Panama Coral Reefs

Panama Coral Reefs

Antarctic SeaScience

Antarctic SeaScience

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Antarctica: Where the Green Grass Grows

Antarctica is a frozen desert.

Snow and ice covered mountains rise up from the ocean, icebergs float by, and glaciers cover the rocky land beneath them.

These landscape features result in many shades of white, blue, black, brown, and gray.

But if you look a little closer, you can actually find some shades of green.

Surprisingly enough, there are actually two species of flowering plants that live and grow in Antarctica.

Deschampsia antarctica is a species of grass that grows in small tufts on the rocks above the shoreline.  Collabanthus is a low lying plant species closely related to chrysanthemums which blooms tiny yellow flowers during certain times of the year.

Both of these plants are able to survive being covered up by snow and ice during the harsh Antarctic winter, and simply start to grow again as summer approaches and the snow cover melts.

Tufts of grass growing among the snow covered rocks.

A fur seal sitting among fairly large patches of grass.

Beyond plants, there are several species of moss that grow here in Antarctica, ranging from bright green to brown, as well as many species of lichens which range from pale green to bright orange.

Green and brown moss covering some of the rocky terrain. 

Bright orange lichens covering some jagged rocks.
Lichens are an organism made from a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus.

Having been off-shore for several weeks, seeing only shades of white, gray, and blue, even these little bits of color truly stood out to our team when we had the opportunity to go ashore recently.  And as we make our way back to South America in a few days, our team will be much more aware of all the different plant species flourishing there!

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