Pretty Hardy Alpine Flowers

A poem I wrote as part of my International Mountain Leader Qualification, about the incredible survival mechanisms of Alpine Flowers!

Alpine flower pretty nature

When we think of flowers, we might see them soft and pretty
And hold a misconception that they’re not so tough and gritty
We think of them as delicate, as fragile as a rose,
Pretty flowers, dainty petals, so the story goes.

But now I’d like to show you how these flowers prove us wrong,
For in the Alpine Mountains they are sturdy, tough and strong
They’ve developed and adapted to endure the toughest tests
When it comes to pure survival then these flowers are the best

They live up high at altitude, where air is very thin,
Low CO2 and oxygen, with plenty snow and wind,
Freezing temps and high UV, low nutrients in the soil,
But through the summer droughts and frosts, these brave wee flowers toil

Lets start with Alpenrose, which can live above 3K
They choose long-lying snowpatches to keep strong winds away
The snow provides them nutrients, and moisture in one place,
And It’s many degrees warmer, in the Subnivean Space.

And when the snow has melted and the winter sees an end,
Its time to photosynthesize, the sunshine is your friend,
And since the season’s short they must work at quite a pace
But their leaves are ever-green so there’s not a moments waste

And when that summer sunshine is a little much to bare,
and we’re all getting frazzled by the UV in the air,
Their leaves have anthocyanin, to absorb the excess rays,
The pigmentation blocks it out, and keeps the harm away,

Glacier Crowfoot holds the record for the highest flowering plant,
Its been found at 4274 so never say you cant!
It flowers within days, and the seeds will ripen fast,
It needs to reproduce, before the summer’s past

Freezing point depression is a trick within its leaves,
Increased sugar solutes, will ensure the plants don’t freeze,
Just like in the winter when we cover roads in salt,
The water stays as liquid so activities don’t hault

Some plants are “Supercoolers”, which also stops the freeze,
They segregate their water into empty cells with ease,
Ice crystals cannot form, without a particle or seed,
So the empty cell stay liquid and they photosynthesize with speed.

Now for Alpine Rock Jasmine, another Alpine wizard,
It can live above four-thousand and survive the harshest blizzard,
It keeps down very low, growing not 2 inches tall,
And for an alpine flower, it is great to be that small,

It means less fear of winds, and the risk of taking flight,
And longer in the snow patch where its snuggled warm and tight,
And closer to the soil is where the greatest warmth is found,
It’s dense abdundant foliage creating cusions on the ground

Other species take advantage of this cosy little nest,
Protected from the elements a perfect place to rest,
More radiative heat, and reduced throughflow of air,
These factors work together to maintain a cosy layer.

Buttercups are clever and stay warm when sun is lacking,
They’ve developed nifty tricks which are known as “Solar Tracking”,
They turn around their flowerheads, to follow sunshine trends,
Their saucer shape will heat them up, a parabolic lens

They also turn their leaves, perpendicular to rays,
To maximise exposure to the sunshine through the day,
They even store some heat, and are warmer than surroundings,
By up to eight degrees, which is really quite astounding,

The insects like this warmth and will surely come and call-in,
And this will raise the odds of them distributing pollen,
The warmth will boost development of ripening their seeds,
All this helps them reproduce, which is all they really need.

And when the sun is hot, and the heat is too intense,
Then they do things in reverse, and turn away for some defence,
They turn away their leaves and heads, away from sunny skies
To prevent evaporation of their precious drink supplies,

Now for mossy saxifrage, with properties we’ve seen,
Only one inch tall, and another ever-green,
Also forming cusions with dense foliage on the ground,
But underneath the surface there’s more magic to be found,

Their roots, they are their anchors, and they creep through every crack,
Helping them find nutrients in areas that lack,
They’ll grow in rocky fissures and they’ll live upon the scree,
Their roots will find them water, even when there’s none to see,

Saxifrage means “rock breaker”, the roots look that intrusive,
Although it may refer to kidney stones, the answer is illusive,
Their leaves have crusty calcium, the excess from the lime,
So perhaps they hoped it broke it down, in medicine back in time,

Edleweiss the alpine star, it’s well known that’s for sure,
It’s iconic and its noble, patriotic loved and pure,
But its clever and its hardy, not just a pretty face,
Among the toughest flowers it is worthy of its place,

Its flowers and its leaves are amass with soft white hair,
It’s tomentose and wooly, it’s the perfect boundary layer
This reduces contact, with the air that’s moving past,
So there’s less convective cooling and it won’t get cold so fast,

And when stomata open, to let in CO2,
The boundary layer helps, to stop the water rushing through,
It lessens transpiration by decreasing potential gradient,
Meaning that our Edleweiss, can go on looking radiant

And here we have arrived at the ending of the story,
So I hope you’ll see these flowers in their state of well earned glory,
Remember every little feature, was created for a reason,
They’re well adapted alpinists, they’re fit for every season

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