Plants That Live in the Antarctic

Antarctica has the coldest climate of any continent on earth. No month has an average temperature above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Antarctica's average rainfall of 6.5 inches makes it technically a desert. What moisture that does fall comes in the form of snow that rarely melts and is compacted into a glacial ice sheets. Only two flowering plants grow in these cold, dry conditions plus fungi, lichens, mosses and liverworts, some of which are classified in kingdoms separate from plants.

Antarctic Hair Grass

Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia Antarctica) has light green blades 2 to 3 inches long and grows in tufts, often between rocks and in and around banks of moss.This hardy plant is found on the coast of the western Antarctic Peninsula that has a short, polar summer and moisture than on the interior.

Antarctic Pearlwort

Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) is about 2 inches tall and produces white flowers on diminutive spikelets. It grows in mats that make it look like moss. Antarctic Pearlwart is also found on the coast of the western Antarctic Peninsula. Because of global warming, more Antarctic pearlwort seeds are now germinating. There is said to be a five-fold increase in in seedlings, and the plant is extending its range south into areas of Antarctica that were formerly inhospitable to any form of plant life.

Non-vascular "Plants"

According to the British Antarctic Survey, some 20 species of fungi, 25 species of liverworts, 100 species of mosses, and 300 to 400 species of lichens live in Antarctica. In extremely dry and cold valleys of Victoria Land in Antarctica, algae, fungi and lichens live in the pores and cracks of granite and sandstone rocks. Plants are ordinarily defined by their ability to produce energy through photosynthesis. Vascular plants that produce seed are members of Kingdom Plantae. These nonvascular plants are usually included in discussions of plant life, although some of them do not use photosynthesis to survive. Algae conduct photosynthesis and range from single-celled organisms to seaweed. Some algae belong to the Kingdom Monera; others belong to Kingdom Protista. Fungi do not conduct photosynthesis. They live off other organic matter and are classified as Kingdom Fungi, separate from animals, plants and bacteria. Lichens, which do conduct photosynthesis, live in a symbiotic relationship with fungi. Mosses are nonvascular plants that conduct photosynthesis. Liverworts are green plants in the shape of curly ribbons.

Keywords: plants Antarctica, flora Antarctica, flowers Antarctica

About this Author

Richard Hoyt, the author of 26 mysteries, thrillers and other novels, is a former reporter for Honolulu dailies and writer for "Newsweek" magazine. He taught nonfiction writing and journalism at the university level for 10 years. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies.