How Do Plants Survive the
Cold Weather of Denali?
A Blueberry Bush Thriving in Denali
I bet you are wondering how plants survive
out here on the cold tundra?
I do, too. Plants need warmth and sunlight to grow. But out
here on the tundra it is cold and the sun is always very low in the
sky. Many plants do not survive but those that do have adapted to
the harsh, cold climate. While we're hiking, keep an eye out
for interesting plants and we'll explore how they are able to
Check this out. It's a blueberry bush. Yummy.
These berries are tasty!!! I'm surprised that these plants can
survive the cold weather of the tundra. In the winter, the
temperature can dip down near -50 degrees
Fahrenheit. Even in the Summer, the temperature can dip down near freezing most
nights. The blueberry bush and other arctic plants have had to
adapt in many interesting ways to survive these very cold
The blueberry bush grows very close
to the ground so that it can absorb the warmth that has been trapped by the dark
temperatures. One of the most interesting adaptations of the blueberry bush
and other arctic plants is how they grow
to the ground with leaves that spread out along the soil.
You must be wondering how this helps the plant survive Denali's cold
weather? Out on the tundra, the dark soil absorbs the
heat of the sun. Many plants grow close to the ground so that
they can absorb the warmth that has been trapped by the dark soil.
Alpine Forget-Me-Nots make the most
out of every second of Denali's
short growing season.
Short Growing Season
Wow, over here is the Alpine Forget-Me-Not. This flower,
and many other arctic plants, have had to adapt to survive the very short growing season of the arctic
After all, the growing season only lasts between 50 and 90
days. Plants must make the most of every minute. The
Alpine Forget-Me-Not, and many other arctic flowering plants,
actually form their flower buds at the end of the summer.
These buds are
small but tough and can survive the brutally cold winter. In the Spring, as soon as the temperatures get high
enough this bud will form into a flower. In this way, the
Alpine Forget-Me-Not makes the most out of every second of Denali's
short growing season..
The wind out here just keeps blowing. Day after day the tundra
is swept by very high winds. It's amazing that plants
don't get blown away. Sometimes, we can feel sand that is blown by
the wind sting our faces and arms. I can just imagine what the
wind-blown snow feels like during the winter when the winds are even
stronger. How do plants survive this harsh
wind? First, plants that are
The Fireweed's seeds are plume- shaped. This allows them to ride on the wind
long way before falling to the ground where they can take root.
| out of the wind in sheltered
nooks and valleys have a much better chance of taking root and
growing to maturity. Second, many plants use the wind to their
advantage. That plant over there is called Fireweed. It
has seeds that are plume-shaped. They ride on the wind for a
long way before falling to the ground where they can take
root. Third, this plant disperses its seeds over time. The
wind often changes direction and will spread the seeds
over many different areas.
Oh, good. I was hoping we would see this
interesting little plant, the Saxifrage. Because
the weather is so cold and the ground above the permafrost is so
soggy, dead plants do not decompose very well. This plant grows
well on the rocky, infertile soil because of a neat
adaptation. When its leaves die, some of them fall to the
ground. On the ground they do not decompose but pile on top of
other dead leaves. This pile of dead leaves helps the plant in
The Saxifrage is a cushion
plant. The cushiony pile of dead leaves help this plant get
| ways. First, they provide some nutrients for the
growing plant. Second, they trap wind-blown dust that adds nutrients
for the plant. Third, this cushiony pile of dead
leaves traps heat from the sun and provides protection from the
high winds of the tundra.
Even though it is very difficult for plants to survive out here
on the tundra, they do survive. Look around at how green it
is. Ingrid, our friendly park ranger, told us that there are
many different kinds of plants (over 1,700 different plants).
Check out some more of the plants that we saw to learn about them
and how they survive the cold weather and lack of sunlight out here
on the tundra.
The Amazing Plants of the
So, You Want To Learn More About Alaska's Plant
Plants Can Stand the Heat