Scamman's Spring Beauty
This extremely delicate and exquisite alpine plant grows in some of the most inhospitable terrain occupied by plants in the park. It occurs almost exclusively in steep, unstable scree slopes high in the mountains, mostly to the north of the Alaska Range crest. These areas are frequently subject to disturbance from landslides and avalanches and the substrate is constantly shifting and moving down-slope. Although its appearance is very delicate, this spring beauty thrives in these dry rocky and windy sites. Once removed from the soil this plant wilts away to nothing in the hand within seconds. Nonetheless, evolution has provided this beautiful alpine plant with the tools to prosper in subarctic alpine environments, including succulent leaf, stem and root tissues capable of storing water to carry it through dry periods, an elastic root system capable of adapting to shifting rocky substrates without breaking, and photosynthetic tissues that are able to convert light energy to chemical energy at low soil and air temperatures.
The geographic range of this plant is restricted to the mountains of Alaska and immediately adjacent areas of the Yukon Territory in Canada, thus we call it an Alaska-Yukon "endemic" plant. This particular species is found nowhere else on earth, although it has close relatives throughout mountainous areas of the world.
Did You Know?
Warmer temperatures have led to dramatic thawing of permafrost. Thaw releases carbon, as once-frozen materials decompose, but allows increased plant growth. Researchers in Denali are studying whether thawing permafrost will increase or decrease world-wide carbon emissions.