arhs Yachts International
arhs Yachts International

Minuartia groenlandica

By Ruth E. Smith

Greenland sandwort, a beautiful little alpine plant, grows miraculously out of the crevices of granite rocks on windswept barrens where it is associated with reindeer moss and other lichens. It is found on bare mountain summits at medium elevations and as its name would suggest, in the alpine zone of Greenland. In Nova Scotia and Newfoundland it is uncommon to rare and its habitat requires protection. It occurs in Halifax Regional Municipality at the top of Blue Mountain (near Hammonds Plains) and in some areas of granite outcrop such as the Herring Cove Backlands. Also known as mountain sandwort, its taxonomy has been changed recently from Arenaria groenlandica to Minuartia groenlandica.

It is one of the few alpine plants that bloom all summer from June until late October in Nova Scotia, it was blooming at one location in HRM in mid October in 2006. Its clusters of small delicate white flowers with yellow centres bloom above narrow green leaves resembling chickweed often forming tufts or mats at the base. Typically, it is no more than 8 centimetres in height. Because of its relatively small delicate form it can be unintentionally crushed under a hiker’s boot, or even worse, under a motorized recreational vehicle. Protecting the habitat of our own alpine plants is an obvious priority.

I collected a small quantity of seed at two different sites in HRM this fall after many of the plants had already matured and dispersed most of their seed thus reassuring myself that next year’s plants would not be compromised. Jeremy Lundhome, a botanist at Saint Mary’s University advises that the seed germinates readily, requires no stratification and that the plant is remarkable for its resistance to drought.

The small amount of seed will be available from the Seed Exchange. It is hoped that we might start generating our own seed supply without need to harvest seed from plants growing in the wild. So, if you have granite outcrop on your property this may be a natural choice. It also should lend itself to tufa containers.