Contributed by Anne Smith

On February 16, 2016

Musings from ‘Up North’

North of the Arctic Circle! Not a snowdrop in sight!
I have just returned from a four day trip to Northern Sweden and it made me think about the challenges of gardening or growing anything in such an environment. Now I can only judge from this time of year (February) but it made me realise how growing conditions affect so many things. We were near Abisko and Kiruna, which is known for iron mining. In fact, if iron ore had not been discovered there in the 1870s, then Kiruna would not exist. As it happens the mining is literally undermining the town, so part of it is being moved and rebuilt in a safer location.


Two of the larger mammals living here are moose and reindeer. They eat different vegetation so are not in direct competition with one another. Moose, pine needles, mosses and lichens and reindeer, mushrooms, grasses and lichens found under snow.
Back to growing plants! Abisko National Park is 195 kilometres north of the Artic Circle. The snow covering and frozen ground make for challenging growing conditions. In the snowy conditions birch trees, willow, spruce and pine are the obvious vegetation, growing below the moorland area which is barren of trees.
As you can imagine, for humans, vegetables and fruit cannot be found fresh locally during this time of year. Any has to be imported. This is reflected in the food, where meat, fish and lots of berries are used. Cloudberry, (Rubus chamaemorus) lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis idaea) and sea buckthorn berries (Hippophae rhamnoides) are all used in food as sauces, jams, soups or ice creams. We even had a sauce accompanying lamb, which was made from honey and pine needles. Unusual to our British palates but delicious.
Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus
Lingonberry,  Vaccinium vitis idaea
Sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides by Vmenkov licenced under  CC BY 2.0)
Abisko National Park has an alpine flora. Mount Njullá is sometimes referred to as the flower mountain. I would like to return one day and see the difference to the landscape once it has been released from its covering of snow and ice. Now back in UK and time for more snowdrops and hellebores during February!


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