Plant Life in Antarctica

Despite its harsh climate, Antarctica is home to a small number of native plants.
Despite its harsh climate, Antarctica is home to a small number of native plants.

While many species of algae and bryophytes live in and around Antarctica, vascular plants are few and far between. Plant species in Antarctica have adapted to their isolated environment in unique ways.

Native Plants Of Antarctica

Kerguelen Cabbage (Pringlea antiscorbutica)

The Kerguelen Cabbage (Pringlea antiscorbutica) resembles the common cabbage plant and is part of the Brassicaceae family. The plant owes its name to its discovery on Kerguelen Island, although it inhabits other remote islands near Antarctica such as McDonald, Prince Edward, and Marion. Instead of the usual pollination by insects, the Kerguelen cabbage is unique for being self-pollinating, a fact that makes its situation on Antarctica's windy islands ideal.

Lyallia Cushion (Lyallia kerguelensis)

The Lyallia Cushion (Lyallia kerguelensis) is a perennial herb in the Montiaceae family. It is the only vascular plant native to Antarctica, and can live for a minimum of 16 years.

Antarctica Hair Grass (Deschampsia Antarctica)

The Antarctica Hair Grass (Deschampsia Antarctica) is a flowering plant, one of only two types that exist in Antarctica. The plant thrives during the summer and has been increasing in population due to a general increase of temperatures. It is perennial, and turns yellowish-white as it withers. The species is self-pollinating, and its flowers remain closed while the seeds form during the summer. The plant forms small ice crystals in extreme cold to prevent damage to its cells.

Antarctic Pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis)

The Antarctic Pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) is the other flowering plant that exists in Antarctica, sprouting yellow flowers that form a moss-like appearance. The Antarctic Pearlwort thrives in areas with adequate precipitation and mild climates, which are predominately the northern and western regions of the continent.

Other Native Plants

Other native plant species found across Antarctica are Ross Island Moss (Sarconeurum glaciale), Signy Island Moss (Schistidium Antarctica), and Windmill Islands Grimmia (Grimmia antarctici). However, the plants of Antarctica are not free from human and environmental threats. Global warming, invasive species, tourism, pollution and infrastructure have all negatively impacted on Antarctica’s biodiversity.

Native Plants Of Antarctica

Native Plants of AntarcticaScientific Name
Ross Island MossSarconeurum glaciale
Signy Island MossSchistidium antarctici
Windmill Islands GrimmiaGrimmia antarctici
Antarctic Hair Grass Deschampsia antarctica
Antarctic PearlwortColobanthus quitensis
Lyallia Cushion
Lyallia kerguelensis
Kerguelen CabbagePringlea antiscorbutica

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