Greenland Flora Diversity
  Broad-leaf fireweed - Niviarsiaq - Greenland's national flower.
Flora [flo•ra] means the plants of a region, habitat or geological period.

Explore some of Greenland's flora by clicking on the icons in the left-side navigation!

Greenland is known for its snow and ice and the fact that it is not green and lust as it should be according to its name. But, Greenland is actually a lot more green and colorful than what most might think!

Greenland has more than 500 species of flowering plants, horsetails and ferns.

During the brief and intense Arctic summer the mountain landscapes are adorned with a wealth of colors from flowers, herbs, mosses and heather. Five types of orchid flower in Greenland! There are even small trees that grow in the innermost fjords in Southern Greenland! Further north, Disko Island is a paradise for flora-lovers.

Although Greenland geographically belongs to North America, the majority of plant species originate from Europe.

Greenland’s national flower is the broad-leaf fireweed – in the Greenlandic language Kalaallisut it is called Niviarsiaq, which means ‘young woman. The flower is especially seen in stony soils and sandy riverbeds.

Plant Communities

  Biodiversity of Greenland
  Check out the report:
The Biodiversity of Greenland - a country study
Greenland’s range from north to south of more than 1600 miles (2,600 km) and from oceanic outer coastal areas to continental inland areas, means there are many different plant species and many types of plant communities!

One of the most important determining factors for plant distribution, besides summer temperatures, is snow cover.

In Greenland plants are more or less covered by snow for 9 to 11 months out of the year. The thickness and how long the snow cover is on the ground, influences the length of the growing season and the amount of water released to the plants during the course of the summer.

In most places the snow cover increases from inland areas to coastal areas and from North to South Greenland.

All plant species will only be able to grow when they have exactly the conditions they need. In Greenland there are big differences in soil conditions, even just in small areas, both when it comes to mineral nutrients, water content and microclimate, so plants are not distributed equally in the terrain. Instead, they are grouped in different types of plant communities according to these ecological conditions.


Vegetation dominated by dwarf shrubs, like woody plants less than half a meter tall, is called heath. Heath is the vegetation type found most often, especially in Low Arctic Greenland.

HeathIn the southern part of Greenland northern willow (Salix glauca) and bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum ssp. microphyllum) are widespread, while other dwarf shrub species have a more limited distribution due to their narrower ecological niche when it comes to soil and climate demands. Crowberry (Empetrum) dominates the coastal areas, while dwarf birch (Betula nana) and rock cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea ssp. minus) assume the dominant role in the warmer, arid inland. Several herbs, mosses and lichens are associated with the dwarf shrubs, which are 10-30 cm tall.

In the Middle Arctic, white Arctic bell-heather (Cassiope tetragona) is completely dominant in places with a protective snow cover every winter. Mountain avens heaths (Dryas) however, are found in more wind exposed places in terrain with a thin, less stable snow cover. Tundra willow (Salix arctica) is present in nearly all plant communities in the High Arctic, but especially in moist or slightly dry soils. In Northeast Greenland, it is the characteristic plant for a special type of snow-bed with a medium duration snow cover, which thus far has only been found in this region.