Plants of the Tundra


Above: Moss-covered ice mound in the Alaskan tundra, formed by the ground’s constant vacillation between freezing and thawing.

The “tundra” (from the Finnish word tunturi, meaning “treeless heights”) is otherwise known as that ribbon of latitude on our planet where the landscape shifts from tall trees and flowering bushes to comparatively shrimpy shrubs and frost-covered blankets of moss, brightly colored lichens, and delicate tufts of sedge (or “Arctic grass.”) The top layer of vegetation only thaws and grows for a few months a year, revealing to us a mysterious web of plant life beneath the ice…


Above: Reindeer lichen, an extremely cold-hardy plant most commonly found in the Arctic tundra. The Dena’ina people (native to Alaska) are known to eat this plant (boiled until soft) in dishes with berries, fish, eggs, or lard, and drink its juices to treat a number of physical ailments.


Above: Yellow lichens on a frost-covered Arctic floor, otherwise known in Inuit culture as “Excrement of the Sun.” Scientists have recently discovered anti-tumor, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties in compounds made from lichens.


Above: An Arctic fox takes a nap within the willows. Young Arctic willow leaves contain up to 10 times more vitamin C than an orange, and the bark can be boiled to make a pain-relieving tea.


Above: Last but not least, the Fly-Agaric. This mushroom is found in many areas of the world including scattered about the Alaskan tundra and the Arctic region of Kamchatka (a peninsula in the Russian Far East).

The Koryak people of Kamchatka are known to gather Fly-Agaric mushrooms growing in the roots of sacred birch trees and eat them (either dried or soaked in blueberry juice) as a means of enhancing creative and physical energy (i.e. to “play music all night long,”) among other spiritual and ceremonial purposes. Reindeer also love to eat this mushroom, and are said to act “drunken” under its influence.

Read more about the Koryaks’ use of the Fly-Agaric in the essay “IS THE FLY-AGARIC (AMANITA MUSCARIA) AN EFFECTIVE MEDICINAL MUSHROOM?” by Gary Lincoff.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s