It's a rainy Sunday, so instead of a photo of the cloud outside of my window, I'll tell you about the trip we took on Thursday. Inger Alsos is a terrestrial ecologist based at the University Centre in Svalbard and the University of Tromsø. She was supposed to be on a flight out on Thursday afternoon, BUT Inger had heard that a rare flower was growing on some of the cliffs on Ossian Sars island in Kongsfjorden, and she couldn't resist the chance to find it, take some photos, and take some samples. She needed a couple extra sets of eyes to help find and identify the little flower, so Fiona, Gareth, Allen, and I all got to go along, too!
Our mission was to find a particular kind of Potentilla - basically an Arctic buttercup. The trick (of course there was a trick!) was that there are four very similar varieties of this plant in the Kongsfjorden area. We were looking for the ones with plain yellow flowers (no spots), and short white hairs on the underside of their 3-lobed leaves.
Inger led us to the right spot, and we struck lucky finding three patches of plants showing a range of flowers in bloom and dying! Mission achieved!
Gareth, Fiona, and Inger relaxing for a second after finding the flowers. The flowers like to grow on steep slopes - steep enough to catch strong sun and deter grazers but shallow enough to hold on to soil.
Although Ossian Sars is an island, reindeer and foxes cross over (mostly in the winter, but some swim in the summer, too). We saw a very cute little Arctic fox, but he was too quick for my camera. A reindeer below us, on the other hand, very obligingly stood near an iceberg in the ocean below.
I tried to convince the others that I could identify plants by taste, but was told off because it destroyed the (tasty) samples. It was very hard for me to not eat the flowers, but I did my best...
Inger maintains a very comprehensive website about all of Svalbard's vascular plants - check it out at www.svalbardflora.net. The photos from our trip on Thursday should be up in a couple weeks once DNA tests confirm the flower identification.