Serpentine Barrens of Newfoundland

Thu, 2018-12-06 12:28 -- gsparrow
6 Dec
Todd Boland

Newfoundland is no doubt the best place in eastern North America for encountering a wide variety of arctic-alpine plants. Many of these are calciphiles restricted to the limestone barrens along the west coast of the Great Northern Peninsula. Here, the combination of exposure, climate and soil (or lack thereof) restricts the growth of typical boreal forest species such as Abies, Larix and Picea. With the lack of competition, arctic-alpines can survive. As it happens, many of our alpines have a Holarctic distribution so would be familiar to people from northern Europe. Examples include Saxifraga paniculata, Diapensia lapponica, Cornus suecica, Bartsia alpina and Silene acaulis, just to name a few. However, Newfoundland’s alpine flora has another surprise. In three widely separated regions of Newfoundland, we have outcrops of serpentine rock, a rock type rare in the world and one that is often home to endemic species or those with wide ecological tolerances. So what is serpentine rock?


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