Plants that Live in Antarctica

Antarctica, the site of the South Pole, is the most southerly of Earth's continents. It covers over 5 million square miles, which is 1.4 times more than the United States. Most of the year, Antarctica is covered with thick ice and snow, but in the summer parts of the land mass host a few plant species. The growing season is short---it lasts only six to eight weeks, from early June through July.


Algae are aquatic plants that include members with only one cell as well as large seaweed species. Over 700 types of algae exist in Antarctica, from a single-celled phytoplankton to the large bull kelp, according to the Australian Antarctic Division website. On land, Antarctic algae live in creeks and lakes, in snow banks and even in moist soil.

Mosses and Lichens

Antarctica hosts 100 species of mosses. Some of them form lawn-like areas where melting glacier water occurs. Three major kinds of lichens live in Antarctica. Crustose lichens grow as a crust on their growing surface. Foliose lichens have lobes resembling leaves. Fruticose lichens grow into small shrubs. Lichens grow very slowly, although they occur nearly every place in Antarctica that is able to support plant life.

Antarctic Hair Grass

Antarctic hair grass, or Deschampsia antarctica, is one of the two flowering plants found in Antarctica. This true grass grows in short clumps, no more than 4 inches tall. When it flowers, it looks much like lawn grass, with stalks containing large numbers of small seeds. Antarctic hair grass occurs in widespread areas of the Antarctic land mass.

Antarctic Pearlwort

Collobanthus quitensis is the botanical name for Antarctic pearlwort, which is the southernmost dicot found in the world and one of the only two flowering plants found on this continent. It's related to the chrysanthemum and form a small cushion. It grows as a companion to Antarctic hair grass and is sometimes hard to see through the blades of that grass. It blooms with small, yellow, five-petaled flowers in summer.

Keywords: plants Antarctica, moss lichen, algae pearlwort, hair grass

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.