Posts Tagged ‘Arctic plants’

For one month in Greenland, our most important scientific instrument was a paint brush.

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Painting pollen onto Dryas integrifolia.

With our brushes loaded with pollen, we brushed the stigmas of hundreds of flowers, essentially acting as human pollinators. I am using this pollen-supplementation experiment to figure out if flowers could produce more seeds if there were more insects visiting flowers.

One flower we are studying is Dryas integrifolia, which is a butter-colored flower in the rose family (Rosaceae). It blooms early in the season, which is important for early emerging insects that are potential pollinators, including flies, bees, and yes, even mosquitoes.

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Working with Dryas early in the season requires down jackets and a good attitude!

Once we were done painting, we waited for the flowers to close up and produce seeds. Dryas seeds are wind-dispersed, like dandelion seeds. So there was a narrow window of time in which we could collect the seeds before they flew away!

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If Dryas produces seeds, it creates little twirls that remind us of unicorn horns or troll hair (right). If the stem aborts, it creates little white tufts (left).

Great news: today we successfully collected the last of the seeds! Other news: now I have thousands of seeds to count! [ Volunteers welcome 🙂  ]

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Collecting the last of the Dryas seeds right near the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

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Purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) started to welcome summer. And then came the snow…

One day I was taking pictures of the first flowers of summer, the next morning I was brushing my teeth in the snow. We just had a couple of snowy days here in Kangerlussuaq – hopefully nature’s last act of sleepy defiance before it greens up and grows!


Our campsite


“Seahorse lake!” Getting snowier…


A lake near the edge of the ice sheet (you can just make out the ice sheet in the background), where we sampled mosquito larvae the week before. When I took this picture, there were a couple inches of snow. I know the serenity is ephemeral – soon the katabatic winds will be whipping across the landscape again and mosquitoes will be swarming – but I think at this moment, this was the most peaceful environment I have ever been in.

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