NPS Photo by Josh Spice
Alpine tundra communities occur in mountainous areas and along well-drained rocky ridges. The soils tend to be coarse, rocky and dry. A community of low, mat-forming heather vegetation is characteristic of much of the area. Exposed outcrops of talus sustain sparse islands of cushion plants, such as moss campion and saxifrage, interspersed with lichens. The low-growth forms of these plants protect them from snow and sand abrasion in the windswept environment. Other important plants include dryas, willows, heather, lichens and especially reindeer lichens. Grasses, sedges and herbs are also present. Moist tundra is found in the foothills and in pockets of moderately drained soils on hillsides and along river valleys. Cotton grass tussocks, 6-10 inches high, predominate in these areas. Tussocks form as a cotton grass clump, which grows, then dies back each year, accumulating dead leaves that decompose slowly in cold temperatures. Moses and lichens grow in the moist channels between the tussocks. Other plants include grasses, small shrubs (dwarf birch, willow and Labrador tea).
Learn more about Interior Alaska's plant communities by clicking the links below: