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The Unexpected Flowers of Alaska - Over 8,000 Species Of Plant Life

Updated on July 1, 2012

Northern Planting Zones

During early February 2012, a radio gardening show host announced a new set of Hardiness or Planting Zones for the USA. These zones are found on the backs of seed packages every spring and are based on regional climates. In 2012, these regions' boarders shifted with the warming climate of the last 100 years.

The new zones are based on gradual climatic warming over the last 50 years or so and have changed somewhat. For example, the southern half of Ohio became a Zone 6 in 2012, permitting earlier planting and planting of some plants not usually considered for this state, although media gardening experts suggested caution. Winter was milder in Ohio than usual, but a few cold days occurred. As if by Murphy's Law, a Central Ohio man planted flower seeds around February 2nd, seeds sprouted, and on February 11 snow arrived, accompanied by a 19o F low temperature. The pants and the buds on local trees died.

Outline of the Arctic Circle. IN this view, Alaska is in the upper left hand corner.
Outline of the Arctic Circle. IN this view, Alaska is in the upper left hand corner. | Source

Alaska is a much colder state considering the monthly temperature averages compared with those of Ohio, but a surprising number in the hundreds of different flowers thrive around Alaska. Many of them are hardy perennials that regrow on their own annual for a number of years..

The US Department of Agriculture lists a total of 8,651 species of plants alive in Alaska, including trees, shrubs, flowering plants, grasses, and ground covers. I was surprised to learn this, since the northern quarter-to-third of Alaska is above the Arctic Circle. One thinks of only rocks and ice there.

The Arctic Circle, points shown in the map below, roughly follows the tree line as well, above which few plants are found.

Points Along the Arctic Circle In Alaska

A
Seward Peninsula:
Seward Peninsula, Alaska, USA

get directions

The center of reindeer herding in Alaska.

B
Kotzebue Sound:
Kotzebue Sound, United States

get directions

C
Selawik Lake:
Selawik Lake, Alaska, USA

get directions

D
Allakaket AK:
Allakaket, AK, USA

get directions

E
Fort Yukon AK:
Fort Yukon, AK 99740, USA

get directions

F
Barrow, Alaska:
Barrow, AK, USA

get directions

Largest American town north of the Arctic Circle.

Alpine Forget-Me-Not

Myosotis alpestris. State Flower, Alaska, 1949.
Myosotis alpestris. State Flower, Alaska, 1949. | Source

Official State Flower and Tree

While I like purple coneflowers, lilacs, and roses in the colors of orange, peach, and yellow, I'm fascinated by flowers that grow in colder climates. Alaska is our northern-most state and home to several types of these flowers.

The alpine forget-me-not is a native perennial and the State Flower of Alaska. Like the evergreen tree, this flower keeps coming back year after year and represents that hardy character of Alaskans. It is found among rocky outcroppings in the mountains of the state. It is the perfect long-lived flower to join the Sitka Spruce, an evergreen, as State Tree.

The Sitka Spruce produces a strong wood that is used in musical instruments, ships, and even airplane wings - like the famous Wright Brothers' Flyer. The tree is important to Native North Americans, who use its roots for weaving baskets.

OSU's botany department and the university extension service tell us that the alpine forget-me-not blooms in July each year on both sides of the Continental Divide, so its delicate blue blooms are found in Alaska in mid-Summer after the 4th of July. Interestingly, the plant is related to the borage plant, parts of which are brewed to make a tea that fights arthritis.

Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) at Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska
Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) at Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska | Source

Examples

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Black CottonwoodNootka RoseBunchberryArnicaDouglas Aster
Black Cottonwood
Black Cottonwood | Source
Nootka Rose
Nootka Rose
Bunchberry
Bunchberry
Arnica
Arnica
Source
Douglas Aster
Douglas Aster | Source

The Top 10 Native Plants Of Alaska

  1. Western Hemlock - tree
  2. Alaska Cedar - tree
  3. Black Cottonwood - very small flowers.
  4. Salmon Raspberry or Salmonberry - pink flowers.
  5. Common Snowberry - small pink-white flowers.
  6. Nootka Rose - pink flowers.
  7. Bunchberry - small light-green flowers.
  8. Heartleaf Arnica - yellow flowers.
  9. Broadleaf Fireweed - rose-purple flowers.
  10. Douglas Aster - purple flowers.

.

  • Reference: National Wildlife Federation, link provided below.

Examples

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Arctic Lupines on Raspberry Island, Alaska.  Forget-Me-NotWater HyacinthPaw Paw
Arctic Lupines on Raspberry Island, Alaska.
Arctic Lupines on Raspberry Island, Alaska. | Source
Forget-Me-Not
Forget-Me-Not | Source
Water Hyacinth
Water Hyacinth | Source
Paw Paw
Paw Paw | Source

Additional Blue and Lavender Alaskan Flowers

The Alpine forget-me-not is one of approximately two dozen blue-to-lavender flowers that grow in Alaska. A number of lupines of all colors proliferate in the more southern parts of Alaska and can be seen in the national park system.

Others include some with fascinating names like Yukon Beardtongue, Sticky Locoweed, Beautiful Jacob's Ladder, and Alaska Violet.

Native Flower Viewing Highlights

A
Central, Alaska:
Central, AK 99730, USA

get directions

At least 250 species of wildflowers have been photographed within a 40-mile radius of Central AK. This is reported on flower sighting sites.

B
Anchorage AK:
Anchorage, AK, USA

get directions

Anchorage Botanical Garden - several gardens, new installations always ongoing, plant and seed sales.

C
Raspberry Island:
Raspberry Island, Alaska, USA

get directions

Arctic Lupines

D
Portage Valley:
Portage Valley, Alaska, USA

get directions

Trail of Blue Ice wildflower viewing area.

Trail of Blue Ice in the Portage Valley
Trail of Blue Ice in the Portage Valley | Source

Wildflower Viewing Area In the National Park System in Alaska

The US National Park Service maintains Wildflower Viewing Areas in as many national parks as possible across the nation. In Alaska, more native plants can be seen below the Arctic Circle and the Treeline than above it at any time during the year. This will be in the lands south of the latitudes of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Moving southward, the first national park in which wildflowers can be observed in numbers is Denali National Park. Full-scale viewing areas include:

  1. Alaganik Slough
  2. Balls Lake Trail
  3. Harbor Mountain
  4. Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
  5. Ohmer Creek
  6. Starrigavan Recreation Area
  7. Trail of Blue Ice
  8. Turnagain Pass

Alaskan National Parks

Source
Source

Examples

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Orange HawkweedButterfly WeedCardinal FlowerYellow Pond Lily
Orange Hawkweed
Orange Hawkweed | Source
Butterfly Weed
Butterfly Weed | Source
Cardinal Flower
Cardinal Flower | Source
Yellow Pond Lily
Yellow Pond Lily | Source

Orange and Yellow Flowers

Alaska's Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) is like the yellow dandelions in the Midwest, with larger heads and wider petals. They go to seed in the same large white puffs of flying seeds as do our dandelions. The wildflower is found in norther countries globally and considered an invasive weed in non-native habitats. In Alaska, it is a native plant.

Alaskan native flower species also come with a variety of white or cream-colored blossoms, petals of pink and red, greenish petals, and even blossoms of dark brown, along with black flowering plants.

Rita Jo Shoultz talks about Alaska Peonies

Comments

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Actually to friends have moved to Alaska about 10 years ago and both loved it once they became accustomed to the climate differences from the Midwest.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Wonderful hub! I would love to travel to Alaska someday. Your hub is beautiful and very informative. I love the flower pictures! Voted up and more! :)

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Interesting that the planting zones have changed to reflect the warmer winters in the north. Beautiful photos of flowers. I always like to see the flowers in the different regions of the country. Photo of the Sitka spruce is gorgeous too. Very interesting hub. I've always wanted to visit Alaska.

      Voted up and interesting and will share!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I think lot of people wait until spring and summer to travel that far north. August is a really good time, especially on the cruises.

    • tamron profile image

      tamron 

      6 years ago

      Alaska is beautiful and you have some good photo illustrations. This hub is informative and very enjoyable. I always wanted to travel but I don't like the cold weather.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Five years is indeed a long time and I've seen many improvements at HubPages. I hope you continue to enjoy writing for HubPages.

    • Michelle Keiper profile image

      Michelle Keiper 

      6 years ago

      Your pictures and maps are fab... I am new to this hub thing and am having trouble finding good pics to insert. I also am just beginning to understand how a hub should look. (layout) Your example has been helpful. You already know how great it is. :) Five years? Long time.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      You're exactly right - it's stunning and natural as well.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Nature takes care of its own. Who would have imagine more than 8,000 plants thriving in Alaska. Some flowers and plants do have a very special climate to grow.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for the good word- I agonized over what photos to add and what to leave out. I used the most interesting examples I could find.

    • Michelle Keiper profile image

      Michelle Keiper 

      6 years ago

      excellent example of how a hub should look. Well written and interesting. Lots of info. Thanks

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      It is another almost-alien world to us in here the Midwest, that much is sure.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      6 years ago

      Alaska is a national treasure. Your hub made me aware of aspects of its beauty that I wasn't even aware of. Up across the board.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      The attractions in Alaska are never ending, it seems. I was stunned by the number of flower species alone!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Patty,Great well written hub with lots of interesting information about Alaska . I was not aware that Alaska had so much beautiful plant life . Thanks Patty for helping me learn more about one of our beautiful states .

      Vote up and more !!! Sharing !

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks very much. It is incredible that Alaska has so much plant life!

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 

      6 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      Wow, this is amazing write. I really enjoyed knowing and learning facts. Voted up!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for the comments! - Alaska is beautiful in many ways. A month's vacation there would be great.

    • hi friend profile image

      hi friend 

      6 years ago from India

      Really very great effort. Vote up with thanks.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      6 years ago from the short journey

      Such a beautiful read! It is just amazing to think about how much beauty is packed under that winter snow--how alive it is! Thank you for this look at Alaskan flowers.

      You've given me much to look forward to in future visits. The Turnagain Pass is always beautiful. We stopped a fantastic plant nursery outside Anchorage one time and I've always wanted to go back. Glad to learn about the botanical garden. The growing season may only be 120 days, but oh my what they grow!!!

      This is the second Alaska hub tonight. I really may have to go pack.

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