One of the many perks of working in close relation to a botanical garden in summer? We often get to go with them when they take the interns to go plant hunting for rare and unusual plants specific to the Arctic regions.
These trips are, truth be told, more fun and social than they are work, but we have at least one each year, and it is amazing to hike some of the gorgeous mountains close(ish) to Tromsø.
One such occasion has just come to pass, and we were taken to hunt for Arctic rhododendron. There are two species in particular, but we were looking for the one called Rhododendron lapponicum. It is a gorgeous, little flower, and we found it on top of Holmvassfjellet, 509 meters above sea level.
The flower itself is tiny compared to most garden varieties of rhododendron, with flowers the size of a nail, and thin branches. Up here on the Arctic mountains, the plants only grow a couple of branches each, but I have seen pictures from North America where they look more like bushes, although no more than a feet or so in height. I looks like other flowering heathers in the area, and blooms in early spring. This makes the already small plant often overlooked and ignored. But it is really cute!
Other plants we found were Alpine (Pinguicula alpina) and common(Pinguicula vulgaris) butterwort. A small carnivorous plant that I would not have believed existed in the Arctic before I was told.
“Carnivorous plants? Surely they just exist in the tropics!”
I do enjoy working with plants all summer. Not even being covered in mud from head to toe the other day while planting in the rain put a damper on my spirits at work!