/ ARTICLE: Alpine Plants - Diversity in the Face of Adversity

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UKC Articles - on 04 Apr 2019
Saxifraga exarata taking advantage of the favourable conditions provided by a Silene acaulis cushion. If you're an altitude enthusiast, you've probably prepared a pack or two with a thought to the extreme daily temperature variations, lack of water, strong winds and high UV exposure that the unforgiving mountains inflict upon our fragile frames. These hostile forces form part of a relationship of fear, respect and intrigue associated with the mountains. They are also largely responsible for the diverse shapes and colours of an interesting group of plant species: alpine plants, who have adapted to these conditions in some surprising ways.

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pasbury on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Really interesting article.

I'm reminded of the 'forests' of dwarf willow I saw in Iceland growing no higher than my ankles.

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Doug on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Good to see some more natural history but a shame the article wasn't edited to use British examples & photos or to give references to publications about the UK, for example, the classic 'Mountain Flowers' by John Raven and Max Walters in the Collins New Naturalist series or the more recent book with the same name by Michael Scott

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ams - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Last week I took some good photos of the purple saxifrage in flower on Penyghent.  It grows on limestone band that forms the first steep step.

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Lizard Ollie - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Really enjoying these scientific articles focusing on things involved in climbing, but not directly the sport itself, at the moment. Interesting stuff!

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toad - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

A great piece. Worth emphasising the fragility of these habitats. Because its so harsh, and the growing season short, these plants take a long time to recover or re-establish. So inadvertent damage by visitors like us can be evident for decades.

There a piece by Tove Janson in one of her books for adults. I paraphrase:

Only farmers and tourists walk on the moor. What they cannot know is that the first time they do, it springs back. The second time, it stays down. The third time, it dies

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Frank R. on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice article! I quite enjoyed it, along with the geology series, detailed but still accessible for the layperson.

Although they are not exactly plants, lichens are also very interesting. There is over 3000 documented "species" in the Alps. Species in quotes, as it is more like a composite organism of two or three symbiotic species - algae or cyanobacteria, multicellular fungi and (as recently discovered) an unicellular yeast!

And yes, anything that manages to grow up there, in the dry, buffeted by winds, temperature changes and high UV radiation should not be trodden upon... It would be a shame if most of the world's alpine clubs had to change their logos (just making a point - I know that the edelweiss is hopefuly a species of least extinction concern among all the fragile alpine flowers, but it's the best known one).

Post edited at 14:19
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pasbury on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Frank R.:

Mosses too! Ubiquitous, ignored, lumped together as ‘moss’ but what a hardy group of plants. Snowdonian woodlands seem almost to be just incubators for lush carpets and cushions of moss.

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treesrockice - on 05 Apr 2019
In reply to pasbury:

You do get dwarf birch (Betula nana) and dwarf willow (several Salix sp.) habitat in the right parts of Scotland but they are extremely vulnerable and thus not widely advertised.

> Really interesting article.

> I'm reminded of the 'forests' of dwarf willow I saw in Iceland growing no higher than my ankles.

Post edited at 09:22
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treesrockice - on 05 Apr 2019
In reply to Doug:

> "Good to see some more natural history but a shame the article wasn't edited to use British examples & photos or to give references to publications about the UK, for example, the classic 'Mountain Flowers' by John Raven and Max Walters in the Collins New Naturalist series or the more recent book with the same name by Michael Scott"



Would be very easy to write although time consuming to do all the research, there is plenty of information on UK alpine species (higher and lower plants, lichens etc.) in academic literature. Might have a go if I can find some time around my PhD....

One of the interesting things about many of the climbing locations in the UK is that they also explore areas with the most interesting botany, as climbers tend to favor more remote and harsher environments these are often left comparatively untouched by people meaning rarer species can flourish or haven't been wiped out by human activity. Think of the steeper parts of Cwm Idwal, and the Tree-y ledges in Cheddar Gorge.

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Will Hunt - on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

That was great. Could we have some local articles? The flora of yorkshire limestone /gritstone /North Wales /cornwall etc

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stevesmith - on 12 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Excellent article! There are British plants that show the same arctic-alpine features, such as cushions of moss campion, Silene acaulis, and clusters of mountain avens, Dryas octopetala, in the Cairngorms. There are other altitude effects to look for: dwarf Scots pine (= krummholz) at the treeline, and Britain's smallest tree, dwarf willow, Salix herbacea, even in the Lakes - there's a large stand on St Sunday Crag. 

"The Alpine Flowers of Britain and Europe" / Collins / Grey-Wilson & Blamey / ISBN 0 00 219749 9 is a fabulous field guide.

PS: trichomes, not trichromes

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