Arctic Plants Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

In this lesson, you will learn about the plants that grow in the icy cold Arctic region. You will see how they survive in such harsh conditions and what they look like.

Where is the Arctic?

Have you ever heard someone say that it feels like the Arctic outside when the weather is very cold? Or maybe you have seen images of the cold and snowy lands at the North Pole? If you can imagine a very cold and snowy place at the top of the earth, then you can imagine what the Arctic looks like.

The Arctic is a circle-shaped region that is centered on the North Pole. It includes both land areas and water areas.

The Arctic Circle is part of several different countries, including the United States (Alaska), Canada, and Russia. The water that surrounds the land masses is the Arctic Ocean.

The blue circle on this map is the Arctic Circle. All the land inside of the Circle is the Arctic region.

Weather in the Arctic

On cold days, people say that it feels like the Arctic outside because it is extremely cold in the Arctic. Summers are cold, and winters are even colder.

Winter temperatures can go as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. That is 72 degrees colder than what is required to freeze water!

The Arctic does not get a lot of rain, and the precipitation it does get is almost always snow. There is snow or frost on the ground most of the year because it doesn't get warm enough to melt it very often.

Ice does not melt that often in the Arctic because it is so cold for much of the year.

How do Plants Survive in the Arctic?

In most places in the world where the weather is cold, the plants go dormant in the winter. Dormant means they are still alive but in a state that is kind of like sleeping. The plants wake up and start growing again in the spring. Because it is so cold in the Arctic, many plants are dormant for over half of the year. When summer finally comes, the plants awaken and start to grow.

Just like plants in warmer locations, Arctic plants still need warmth to grow. It isn't easy to survive the winters, but the plants that live in the Arctic have several features that help them survive:

  • They grow low instead of tall so they can be protected by the snow blanket in the winter. For this reason, there are no trees in the Arctic.
  • They have small leaves to keep them from losing a lot of water in warmer months.
  • They are able to use very low amounts of sunlight for photosynthesis, which is how plants make energy, or food, for themselves.

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