Monday, January 3, 2011

Territorial Post - Nunavut

With winter here I got to thinking about the snow or lack thereof in my part of the world. I thought it appropriate to choose one of Canada's northern territories for my provincial/territorial post. Despite being so far north some areas in Nunavut do not appear to get all that much snow in winter. Something more in common with southern Ontario.
Nunavut is Canada 's largest and newest territory found at the Arctic circle. It separated from the Northwest Territories on April 1. 1999. It is populated almost exclusively by its indigenous people the Inuit who are know to have lived there for 4000 years. While it is one of the largest territories geographically it is also one of the least populated with a population of just over 33,000 people.

The climate is considered "modified maritime Arctic"with an annual mean temperature between -9 and -18 Celsius at the northernmost point. Nunavut does not have a summer as we know it. In July it is known to get to 7 C but warmer temperatures are kept in check by the ice-filled polar waters which have a surface temperature of -12C. Precipitation is a scant 50mm annually. About 50-80 % of it falls as snow, however the snow flakes are so small that they do not adhere to the ground leaving it bare all winter.

As Nunavut is mostly above the tree line they do not have a territorial tree. The land is tundra and meadow with little soil and dry difficult conditions upon which to grow and survive. You can expect to see alpine flowers such as cinquefoil, mountain avens, dandelions, winterberry and saxifrage. The flower for the territory is the Saxifrage or saxifraga oppositifolia.

 Saxifraga oppositifolia photo from Wikipedia

Purple mountain saxifrage

Purple saxifrage grows as a matted plant to 3-5 cm high and creeps or trails along the surface. The leaves are small and rounded and scale-like. The flowers are solitary and grow on short woody stalks in colours of purple or lilac. It is one of the earliest to flower and can be found blooming in the snow. Saxifraga oppositifolia is a circumboreal plant and can be found in northern British Columbia and Newfoundland, as well as, Norway and Northern Ireland.

From Wikipedia: The Latin word Saxifraga means literally "stone-breaker", from Latin saxum "rock" or "stone" + frangere "to break". This refers to certain saxifrages' ability to settle in the cracks of rocks, which they may in fact wear down by bioerosion to the point of splitting.

Where is Nunavut?

Nunavut is the teal green at the north.


  1. It was interesting to read that Saxifraga oppositifolia is found in Norway and northern Ireland. This would seem to suggest that there might have been some ancient connection between these now far way places or perhaps there is another explanation?

  2. It really is amazing what you can learn on blogs. I did not know Canada had this territory, I am sad to admit. I am so glad I stopped in. I bet it is beautiful untouched country too.

  3. At arctic circle I began to shiver! The beautiful flowers were warming though...amazing they can bloom in the snow!

  4. Jennifer: Your comment got me thinking. Perhaps having common oceans and water currents would help move the seeds around. Of course birds would help out too.

    greenapples: Thank you for the nice comment and for the visit.

    Cat: It is amazing that plants grow in the most inhospitable places.

    Orchid: Thanks!

  5. So great to know! thank you for the new information. And also, very beautiful flowers!