The tundra went from brown to green in just a matter of days! Ground that was covered with dirt just last week is now blanketed with flowers and low, green shrubs.
While attempting to identify flowers in Jeanette’s intriguing book called “Land of Extremes: A Natural History of the Arctic North Slope of Alaska”, I learned some interesting things:
Since the climate often changes dramatically from day to day in the Arctic, the number of insects available to help pollinate flowers varies greatly from year to year.
Plants compete for pollinators (mainly flies and bumblebees on Alaska’s North Slope) by color, size, shape, scent, and the plant’s ability to retain heat (fuzzy and bell shaped flowers trap more heat than other flowers). That’s why so many plants produce colorful flowers here.
Some Arctic flowers move in a way so that they always face the sun, all night and all day (remember, there are 24 hours of light in the Arctic right now). This is called heliotropism.
I made a valiant effort to identify the flowers in these pictures with a guidebook, but there are so many species that look similar to each other, that I was not incredibly successful! Regardless, enjoy the sampling of the flowers that seem to cover almost every inch of the tundra at the moment.
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Yesterday morning, a note was posted on the white board in the dining hall inviting one and all to participate in a Polar Plunge into Toolik Lake at 5:45, just before dinner. Team Squirrel discussed the idea at lunch and decided to accept the challenge. After all, when else will I have the chance to do a Polar plunge in a Polar region? Keep in mind that Toolik Lake is still partially frozen. It is COLD! Nevertheless, about 15 fearless souls from Toolik made the plunge. Cory dove in and swam a good distance, but Jeanette, Kate, and I were content to simply run into the water, submerge, and run back out, shrieking about the cold. The science team that Polar Plunges together, stays together!
As I finish writing this blog post, my tent is fighting the wind to stay in place, thunder is crackling overhead, and rain is blowing in through my open window. This is the first thunderstorm I have experienced in the Arctic (the other rainy days did not involve thunder or much wind). So far an Arctic thunderstorm is not nearly as dramatic as an Oklahoma thunderstorm!