, NE, CE; C. purpurascens , NW, CW, SW (n), S ( [: ] r ), NE, CE, SE (r);
Catabrosa aquatic , SW (r), S (r); Danthonia spicata , S (r); Deschampsia
alpina , SW, S, SE; D. brevifolia , NW(T), N, NE, CE; D. brevifolia subsp.
pumila , NW(T), NW(U), Disko, NE; D. flexuosa , CW (single station at lat.
67° N.), SW, S, SE; Dupontia fisheri , NW(U), CW (n), NE to CE (basalt
region); Elymus mollis , NW(U) (s), CW, SW, S, Se (s); Festuca brachy–
, N to S; F. rubra , NW, SW, CW, S, SE, NE, CE; F. vivipara , N to S
(r or alp in S); F. vivipara subsp. hirsuta , SW, S, SE; Hierochloe alpina ,
N to S; H. odorata , S; Nardus stricta , S, SE (s); Phippsia algida , N to
S (r in S and s of CW, SW, Se); Phleum commutatum , SW, S, SE; Pleuropogon
sabinii , N, NW(T), NE, CE (r); Poa abbreviata , N, NW, CW (n), NE, CE;
P. alpina , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE, NE, CE; P. alpina subsp. vivipara, NE,
SE (n); P. annua , intr to SW, S, Se; P. arctica , N, NW, CW (alp in s),
SW (n), S (?), SE (r in s), CE, NE; P. flexuosa , S (alp); P. glauca ,
N to S; P. hartzii , NW(U) (r in s), CW (r), CE (r), NE (r); P. nemoralis ,
SW (s), S; P. pratensis (incl. P. alpigena and P. irrigata ), all districts
except N, NW(T), and NE (n); Puccinellia andersonii , NW, N, NE; R. P. angus–
, NW, CW (n), N, NE, CE; P. coarctata , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE, NE (r in s);
P. deschampsioides , CW, SW (r in n), NW(U) (r in s); P. groenlandica , NW(U),
CW, SW (n); P. langeana , SW (n), NW(U) (s); P. maritima , SW (s), S;
P. Phryganodes , N to S; P. porsildii , isol on Disko; P. rosenkrantzii ,

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

isol in NW(U); P. vahliana , NW, CW (n), N, NE, CE; Roegneria borealis
var. hyperar [: ] c tica , NW(U), CW (n), CE (r), NE (r); R. doniana var.
virescens , S; R. violacea , CW (r), S; Trisetum spicatum , N to S;
Vahlodea atropurpurea , SW, S, SE (s).
CYPERACEAE (51): Carex aquatilis var. stans , N, NW, SW (n), CW, NE, CE (n);
C. arctogena , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE (r), CE (r); C. atrata , SW (s), S, SE;
C. atrofusca , NW(T), NW(U) (r), CW (n), CE, NE; C. bicolor , NW(U), CW,
SW (r), S (r), CE (r); C. bigelowii , all districts except N; C. brunnes–
, SW, S, SE; C. buxbaumii , S (r); C. canescens , NW(U), CW (s), SW,
S, SE (s); C. capillaris (s.l.), all districts except N; C. capillaris
var. porsildiana , SW, S; C. capitata , isol at lat. 67° N. in CW; C. deflexa ,
SW, S, SE; C. glacialis , NW(U), CW, SW, S (r), SE (r in s), CE, NE;
C. glareosa , all districts except N; C. goodenowii , S; C. gynocrates ,
NW(U), SW (r), CW, S; C. halleri , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE (r in central part),
CE, NE (r); C. holostoma , SW (n), CW; C. lachenalii , all districts except
N, NW(T); C. lyngbei , S (r); C. mackenziei , SW (s), S (r); C. macloviana ,
CW, SW, S, Se, CE (s, r); C. magellanica , SW (r), S; C. maritima , all
districts except N and SE; C. microglochin , CW, SW (r), S, SE, CE;
C. misandra , N, NW, CW, SW (r in n), CE, NE; C. nardina , N to S; C. panicea ,
S; C. parallela, NE, CE; C. praticola , CW (r in s), SW, S; C. pseudola–
, NW, NE, CE; C. rariflora , NW(U), SW, CW, S, SE (r in n), CE, NE;
C. rostrata , S; C. rotundata , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE (The two species,
C. rotundata and C. saxatilis , can hardly be kept separate); C. rufina ,
SW, S, SE, CE (single station in s); C. rupestris , NW, CW, SW (n), NE,
CE, SE (r in n); C. salina , S; C. saxatilis , NW, CW, SW (n), CE, Ne;
C. scirpoidea , all districts except N, NW(T); C. sparsiflora , isol in NE

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

(lat. 74°10′ N.); C. stylosa , SW (s), S, SE (s); C. subspathacea , NW(U),
CW (r), SW, S, SE, NE, CE; C. supina , NW(U) (r), CW, SW (r in n), S (r),
SE (r), CE, NE; C. ursina , NW, CW, SW (r in n), CE, NE; C. viridula , S;
Elocharis acicularis , Disko, CW, SW (r in n); E. uniglumis , S; Erio–
phorum angustifolium
, N to S (absent from SE north of lat. 61°37′ N.);
E. callithrix , NE, CE; E. scheuchzeri , N to S; Scirpus caespitosus ,
NW(U) (r), CW (r in s), SW, S, SE; S. pauciflorus , SW (r at lat. 67° N.),
SW (r in s), S.
JUNCACEAE (19): Juncus alpinus , CW (r), SW (one station), S; J. arcticus ,
NW(U), CW, SW, S, CE, NE (r), SE (r); J. balticus , S; J. biglumis , N to
S; J. bufonius , CW (s), S, NE (one station at lat. 71° N.); J. castaneus ,
NW(U), CW, SW, NE, CE, SE (isol at lat. 66°16′ N.); J. filiformis , SW
(s), S, SE (s); J. squarrosus , S, SE (s); J. subtilis , CW (one station),
SW (r), S (r), SE (r); J. trifidus , NW(U), CW (Disko Bay), SW, S, SE,
NE to CE (s); J. triglumis , NW, CW, SW, S, NE, CE, SE (r); Luzula arctica ,
all districts except S, Se, and SW (s); L. confusa , N to S; L. groen–
, CW, SW, S; L. multiflora , SW, S; L. multiflora subsp. frigida ,
NW(U), SW, S, SE, NE to CE (s); L. parviflora , NW (Disko), SW, S, SE (s);
L. spicata , all districts except NW(T), N, NE (n); L. wahlenbergii , isol
in NE.
LILIACEAE (3): Streptopus amplexifolius , SW (s); S; Tofieldia coccinea , NW,
CW, CE, NE; T. pusilla , all districts except N and NW(T).
IRIDACEAE (1): Sisyrinchium montanum , CW (r in s), SW (Godthaab Fjord).
ORCHIDACEAE (5): Corallorhiza trifida , SW, S; Habenaria albida , SW, S, SE;
H. Hyperborea , SW, S, SE; Listera cordata , SW, S, SE (s); Orchis rotun–
, CW (one station at lat. 67° N.), SW (one station at lat. 64°09′
N.), S (r).

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

SALICACEAE (5): Salix arctica , NW, N, NE, CE; S. arctophila , NW, CW, SW, S;
S. glauca incl. S. callicarpaea , all districts except N; S. herbacea ,
all districts except N; S. uva-ursi , SW, S.
BETULACEAE (4): Alnus crispa , CW (s), SW, S (r); Betula glandulosa , SW, S,
B. nana , NW(U), CW, SW, SE, NE, CE; B. pubescens (s.l.), SW (r in s), S.
POLYGONACEAE (7): Koenigia islandica , all districts except N, r in CW and C [: ] E ;
Oxyria digyna , N to S; Polygonum heterophyllum , intr to CW, SW, S, SE;
P. viviparum , N to S; Rumex acetosa , SW, S; R. acetosella , CW, SW, S,
SE, NE, CE; R. domesticus , intr to S.
CHENOPODIACEAE (1): Atriplex sp., S (r).
PORTULACACEAE (1): Montia lamprosperma , CW, SW, S, SE.
CARYOPHYLLACEAE (32); Arenaria humifusa , NW, CW (n), SW (Disko), S (r); A. pseudo–
, NE, CE; Cerastium alpinum , N to S; C. arvense, isol in CW (at lat.
67°5′ N.); C. caespitosum , SW, S; C. cerastioides , NW(U) (s), CW (r in s),
SW, S, SE, NE, CE (r in s); C. regelii , NW (? Hare Island), N, NE; Honck–
enya peploides
, all districts except N; Melandrium affine , N, NW, CW, SW (n),
NE, CE; M. apetalum , N, NW, CW, CE, NE; M. triflorum , N, NW, CW, SW (n),
CE, NE; Minuartia biflora , all districts except NW(T) and N; M. groen–
, SW, S, SE (s); M. rossii , NW(U), N, NE; M. rubella , N to S;
M. stricta , NW(U) (s), CW, SW (Disko), CE, NE; Sagina caespitosa , NW(U),
CW, SW, S, ?SE; S. intermedia , N to S except inland in CW (s); S. linnaei ,
SW, S, SE; S. nodosa , S; S. procumbens , S; Silene acaulis , N to S;
Stellaria calycantha , SW, S, SE; S. humifusa , all districts except N;
S. longipes group: S. ciliatosepala , NW, N, NE, CE (r); S. crassipes , NW,
N, NE; S. laeta , CW, NW, N; S. laxmannii , CW (n), NW, N, NE; S. longipes ,
NW(U), CW, SW, S, ?CE (s); S. monantha , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE (r); S. media,

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

probably intr NW(U), CW, SW, S, [: ] SE ; Viscaria alpina , NW(U), CW, SW, S,
SE, CE (s), NE (r and isol).
RANUNCULACEAE (16): Anemone richardsonii , SW (isol between 65° and 67° N. lat.);
Coptis trifolia , SW, S, SE; Ranunculus acris , SW, S, SE (isol); R. affinis
(incl. R. pedatifidus ), NW, CW, SW (Disko), NE, CE (r); R. auricomus var.
glabrata , CE (r), NE (r), SE (n, isol); R. cymbalaria, CW (r), SW (n, r);
R. glacialis , NE, SE (except s); R. hyperboreus , N to S; R. lapponicus ,
NW(U), CW, SW (n); R. nivalis , NW, CW, SW (n, r), CE (r), NE; R. pygmaeus ,
all districts except N; R. reptans , CW, SW, S, SE (isol at lat. 67°37′ N.);
R. sabinii , NW(T), N; R. sulphureus , N, NW, CE (n), CW (n, r), SW (n), NE,
CE (r); R. trichophyllus var. eradicatus , all districts except N; Thalic–
trum alpinum
, NW(U) (s), CW, SW, S, SE, CE (r), NE (r).
PAPAVERACEAE (1): Papaver radicatum , N to S.
CRUCIFERAE (34): Arabis alpina , NW(U), CW (n), SW, S, SE, CE (r in s), NE (s);
A. arenicola , NW, CW, SW (r), S (r), NE (r); A. holboellii , CW, SW (r),
S (r), SE (r), NE (isol in s), CE (s); Braya ( Torularia ) humilis , CW
(Søndre Strømfjord), NE, CE; B. linearis , NW(U) (isol), CW [: ] (isol) , CE;
B. purpurascens , N, NW, CW (n), CE, NE; B. thorild-wulffii , N, NE (n);
Capsella bursa-pastoris , intr to S; Cardamine bellidifolia , N to S (alp
and r in S and CW (s)); C. pratensis , all districts except N; Cochlearia
officinalis , N to S; Draba alpina , NW(U), CW (n), SW (n and isol on nuna–
tak), NE, CE (r); D. aurea , CW, SW, S, SE, CE (s); D. bellii , CW (n),
NW, N, NE, CE; D. cinerea , N, NW, CW, CE, NE; D. crassifolia , NW(U),
CW (n), SW (n), NE, CE (s), SE (n); D. daurica , NW, CW, SW (n), NE, CE;
D. fladnizensis , NE, CE; D. gredinii , NE; D. groenlandica , N, NW, CW,
SW (n); D. incana , CW (r), SW, S, SE; D. lactea , N, NW, CW, SW (r), CE, NE;

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

D. lanceolata , CW; D. micropetala (incl. D. oblongata ), NW(T), N, NE,
CE (r in n); D. nivalis , all districts except N; D. repens , isol in
NE (s); D. rupestris , CW (r), SW, S, SE, NE (s), CE (s); D. subcapitata ,
N, NW, CW (n), CE, NE; Eutrema edwardsii , N, NW, CW (n), CE, NE; Hali–
molobos mollis
, NW, CW; Hesperis pallasii , N; Lesquerella arctica , N,
NW, CW, CE, NE; Rorippa islandica , CW (isol at lat. 67° N.), SW (intr),
S; Subularia aquatica , S, SE.
DROSERACEAE (1): Drose r a rotundifolis, S.
CRASSULACEAE (4): Sedum acre , SE (Angmagssalik District); S. ann u um, SW, S,
SE; S. rosea , CW (s, r), SW, S, SE, NE, CE; S. villosum , CW, SW, S, SE.
SAXIFRAGACEAE (17): Chrysosplenium tetrandrum , NE (isol); Parnassia kotze–
, CW (n, isol), S (r); Saxifraga aizoides , NW (s, r), CW, SW, S,
SE (r), CE, NE; S. aizoon , NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE, CE (s); S. cernua ,
N to S; S. flagellaris , NW(T), N, NE; S. foliolosa , all districts
except S and SE; S. groenlandica , N to S; S. hieracifolia , CE, NE;
S. hirculus , NW(T), NE (isol); S. nathorstii , CE, NE; S. nivalis ,
N to S; S. oppositifolia , N to S; S. rivularis , all districts except
N; S. stellaris , CW (? Nordre Strømfjord), SW, S, SE; S. tenuis , N to S
(r in S and CW (s)); S. tricuspidata , N (western part), NW, CW, SW (n),
NE (isol in s).
ROSACEAE (24): Alchemilla acutidens , S, SE (isol); A. alpina , SW, S, SE;
A. filicaulis , SW, S, SE; A. glomerulans , CW (r), SW, S, SE, CE (single
station in s); A. minor , S; Dryas integrifolia , N to S (two large gaps
in SE); D. octopetala subsp. punctata , N, NE, CE; Potentilla chamissonis ,
N, NW, CW, SW (n), CE, NE; P. crantzii , NW(U), CW (r), SW, S, SE, CE (r),

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

NE; P. egedii (incl. var. groenlandica ), NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE; P. hyp–
, N, NW, CW, SW (n), NE, CE, SE (single station); P. nivea , NW,
CW, SW, CE, NE; P. palustris , CW, SW, S, SE; P. pulchella , N, NW, CW,
SW (r in n), NE, CE; P. ranunculus , CW (isol), S, SE; P. rubella , NE;
P. rubricaulis , NW(T), NE, CE; P. stipularis , NE; P. tridentata , CW,
SW, S, SE; P. vahli n ana , NW, CW (n), SW (isol at lat. 67° N.); Rubus
Chamaemorus , SW, S; R. saxatilis , S, SE; Sibbaldia procumbens , NW(U),
SW, S, SE, CE (s), NE (r); Sorbus decora , SW, S.
LEGUIMINOSAE (2): Lathyrus maritimus , S; Vicia cracca , intr to S.
GERANIACEAE (1): Geranium sylvaticum , single station in SW (s).
POLYGALACEAE (1): Polygala serpyllifolia , SE (isol).
CALLITRICHACEAE (4): Callitriche anceps , SW, S, SE; C. autumnalis , NW (Disko),
CW (lat. 68°30′ to 69°13′ N.); C. hamulata , SW (r), S, SE; C. verna , CW
(r at lat. 69°13′ N.), SW (n and s), S, SE, CE.
EMPETRACEAE (1): Empetrum nigrum subsp. hermaphroditum , all districts except N.
VIOLACEAE (4): Viola ericetorum var. friesiana , SW (s), S; V. labradorica ,
SW, S; V. palustris , SW, S, SE; V. selkirkii , SW (s).
ONAGRACEAE (7): Chamaenerion angustifolium , SW, CW (r), S, SE; C. latifolium
N to S (perhaps not in extreme northern part of N): Epilobium anagalli–
difoli [: ] u m
, NW (Disko), SW, S, SE; E. arcticum , NW(U), CW (r), NE; E. hor–
, NW (Disko), CW (r), SW, S, SE; E. lactiflorum , NW(U) (r in s),
SW, S, SE; E. palustre , CW (r), SW, S, SE (single isol station).
HALORAGIDACEAE (2): Myriophyllum alterniflorum , SW (r), S; M. exalbescens , CW.
HIPPURIDACEAE (1): Hippuris vulgaris , all districts except N and SE (n).
UMBELLIFERAE (2): Angelica archangelica , SW, CW (s), S, SE; Ligusticum
scoti [: ]cum , SW, S.

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

CORNACEAE (2): Cornus canadensis , S (outer coast at Cape Farewell): C.
suecica , SW, S, SE (s).
DISPENSIACEAE (1): Diapensia lapponica , NW (not on basalt), CW, SW, S, SE,
CE, NE (s).
PYROLACEAE (3); Pyrola grandiflora , NW, CW, SW, S, NE, CE SE (isol at lat.
66°08′ N.); P. minor , southern Disko, SW, S, SE; P. secunda , SW (isol
on southern Disko and at Holsteinsborg).
ERICACEAE (13); Andromeda polifolia (incl. subsp. glaucophylla ), SW (isol at
lat. 68°47′ N. and 61°33′ to 62°20′ N.); Arctosphylos alpine , CW (n,
isol), SW (Disko and isol at lat. 65° to 66° N.), NE, CE; A. uva-ursi ,
isol in SW to CW at lat. 66° to 67° N.); Cassiope hypnoides , NW(U), CW,
(not inland in s), SW, S (r), SE, NE, CE (r in s); C. tetragona , N, NW,
CW, SW (n); CE, NE, SE (n); Ledum decumbens , NW(U) (r in s), CW, SW
(r in n); L. groenlandicum , CW (r), SW, S; Loiseleuria procumbens ,
NW(U) (absent from basalt regions), CW (not in s), SW, S, SE; Oxycoccus
quardripetalus var. microphyllus , CW (r, isol at lat. 67°37′ N.), SW, S;
Phyllodoce coerulea , NW(U), CW (not inland in s), SW, S, SE, CE (s), NE
(r in s); Rhododendron lapponicum , all districts except N; Vaccinium
uliginosum , all districts except N; V. vitis-idaea subsp. minus , NW, CW,
SW, S (r).
PRIMULACEAE (2): Primula egaliksensis , S; P. stricta , NW(U) (r in s), CW (s),
SW (Kugsuq in Godthaabsfjord), two isolated stations in CE and NE.
PLUMBAGINACEAE (1); [: ] Armeria vulgaris (incl. A. sibirica ), N to S (r in SE).
GENTIANACEAE (7): Gentiana aurea , NW (r), CW (r), SW (s, r), S, SE (r);
G. detonsa , three separate areas in CW, S, and CE; G. nivalis , CW (r),
SW, S, SE, isol in NE; G. tenella , CW, CE, NE; G. uliginosa , S;

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

M Lomatogonium rotatum , CW (s), SW, S; Menyanthes trifoliate , CW, SW (s), S.
POLEMONIACEAE (1): Polemonium boreale , NE (lat. 73°42′ to 74°52′ N.).
BORAGINACEAE (1): Mertensia maritima , NW, CW, SW (r), S (r), SE (r).
LABITAE (1): Thymus arcticus, SW, S, SE.
SCHROPHULARIACEAE (15): Bartsia alpina , NW(U) (s), CW, SW, S, SE; Euphrasia
arctica , NW(U) (S), CW, SW, S, SE, CE, NE; Limosella aquatica , CW (isol
at lat. 71° N.), S, SE (isol); Pedicularis arctica , NW(T); P. capitata ,
NW(T); P. flammea , all districts except N and NW(T); P. hirsuta , all
districts except S and s part of SW and SE; P. labradorica, CW; P. lanata ,
?NW(T), NW(U), CW, SW (n); P. lapponica , NW(U), CW, SW, NE CE; Rhinan–
thus groenlandicus
, SW, S; Veronica alpina , NW, CW (not inland in s),
SW, S, SE, NE (s), CE (r); V. fruticans , NW to CW (two stations in
Nugssuaq Peninsula), SW, S, SE, NE (s), CE (single station in s); V. pumila , SW,
S, SE, NE (s); V. wormskjoldii , SW, S, SE.
LENTIBULARIACEAE (4); Pinguicula vulgaris , NW(U) (s), CW, SW, S, SE, CE (r);
Utricularia intermedia , CW (r); U. minor , CW, S (r); U. ochroleuca , CW (r).
PLANTAGINACEAE (1): Plantago maritima (incl. P. juncoides ), NW(U) (s), CW, SW,
S, SE.
RUBIACEAE (3); Galium brandegeei , CW (s, r), SW (r), S, SE (isol at lat.
65°37′ N.): G. triflorum , SW, S, SE (r); G. uliginosum , SW (?s, intro).
CAPRIFOLIACEAE (1): Linnaea borealis , SW (r), S (r), SE (r).
CAMPANULACEAE (2): Campanula rotundifolia (coll.), NW(U), CW, SW, S, SE, CE,
NE; C. uniflora , N to S, rand alp in S.
COMPOSITAE (46); Achillea millefolium , SW, S, SE (probably intr); Antennaria
affinis , CW, S; A. alpina subsp. canescens , NW (s), CW (r in s), SW, S,

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

SE, NE, CE; Antennaria sp. (closely related to A. compacta ), CW, S;
A. ekmanniana , NW, CW, SW (r), ?SE; A.glabrata , NW(U), CW, SW (n);
A. hansii SW, S, SE; A. intermedia , CW (n), SW; A porsildii, NW(U)
(single station), CW (n, r), S (single station), SE (single station),
CE, NE; Arnica alpina , NW, CW, SW (n), SE (r in n), NE, CE; Artemissia
borealis , NW(U), CW, SW (r in n); Circium heterophyllum , SW (single
station ?intr); Erigeron borealis , SW, S, SE; E. compositus , N to S
(r in S to SE); E. eriocephalus , N, NW, CW, SW (r in n), NE, CE, SE (r);
E. unalaschkensis , NW, CW SW (n and nunatak at lat. [: ] 6 2°40′ N.), CE, NE,
SE (r in s); E. uniflorus , SW, S, SE, CE (r in s), NE (r in s); Gnaphalium
norvegicum , SW, S, SE; G. supinum , NW (s), CW (r, absent inland in s),
SW, S, SE, NE (s, r); G. uliginosum , intr to SW, S; Hieracium alpinum ,
SW (s), S, SE, CE (s), NE (s); H. amitsokense , S; H. angmagssalikensie ,
SE (isol); H. devoldii , S; H. groenlandicum , SW, S, SE; H. hyparcticum ,
SW, S, SE; H. ivigtutense , SW, S, SE (s); H. lividorubens , SW (s), S;
H. nepiocratum , S; H. rigorosum , SW (s), S, SE (s); H. scholanderi , S;
H. stelechodes , SE (isol); H. sylowii , S; Leontodeon autumnale , intr to S;
Matricaria inodora , S, isol in [: ]CE to NE; Taraxacum arcticum , N, NE, CE;
T. brachyceras , CE NE SE (n); T. [: ] hyparcticum N, NW(T); T. lacerum (and
T. arctogenum ), N, NW, CW, SW (r in s); T. lapponicum , NW (s), CW (r),
SW, S, SE, NE (s, r); T. maurostylum , S, SE; T. naevosum , S; T. phymato–
, N, NW, CW (n), NE, CE; T. pumilum , N, NE; T. purpuridens , SE;
T. rhodolepis , SE.
Climatically Conditioned Distributions
In Greenland as elsewhere we may distinguish between climatic, edaphic,

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

and historical reasons, or combinations of these reasons, for the distribution
[]of the various plants. The first distinction to be made is between distribu–
tions due to summer heat and distributions also, or chiefly, controlled by the
degree of continentality.
Distributions Due to Summer Heat . Here belong the southern species which
in the north make for the warm inland regions, and northern species which in
the south try to avoid (or are crowded out from) the warm, dry inland regions.
Examples of southern species of this type are: Juniperus communis, Potentilla
palustris , Galium brandegeei , and Menyanthes trifoliate . Northern species are:
Alopecurus alpinus , Poa abbreviate , Ranunculus sulphureus , Draba subcapitata ,
and Saxifraga flagellaris .
Distributions Due to Degree of Continentality . Numerous southern species
have the distributions SW, S, SE, i.e., they are connected with the parts of
Greenland influenced by the ocean and make for the north outside the warm
inland region because it is too dry there, being either too continental or
having soil that is unsuitable because of the local continentality. Examples
are Alchemilla alpina , A. vulgaris , Phleum commutatum , Thymus arcticus , Cassiope
hypnoides , Cornus suecica , and Carex deflexa .
Other markedly arctic species in the south avoid the moist areas of the
coastal regions, which have mild winters. Their main distributions are in N,
NW, CW, NE, and CE. Here we may mention such species of Cassiope tetragona ,
Arnica alpina , Erigeron compositus , Lesquerella arctica , Melandirum triflorum,
and Tofieldia coccinea .
There are also a number of low-arctic and subarctic species with markedly
continental requirements as regards climate. The are found particularly in
CW and CE, and sometimes sporadically in the interiors of SW, S, and SE. We

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

may mention here Carex supine , Braya humilis , B. linearis , and, in West Green–
land only, Artemisia borealis , Draba lanceolata , Pedicularis labradorica , and
Ledum decumbens .
Edaphically Conditioned Distributions
A fair number of species are closely connected with definite conditions
of soil, which again may be dependent upon the climate. Indeed, it is often
impossible to explain whether climate or soil is decisive. Clearly edaphically
conditioned distributions, on the other hand, appear by connection with, or
evasion of, the basalt areas in the central parts of West and East Greenland.
Connection with basalt in one or both areas is shown, for example, by Dupontia
fisheri , Stellaria crassipes , Saxifraga hiriculus , Polemonium boreale , and
Arenaria humifusa ; as regards the last-mentioned species the connection, how–
ever, is less pronounced. Evasion is evident in acidophilous species such as
Loiseleuria procumbens , Vaccinium vitis-idaea , Diapensia lapponica , Potentilla
tridentata , Carex arctogena , and, as regards West Greenland, Agrostis borealis .
Historically Conditioned Distributions
Two main points of view have been advanced to explain the present-day
distributions of plants: the history of the immigration of the species
(whether they have come from the west or from the east), and the persistence
of the species during the last glacial epoch in various ice-free [: ] refugia
along the coast of Greenland (cf. 8).
There are a fair number of eastern (chiefly Eurasian) species which occur
especially or exclusively in East Greenland. Thus Ranunculus glacialis , Draba
repens , and Sedum acre , for example, have been found here only, while Viola
palustris and Hieracium alpinum have their widest distribution in East Greenland.

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

Similarly there are many western (chiefly American) species which have been
found in West Greenland only: Halimo lo bos mollis , Carex gynocrates , Potentilla
vahliana , Anemone richardsonii , and others. Some, particularly western,
species are widely distributed in West Greenland but found in only a very
limited area in East Greenland ( Saxifraga tricuspidata , Arabis molboellii ,
Dryopteris fragrans ), a fact which may be due to immigration from the west
and to the different conditions in East and West Greenland during the glacial
In the southern part of Greenland the boundaries of the areas of several
species occur in regions where for topographical reasons the inland ice during
a greater glaciations than the present one must be supposed to have spread and
formed obstacles to further dispersal. Hence these species may be supposed
during the last glacial epoch to have lived in so-called refugia situated
between the large tongues of the inland ice, wh e nce they were not able later
to spread to all the places where ecological conditions might lead one to ex–
pect them to live.
In West Greenland there is, at latitude 66° N., a considerable break due
to the inland ice. North of this we have the southern limits of Ranunculus
affinis , Carex holostoma , C. misandra , Luzula arctica , Pedicularis lanata , and
other plants. It is true that they are continental species, but their southern
limit is no doubt conditioned partly by historical considerations, and partly
by the fact that suitable stations south of the tongue of ice are few and far
between. At latitude 62°30′ N. there is another ice tongue, and immediately
south of this we have the northern limit of, for example, Hieracium alpinum
and Carex atrata . Still farther south many species may, in the Julianehaab
District, have been cut off by ice advancing in a southward direction between

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

longitude 46° and 48° W.; Viola selkirkii has its southern limit about this
area. Immediately south of Angmagssalik in East Greenland there is also an
area which no doubt formerly was highly glaciated, and north of this area we
find the southern limits of such species as Ranunculus glacialis , Pedicularis
hirsuta , and, so far as their local areas are concerned, of Betula nana and
Dryas integrifolia .
Many species are extremely rare, occurring in peculiar small areas which
are best explained through an assumption that nowadays they like in the near
the refugia where they persisted during the glacial epoch. Good examples of
such species are Polemonium boreale , Eriophorum callithrix , and Ranunculus
suricomus in northern East Greenland, Sedum acre in southern East Greenland,
Selaginella repestris in South Greenland, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and Anemone
richardsonii in the central part of West Greenland, and Pedicularis capitata
and P. arctica in North Greenland.
There are a number of supposedly endemic species in Greenland. These,
too, suggest that the flora is of a great age in Greenland itself. We may
mention Melandrium triflorum with a wide distribution in Greenland (it may
also occur to the west), Braya thorild-wulfii , and the amphidiploids Saxifraga
nathorstii , as well as several apomictic species within the genus Hieracium .
There are also certain conditions indicative of diploid races of Campanula
rotundifolia being endemic to Greenland.
Distribution of Western and Eastern Species
Among the western species (with their main distribution west of Green–
land), few are associated with regions of mainly oceanic character (SE, S,
SW). We may, however, mention Minuartia groenlandica , Ledum groenlandicum,
Coptis trifolia , Cornus canadensis , Carex stylosa , and C. deflexa . On the

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

Other hand, there are a good number of western species in the continental
areas, examples being: Saxifraga tricuspidata , Draba lanceolata , Antennaria
Compacta , Tofieldia occinea , and Erigeron compositus .
Inversely, there are a large number of eastern (Eurasian) species asso–
ciated with the oceanic regions, e.g., Alchemilla alpina , Sedum annum,
Saxifraga stellaris , Juncus squarrosus , and Carex rufina. There are very few
eastern species in the continental regions, although we here mention Draba
repens , Carex parallela , and perhaps Gentiana tanella. Betula nana has a con–
tinental tendency and is extremely rare in eastern America. Hence it has
probably reached Greenland from the east.
Among both the western and eastern species in Greenland, there are several
whose distribution is little influenced by the degree of continentality, e.g.,
Carex scirpoides and Potentilla tridentata (western), and Angelica archangelica
As might be expected, southern East Greenland has the greatest share of
eastern species, while West Greenland predominates as regards western species.
This especially applies to the northern and continental portions.
In considering the vegetation of Greenland, Warming and Rosenvinge used
three divisions: a birch region (inner fjords in S), a willow scrub region
(in West Greenland extending as far north as about the Nugssuak Peninsula),
and a distinctly arctic region with heaths and barrens. Later, the geograph–
ical division of Greenland vegetation came to be worked out in various ways.
Subarctic Region . The mean temperature of July is about 10°C. or a
little more. Warm valleys occur in the interior of S, SW, and the southern–
most CW. The luxuriant freshwater vegetation, rich in species, is characteristic

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

of this region. In S the region is characterized by tall birch scrub (Fig. 2),
in SW by alder scrub (Fig. 3) and tall, luxuriant willow scrub, and in CW by
steppe-like communities (Fig. 7).
Low-Arctic Region . The mean temperature of July is about 6° [: ] to 9°C. The
region includes the greater parts of CW, SW, outer areas of S, the greater
part of SE, and the interior of Scoresby Sound and the southernmost part of
King Christian X Land in CE. The region is particularly characterized by
willow scrub, in tracts near the ocean, also by meadows with high perennials
(Angelica archangelica) and luxuriant herb fields and various heaths, in con–
tinental areas by, among other features, a type of Kobresia myosuroides . “steppe”.
High-Arctic Region . The mean temperature of July is about 2° to 6°C. in
this region, which includes N, NW, NE, northern part of CE, and high-alpine areas
in south. Characteristic features are certain heaths ( Cassiope tetragona )
and dry cyperaceous communities ( Carex nardina and C. rupestris ), several
types of snow-patch vegetation and of grassy meadows ( Arctagrostis and Alope–
curus alpina
) and swamps.
Within these three regions various subregions may be distinguished, gen–
erally separated by differences in degree of continentality. The same three
main regions may be found in the mountains of Scandinavia, and in other parts
of the circumpolar or circumboreal area.
Distributions of Species in the Vegetation Regions . Many species are
completely or chiefly associated with one or other of the regions and hence
may be characterized as subarctic, low-arctic, or high-arctic. Subarctic
(relatively temperate) species are, for example, Potamogeton natans , Carex
buxbaumii , Dryopteris fillix-mas ; low-arctic species include Bartsia alpina ,
Sibbaldia procumbens, Gnaphalium norvegicum ; and high-arctic species are

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

Salix arctica , Draba subcapitata , Deschampsia brevifolia , and Pleuropogon
sabinii .
Many species are widely distributed in the arctic regions: Saxifraga
cernua , S. oppositifolia , Oxyria digyna , Polygonum viviparum , and others.
The species may be grouped biologically in types of distribution, e.g.,
widely distributed arctic, high-arctic-continental, low-arctic-oceanic
(see details in 1).
The following grouping is made on the basis of life form and type of
distribution of the species. The main groups are distinguished by life form,
the subgroups largely by types of distribution.
Scrub and Wood
There are plant communities showing several strata, the upper one con–
sisting of low trees or shrubs. The understratum consists mostly of herbs
and mosses, in rarer cases of drawf shrubs or junipers.
Low birch woods (Fig. 2) consist of open woodland or tall scrub of
Betula pubescens s.l., 4 to 8 meters high, with understrata of grasses
( Deschampsia flexuosa , Anthoxanthum ) or ferns ( Dryopteris linnaeana ,
D. phegopteris ), rich in mosses. Warm valleys are found in S on rather dry
soil that is poor in nutrients.
Alder scrub (Fig. 3) contains vegetation dominated by Alnus crispa
shrubs 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 meters high, with understrata of mosses and herbs.
They are found in the interior of SW; particularly along running water, often
as a kind of low gallery forest. The soil is fairly rich in nutrients.

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

Willow scrub contains vegetation dominated by Salix glauca (incl. S. cal–
) 1/2 to 3 meters high. The understrata are of two main types.
(1) Oceanic type: understratum rich in mosses and herbs, including num–
erous species in common with the her fields; found in SW, S, and SE; on well–
drained, moist soil, in the north chiefly on slopes having a southern exposure;
in winter protected by a thick snow cover.
(2) Continental type (Fig. 7): Pyrola grandiflora , Calamagrostis spp.,
and Stellaria longipes (and S. monantha ) frequent; CW (southern part), CE
(Scoresby Sound); on rather dry, warm soil, with the snow cover presumably
moderate, but constant in winter.
Dwarf Shrub
There are communities of ericaceous, more or less evergreen, drawf shrubs
and low willows rising over an understratum consisting particularly of mosses
and lichens. The communities may be closed, and then generally are called
heaths; or they may be open, with gravel and bare ground between the plants,
and then are termed “fell fields” (barrens).
Oceanic Communities . There are found particularly on acid soils in regions
with heavy precipitation (SW, S, SE). A number of species with oceanic distribu–
tion are included.
(1) Salix uva-ursi type: open vegetation in places exposed to gales and
black frost, often rich in lichens; the soil is gravelly, slightly acid;
occurs in S and SW.
(2) Loiseleuria-Diapensia type: often rich in lichens, occurring in
highly wind-swept places more or less bare of snow; soil acid; appears both
as heath and fell field.
(3) Empetrum hermaphroditum type: often rich in Vaccinium uliginosum ;

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

the heath type of the skerries (Fig. 4), occurring in wind-swept terrain
often as more or less open fell field; communities in more protected terrain
are rich in mosses.
( 4 ) Phyllodoce-Deschampsia flexuosa type: rich in mosses, occurring in
places with a constant snow cover in winter and slight drying-up in summer;
characteristic species are Cornus suecica , Lycopodium annotinum , and Ledum
groenlandicum .
Continental Communities . These occur on slightly acid, neutral, or basis
soils particularly in CW, NW, N, NE CE, and include several species with a
continental type of distribution. The following eight types may be recognized.
( 1 ) Dryas integrifolia-Carex nardina type: found on very wind-swept ground,
being often bare of snow, and occurs mostly as fell field; found in alpine
situations in subarctic areas of CW; soil is acid to neutral; other Dryas
communities are ecologically more closely related to steppe-like communities.
( 2 ) Vaccinium uliginosum-Diapensia type: rich in lichens, and occurs on
dry, rather wind-swept places, both as heath and fell field; soil is fairly
acid; found in alpine situations in subarctic areas.
( 3 ) Arctostaphylos uva-ursi type: develop on sunny slopes on dry, neutral
soil, and forms a transition to the steppe-like communities; this type of
heath is of a subarctic character in Greenland, where it occurs only in the
southern part of CW.
( 4 ) Betula nana (or glandulosa ) type (Fig. 5): a low-arctic-subcontinental
type of heath, in SW and SE often rich in Empetrum ; soil is acid and the snow
covering may be considerable; Betula nana heath rich in lichens and Hierochloe
alpina is developed particularly in the interior of SW and S (in the latter
instance B. glandulosa in the dominant).

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

( 5 ) Betula nana-Ledum decumbens-Aulacomnium turgidum type: characteristic
of northern exposures in the lowland in CW; a typical associate is Pedicularis
labradorica ; snow covered in winter.
( 6 ) Cassiope tetragona type: characteristic high-arctic-continental but
occurs also in heath, alpine situations in the south in CW, and in northern
parts of SE and SW; often rich in mosses; soil is acid or nearly neutral;
develop in places protected by snow in winter and having a medium-long period
of snow covering into the summer; many subtypes say be recognized, e.g., the
Cassiope-Vaccinium uliglnosum type (less protected, frequently rich in such
lichens as species of Stereocaulon and Catraria ), and the Cassiope-Dryas type
occurring on basic soil,
( 7 ) Vaccinium uliginosum-Drayas integrifolia type (with scattered Rhodo–
dendron lapponicum
and Arctostaphylos alpina : more or less snow-protected,
occurring on rather dry and basic soil in NW(U).
( 8 ) Rhododendron lapponicum type: developed on moist circumneutral soil,
often with water oozing through, and is mostly rich in mosses; particularly
fertile soil it way be rich in Dryas .
Bogs . In the southern part of Greenland, tussocky bog communities are
observed that are dominated by various dwarf shrubs ( Vaccinium uliginosum ,
Empetrun , low phases of Salix glauca s.l.). These communities have not been
investigated in detail, but an important example is the Salix arctophila type,
which is particularly widely distributed in S, SW, and CW. In oceanic regions
the soil is acid and the tussocks rich in Sphagnum . In continental regions
there are other types (e.g., with Tomenthypnum nitens and Ranunculus lapponi–
) developed on neutral soil.
Xerophilous Grasses and Grasslike Plants
The vegetation consists of xerophilous Gramineae, Cyperaceae, and Juncaceae,

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

and in certain cases of Dryas as well. As in the preceding types, the vege–
tation may be closed or consist of open fell field, and the ground stratum
way vary between being rich is lichens and being rich in mosses.
Oceanic Communities . The soil is acid, and the distribution SW, S, and
SE. Three types are found.
( 1 ) Juncus trifidus types comprises open vegetation on wind-swept
gravelly soil, but is mostly rich in lichens; related to the Loiseleuria–
type of dwarf shrub community.
( 2 ) Luzula spicata-Agrostis borealis type: found on lees exposed soil
and is often rich in lichens; snow covering is moderates a subtype with Carex
rigida dominant has been described from SE; here, among other plants, was
much T h ymus arcticus (Fig. 6).
( 3 ) Deschampsia flexuosa type: rich in Cladonia , or in mosses on areas
having a snow-patch character; forms closed communities on acid, protected soil.
Continental Communities (steppe-like and related types). The soil is
neutral to basic, sad the distribution particularly In CW (NW), N, and CE
(Ne). No less than five types may be distinguished.
( 1 ) Carex nardina-Poa abbreviata type: developed on wind-swept terrain,
In high-arctic or alpine areas; often rich in Dryas and constitutes a transition
to the [: ] Dryas type mentioned above. Typical associates are, for example, Les–
querella arctica
and Arenaria pseudofri gida.
( 2 ) Carex rupestris type: often comprises a sense vegetation cover;
developed on soil [: ]s that are slightly acid to neutral high-arctic, or alpine
in the south; sometimes very rich in lichens; and is some places a Dryas-Carex
rupestris vegetation covers rather large areas (fig. 9); typical associated
species are Potentilla nivea , Pedicularis lanata , Lesquerella arctica and

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

Campanula uniflora .
( 3 ) Kobresia myosuroides type (“ Elyna heath”): a steppe-like vegetation
which may cover fairly large areas is CW end CE on dry, circumenutral, often
loess soils; e special subtype developed on soil rich in salts occurs near
salt lakes In CW(southern pert) end contains halophilous species.
( 4 ) Carex supina type (Fig. 7): occurs on dry loses soil, being often
half open, with a sparse xerophytic lichen-moss flora among the higher
plants; comprises a kind of subarctic steppe developing on southern exposures
In CW soil is neutral.
( 5 ) Calamagrostis purpurascens types occurs in similar places to type (4),
but on more alkaline soils occasionally it is developed on salt soil (subtype
with Gentiana detonsa in CW); characteristic associated species ere Artemisia
borealis and Potentilla chamissonis .
Psammophilous Communities . Most characteristic is the Elymus mollis type on
sandy seashores and on inland dunes. Honckenya peploides and Festuca rubra
are typical of this community.
Xerophilous Pteridophytes and Herbaceous Dicotyledons
These communities have not been investigated sufficiently for detailed
description. Most of them are found on rocky terrain in which the rock is
covered by shallow soil, or in rock crevices. From S a vegetation character–
ized by Selaginella rupestris has been described, and types of vegetation dom–
inated by Dryopteris fragrans or Woodsia ilvensls have been found in CW.
Important and typical species occurring on dry ledges are, moreover, Saxifraga
tricuspidata [: ] and S. aizoon and sometimes Potentilla tridentata .

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

Nondwarfish Hygrophytic and Mesophytic Herbs
These include, among others, the communities which were formerly termed
herb fields. Their colorful profusion of flowers makes them the most beauti–
ful types of vegetation of Greenland.
High Perennials . These are most frequent in the subarctic parts and in
particularly favorable places is the low-arctic regions. They occur is S (and
SW) on moist south-facing slopes that are snow-covered is winter. Examples
are tall growths of Dryopteris falix-mas or Streptopus amplexifolius , associated
with Angelica archangelica , Chamaenerion angustifolium , and Alchemilla glomer–
. Near springs in continental CW occur growths of Archangelica (often
associated with Calamagrostiz langsdorfii ) which may be classified here.
Rosette Plants ( Herb Field ). In the north these occur only on south-facing
soil protected by snow, but in the south they also occur along rivers, though
always where they are protected by snow in winter. They are absent in the very
northernmost parts of Greenland, six types may be distinguished.
( 1 ) Alchemilla “vulg aris” type (sometimes rich is Sedum rosea ) Fig. 10.:
the type most closely related to the last preceding community, and is found in
SW, S, SE, and Gasseland is Scoresby Sound.
(2) Taraxacum lapponicum-Phelum commutatum type, generally with Polygonum
viviparum as its dominant: important or characteristic associated species
include Poa alpina , Thalictrum alpinum , Veronica fruticans , Erigeron uniflorus ,
and Botrychium lanceolatum ; this type is found in SE, S, and SW.
( 3 ) Alchemilla alpina type: forms transitions to the Sibbaldia type of
dwarfish herbs or to the Deschampsia flexuosa type; this is developed is SW,
SE, and S, and is alpine in subarctic parts of S.
(4) Potentilla crantzii-Antennaria alpina (subsp. canescens ) type, often

EA- [: ] PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

with Carastium alpinum as its dominant: typical associated species are
Erigeron unalaschensis , Draba nivalis , etc.; this type is known from the
southern part of NE; related types occur in NW(U).
( 5 ) Taraxacum arcticum type: characterized among other species by
Ranunculus nivalis Ranunculus nivalis , R. sulphureus R. sulphureus , and Melandrium apetalum; Melandrium apetalum; this occurs in
( 6 ) Arnica alpina type: forms a transition to the steppe-like communi–
ties; this is a continental arctic type that is such more xerophilous than
the others, and with slight snow covering; characteristic species are Erig–
eron eriocephalus
, Minuartia rubella , Campanula uniflora , and in CW, also
Draba aurea .
Protshemicryptophytes (plant with elongated leaf-bearing aerial shoots ).
Here, particularly, belong the communities dominated by Chamaenerion lati –
occurring on open sand (Fig. 8) and gravel and in river beds.
Dwarfish Herbs and Woody Plants
These are the snow-cover communities proper, or “snow patches” — i.e.,
the vegetation characterized by a snow covering of very long duration, the
period of vegetation accordingly being very short. The vegetation is rich
in mosses and particularly rich in hepatics (species of Anthelia , Junger–
, etc.), and the vascular plants rise little or not at all above the
moss carpet. Three types may be noted.
( 1 ) Sibbaldia procumbens type; closely related to the herb fields, as
the snow covering is not of extremely long duration and the exposure is often
favorable; Vernica alpina is frequent, and Draba crassifolia has been observed
in several places.
( 2 ) Salix herbacea type: comprises a group of communities, some of which

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

are rich in lichens or Caasiope hypnoides , others in Oxyria , Ranunculus pyg–
(Fig. 13), or Equisetum arvense , etc.; further, there are many differ–
ent kinds of subdominants, such as species of Anthelia , Dicranum , Polytrichum ,
or Timmia ; characteristic higher plant species include Gnaphalium supinum and
Carex lachenalii ; this type of vegetation is extremely important in regions
of Greenland rich in snow, hut rare and limited to al l p ine areas, for example,
in the southern part of CW.
(3) Phippsia algida-Cerastium cerastoides types occurs on soil with a
particularly long-lasting snow covering, and on summer-wet soil close to melt–
ing snowdrifts; in East Greenland Ranunculus glacialis may be frequent in this
community; other species to be mentioned are Saxifraga rivularis , S. cernua ,
and Carex lachenalii .
Transitional types between this kind of snow-patch vegetation and a boggy
or vet meadow-like vegetation are frequent, particularly in high-arctic areas
(cf. Fig, 12). There also may occur a number of related communities, for exam–
ple, vegetation dominated by Luzula arctica and Potentilla hyparctica (NW), or
by Draba micropet ala and Saxifraga foliolosa (NE).
Mesophilous and Hygrophilous Grasses and Grasslike Plants
These are generally meadow-like types of vegetation rich in mosses, and
occur in places that are influenced by subsoil water or by water oozing out.
In the north they also occur on so-called earth glaciers and vet solifluction
soil. The group is not sufficiently known for detailed treatment, the several
types mentioned being provisional.
Nonhalophtic Communities . ( 1 ) Arctagrostis-Alopecurus alpinus type: comprises
a high-arctic grassy meadow with Poa arctica , Carex misandra , and other associates
and occurs in CE, NE, NW, and N; calciphilous subtypes with Carex atrofusca also

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

occur; closely related communities with Ranunculus a ffinis and Saxifraga
flagellaris are found on vet solifluction clay.
( 2 ) Calamagrostis neglecta type: a low-arctic meadow vegetation described
from SE (is an oceanic variant with Deschampsia alpina ) and found frequently
in NW(U) and CW, where, in the southern part, summer-dry C. neglecta meadows
with abundant Poa pratensis and Ranunculus affinis may develop.
( 3 ) Calamagrostis lengsdorfii type: a southern tall-grass meadow asso–
ciated with willow and birch scrubs, and is found in CW mostly along running
( 4 ) Carex rariflora type: this often tussocky vegetation rich in mosses
is greatly reminiscent of raised bogs in more southerly regions; especially
frequent in the southern part of Greenland, it shows all stages of transition
to the Salix arctophila type; it occurs mostly on oligotrophic soil.
( 5 ) Carex holostoma type: this has been observed to s u rround alpine marshes
and pools of acid water in CW.
( 6 ) Scirpus caespitosus type: this develops near ozzing or slowly running
water, often on shallow soil over rocks, and occurs in the southern parts of
Greenland having an oceanic character; in southern CW it is alpine and rare.
( 7 ) Kobresia caricina-Juncus castaneus type: calciphilous marsh vegetation
developed where water oozes or runs out, and is particularly frequent in con–
tinental regions; closely related to this type, but perhaps independent, are
communities in which Carex microglochin is dominant.
( 8 ) Juncus arcticus type: this is often found on sand or clay near banks
of alkaline lakes or in river beds; it is most frequent in continental regions.
( 9 ) Carex aquatilis var. stans type (locally with abundant Equisetum varie–
): this occurs on level areas with water oozing through the soil, and is

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

found Inland in the Nugssuaq Peninsula,
(D) Carex incurva type: this is developed in holes in Rhododendron
heaths, on sandy banks of rivers and lakes, or in salt lake basins; most fre–
quent in continental regions, but in general is widely distributed.
( 11 ) Scirpus pauciflorus type: this is found on banks of alkaline or
salt lakes in CW.
Halophytic Communities . (1) Puccinellia phryg [: ] a nodes type (sometimes
with Carex subspathacea or, in northern Greenland, C. ursina ): this is the
widely distributed salt-marsh vegetation developed on lower levels which
are covered frequently by spring tides; in South Greenland Puccinellia mari–
occurs in a similar type of vegetation.
( 2 ) Carex subspathacea-C. aquatilis var. stans type: this occurs about
lagoons and on sandy or clayey soil on seashores in northernmost Greenland;
farther south, related types with Stellaria humifusa and Carex glareosa are
found on salt flats which are covered only by the higher spring tides.
( 3 ) Dupontia fisheri type: this is local in NW and NE occurring mainly
at higher levels than the preceding type.
( 4 ) Puccinellia deschampsioides-Plantago maritima type (often associated
with Triglochin palustre ): found on salt lakes in southern CW, in one place
with associated Ranunculus cymbalaria ; transitions to steppe-like communities
are seen when there are associated species of Braya , Primula stricta, and
Gentiana detonsa .
This vegetation group is very sparsely developed in Greenland. It may
be divided into four types.

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

( 1 ) Carex saxatilis-rotundata type: this is developed particularly as
marginal vegetation around lakes, forming narrow meadow-like communities,
and, as such, belonging to the preceding groups, although also found In the
later as marsh vegetation; widely distributed, but occurs particularly in
continental regions.
( 2 ) Carex rostrata type: this is developed in wet bogs and at the edge
of lakes; it is found only in S.
( 3 ) Eriophorum scheuchzeri type: a widely distributed marsh [: ] plant com–
munity about the margin of fresh water, the main species also occurring in
many of the other types; the present type comprises the numerous cases in
which Eriophorum scheuchzeri is the only significant species.
( 4 ) Menyanthes trifoliata type (Fig. 15); this occurs in shallow water
about the margins of lakes with water poor in nutrients, and is often rich
in Potentilla palustris and Sphagna ; it is found in CW, SW, and S.
Vegetation of genuine hydrophytes occurs particularly in the southern
parts of Greenland, Hippuris vulgaris , the most northerly of all hydrophytes,
reaches as far north as about latitude 77° N. in both West and East Greenland.
Five types may be distinguished,
( 1 ) Hippuris-Pleuropogon sabinii type; Ranunculus hyperboreus may enter
as a constituent of this high-arctic aquatic vegetation.
( 2 ) Potamogeton filiformis type: this is widely distributed, and includes in CW
the vegetation of vascular plants occurring in salt lakes with the water not
too saline; in the highly saline lakes only plankton was found.

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

( 3 ) Potamogeton alpinus-Sparganium hyperboreum type; this is distributed
in CW, SW and S, occurring in fairly acid small lakes with the water rich
in humus.
( 4 ) Sparganium angustifolium type: this inhabits oligotrophic pools in
oceanic regions, and has been described from Angmagssalik in SE.
( 5 ) Subularia aquatica type: this oceanic type was described from a pond
at Angmagssalik, and contained, among other associated species, Juncus bulbosus .
Besides the types mentioned above, small ponds with abundant Utricularia
(in CW) and pools mainly with freshwater algae ( Stigonemataceae , Tribonema ,
etc.) have been observed. So far, investigations of freshwater planton have
been made to only a small extent.
Cryophilous Algae
Here, particularly, belong the communities of microscopic algae forming
“red snow” ( Chlamydomonas nivalis , etc.), and the communities of diatoms oc–
curring in cryoconite cavities in the inland ice.
Marine Algae
A distinction it here made between littoral and sublittoral communities.
The littoral region is the area between the upper limit of algal vegetation
and the lowest tidemerk, below which we have the sublittoral region, which
stretches down to the lower limit of algal vegetation at a depth of about
40 to 45 meters. Several types can be identified.
[: ] (1) Fucus vesiculosus-Ascophyllum type: this is developed in the
littoral region in NW(U), CW, SW, S, and SE, particularly in protected places;
F ucus vesicolosus and Ascophyllum nodosum are the most important species, and
support various epiphytes.
(2) Fucus inflatus type: this is much as in the preceding case, but

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

occupies a zone below it and sometimes occurs in less protected places.
( 3 ) Th Monostroma-Urospora-Bania : this is found in the littoral region
in the southern parts of Greenland, particularly in exposed places and at
such a height that the vegetation at low tide may be dried up; important
species are Monostroma groenlandicum , Ulothrix flacca , Urospora mirabilis ,
and Bangia fuscopurpurea .
( 4 ) Chordaria-Dictyosiphon type: thin inhabits the lower part of the
littoral region and rock crevices where there can be no serious drying up at
low tide.
( 5 ) Laminaria type: this is found in the upper sublittoral region, at
a depth of 9 to 20 meters, and constitutes large submerged “woods” of
Laminaria nigripes and L. longicruris (of extensive dimensions), and in S,
also L. groenlandica ; associated may be Alaria pylaii and Saccorhiza dermatodea .
( 6 ) Agarum turneri type: this occurs at a depth of 18 to 30 meters and
is widely distributed on both coasts; typical associated species include
Laminaria solidungula and Euthora cristata .
( 7 ) Desmarestia culeata type: this is widely distributed and, ecolog–
ically speaking, closely related to the preceding type; it is developed par–
ticularly in protected bays and natural harbors, the algae often lying partly
loose on the bottom; among typical associated species may be mentioned
Caetomorpha melagonium .
(8) Ptilota-Lithoderma type: this is widely distributed at depths of
about 20 to 40 meters, and is characterized by upright Florideae including
crustose species of Lithoderma and Lithothamnion; sometimes the crustose
species are dominant.
( [: ] 9 ) Lithothamnion type: this is found where there is a gravelly or

EA-PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

stony, often comparatively flat bottom at a depth of 20 to 40 meters; char–
acteristic associates are the upright branched species of Lithothamnion ,
L. glaciale , L. flabellatum , L. fruticulosum , etc.).
For details concerning the marine plankton vegetation of the waters of
Greenland (communities of diatoms such as Chaetoceras , Thalassiosira , and
Coscinodiscus and various communities of Peridineae, etc.), reference should
be made to the article on “Phytoplankton.”
Investigations of communities of lichens and bryophytes on rocks (cf.
Fig. 16.) have recently been started in Greenland, but the results are not
yet available (1950).

EA- II PS. Böcher: Flora and Vegetation of Greenland


1. Böcher, T.W. “Biological distributional types in the flora of
Greenland,” Medd.Grønland vol.106, no.2, 1938. With
a comprehensive list of references.

2. ----. “Climate, soil, and lakes in continental West Greenland in
relation to plant life,” Medd.Grønland vol.147, no.2, 1949.

3. ----. “Contributions to the flora and plant geography of West
Greenland I-II,” Ibid . vol.147, no.3 and 7, 1948, 1950.

4. ----. “Phylogeographical studies of the Greenland flora,” Ibid .
vol. 104, no.3, 1933.

5. ----. “Studies on the vegetation of the east coast of Greenland,”
Ibid . vol.104, no.4, 1933.

6. ----, and Larsen, Kai. “Chromosome numbers of some arctic or boreal
flowering plants,” Ibid . vol.147, no.6, 1950.

7. Devold, F., and Scolander, P.F. “Flowering plants and ferns of South
East Greenland,” Norsk Polar institutt, Skrifter no.56, 1933.

8. Gelting, P. “Studies on the vascular plants of East Greenland between
Frantz Joseph Fjord and Dove Bay,” Medd.Grønland vol.101,
no.2, 1934.

9. Hagerup, O. “Empetrum hermaphroditum,” Dansk Bot.Arkiv vol.5, no.2,

10. Hartz, N. “Fanerogamer og Karkryptogamer fra Nordøst-Grønland…og
Angmagsalik,” Medd.Grønland vol.18,pp.315-931, 1895.

11. ----. “Østgrønlands vegetationsforhold.” Ibid . vol.18, pp. [: ]
105-314, 1895.

12. ----, and Kruuse, C. “The [: ] vegetation of Northeast Greenland,”
Ibid . vol.30, pp.333-431, 1911.

13. Iversen, J. :Moorgeologische Untersuchungen auf Grönland,” Dansk
Geol.Foren. Medd . Vol.8, p.341, 1934.

14. Kruuse, Chr. “List of Phanerogams and vascular Cryptogams found in
the Angmagsalik District,” Medd.Grønland vol.30, pp. 2 09-88,

15. ----. “Rejser og botaniske undersøgelser i [: ] østgrønland samt
Angmagsalikegnens vegetation,” Ibid . vol.49, 1912.

EA- II PS . Böcher. Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

16. ----. “Vegetationen i Egedesminde Skjaergaard,” Ibid . vol.14, pp.348–
400, 1897.

17. Lange, J. “Conspectus florae Groenlandicae,” Ibid . vol.3, 1880.

18. Nathorst, A.G. “Kritiska anmärkningar om den grönlandska vegetationens
historia,” Svenska Vetenskapsakad. Bihang Handl . vol.16,
pt.3, no.6, 1890.

19. Omang, S.O.F. “Übersicht über die Hieraciumflora Ost-Grönlands,”
Norsk Polarinstitutt, Skrifter no.55, 1933.

20. Ostenfeld, C.H. “The flora of Greenland and its origin,” Danske
Vidensk.Selsk.Biologiske, Medd . Vol.6, no.3, 1926.

21. ----. “The vegetation of the north-coast of Greenland,” Medd.Grønland
vol.64, pp.221-68, 1923.

22. Polunin, N. “Contributions to the flora and phytogeography of south–
western Greenland,” Linnean Soc. J.(Bot.) vol.52, p.349, 1942.

23. Porsild, A.E. “Contributions to the flora of West Greenland,” Medd .
Grønland vol.58, pp.157-96, 1926.

24. Porsild, M. P. “Alien plants and apophytes of Greenland,” Ibid . vol.92,
no.1, 1932.

25. ----. “The flora of Disko Island [: ] and the adjacent coast of West
Greenland,” Ibid . vol.58, pp.1-156, 1920.

26. ----. “Skildring of vegetationen paa Øen Disko,” Ibid . vol.25,
pp.91-240, 1902.

27. ----. “Stray contributions of the flora of Greenland,” Ibid . vol.77,
pp.1-44, 1930; vol.93, no.3, 1935.

28. Rosenvinge, L.K. “Grønlands Havalger,” Ibid . vol.3, pp.763-974, 1893.

29. ----. “Om algevegetationen ved Grønlands kyster,” Ibid . vol.20,
pp.129-244, 1899.

30. ----. “Det sydligate G rønlands vegetation,” Ibid . vol.15, pp.73-250,

31. Seidenfaden, G. “The vascular plants of S outh East Greenland,” Ibid .
vol.106, no.3, 1933.

32. ----, and Sørensen, Th. “The vascular plants of Northeast Greenland from
74° 30′ to 79° 00′ N.Lat.,” Ibid . vol.101, no.4, 1937.

EA- II PS . Böcher. Flora and Vegetation of Greenland

33. Sørensen, Th. “The flora of Melville Bugt,” Ibid . vol.124, no.5, 1943.

34. ----. “Summary of the botanical investigations in N.E. Greenland,”
Ibid . vol.144, no.3, 1945. With bibliography.

35. ----. “Temperature relations and phenology of the Northeast Greenland
flowering plants.” Ibid . vol.125, no.9, 1941.

36. ----. “The vascular plants of East Greenland from 71° to 73° 30′ N.Lat.,”
Ibid . vol.101, no.3, 1933.

37. Trapnell, C.G. “Vegetation types in Godthaab Fjord,” J.Ecol . vol.21,
p.294, 1933.

38. Warming, Eugenius. “Om Grønlands vegetation,” [: ] Medd.Grønland vol.12, 1888.

39. ----. “The vegetation of Greenland,” Commission for the Direction of
the Geological and Geographical Investigations in Greenland.
Greenland . Editors: M.Vahl, G.C. Amdrup, L. Bobe,
Ad.S. Jensen. Vol. I. The Discovery of Greenland, Explora–
tion and Nature of the Country
. Copenhagen, Reitzel;
London, Milford, 1928, pp.291-317.

Tyge W. Böcher
HomeFlora and Vegetation of Greenland : Encyclopedia Arctica 6: Plant Sciences (Regional)
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