Boreal forests, sometimes referred to as taiga, despite being situated in a harsh climate, are home to a peculiar guild of native flora that might be already in your backyard. Towering cone-bearing trees, low-lying fruiting shrubs, and seasonal berries are some of the emblematic taiga plants that sprawl over this biome. Although most plants from this biological zone may already be familiar, this article showcases their importance, characteristics, and information about their survival mechanism. Ready to step into the world of taiga? Keep scrolling below as we enumerate the taiga plants list!
What Type of Biome Is Taiga?
Taiga is a large strip of land sandwiched between the north of temperate deciduous forests and the south of the Arctic tundra. It records some of the planet's coldest temperatures, hitting a mean yearly average of −10°C (14°F). Despite the wintry growing conditions, many plants developed special adaptations to overcome the frigid winters. Plants face underground constraints. Soils are highly acidic, nutrient-poor, and remain frozen solid most of the year. Some trees can penetrate deep into the ground to cope with these adversities, while some have teamed up with mycorrhizal fungi to help them supply nutrients. During the warm season, the permafrost underground prevents the thawed water from seeping through, creating a boggy soil surface where many seasonal plants grow. On some occasions, lightning-triggered wildfires may occur but are not bad at all as it helps the pine seeds crack open and germinate.
Where Is Taiga Located? How Many Countries Have It?
The taiga is a biological reserve that circles from the western Pacific coast to the Atlantic and back to the eastern Pacific coast. It traverses 8 countries, including the United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, China, and Japan.
What Type of Plant Life Dominates in the Taiga?
What type of plant life dominates the taiga? Evergreen and deciduous pine trees! They form a dense group that acts as a microclimate and keeps it a little bit warmer than outside. As the snow melts in the warm season, lush greenery may emerge on the boggy forest floor, from simple plants like mosses to more advanced plants like short bushes and flowering and carnivorous plants.
What Is the Most Common Plant in Taiga?
The most common plant in the taiga is pine, although you can also see other cone-bearing tree species such as firs, larch, and spruce. Flowering plants and berries are also common in the wet forest floors of the taiga during summer. Taiga plant list While the vegetation is mainly dominated by giant trees, some types of plants in the taiga also fill in the landscape. From trees, shrubs, and short-season annuals, to plants with ingenious tricks to take over the land, boreal forests teems with diverse botanic life which we listed in the following points.
Taiga would not be a forest without the following list of common boreal forest plants that dominate the landscape:
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
Soaring a maximum height of 15 m (50 ft), this evergreen skyscraper of the taiga is widely distributed in North America. However, black spruce can also be found in many temperate regions as an ornamental tree. The trunk is flammable, but the cone-stored seeds can regenerate after wildfires.
Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)
If you've ever had a live Christmas tree, it is likely the balsam fir, prized for its relatively small size and elegant leaves. Native to the taiga of Canada, this all-year-round green tree withstands the coldest temperatures. It is also an important tree for native fauna like moose, deer, beavers, birds, and squirrels as a temporary refuge and food source.
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Spiraling in the boreal forest 30 m (100 ft) high is the Scots pine. Common in the taiga of Scandinavia and Serbia, you can easily identify this pine tree with its needles attached in pairs approximately 4-8 cm (2-3 inc), unlike other coniferous species with shorter bristles arranged singly.
Dahurian Larch (Larix gmelinii)
Named as an homage to the German naturalist Johann Georg Gmelin, the Dahurian larch is a deciduous species of coniferous tree that prefers to shed its leaves in the fall, unlike its close relatives. It reaches 35 m (115 ft) tall in the wild, with four recognized varieties differentiated by geography and the morphological features in seeds and fresh shoots.
Tamarack Larch (Larix laricina)
The frigid, boggy habitats in North American taiga houses the Tamarack larch. The species name, "Tamarack," stems from the Native American language, Algonquian, which translates directly to "wood used for snowshoes." During fall, the inch long (2-3cm) needles turn golden yellow in preparation for the long winter, making the deciduous tree a good landscape plant for soils lacking drainage. Flowers Plants in the boreal forest also give refuge to some exquisite taiga flowers that bloom during the warm season.
The tundra may be frozen, but it has the holiday spirit most of the year. Each tree can be a Christmas tree of its own!
Who says the tundra is a barren wasteland? Surprisingly, this icy expanse is home to some of the most resilient and colorful flowers on the planet.
Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia)
This plant is found in the peat forests of North America, Europe, and Asia. Pollinated by bees, moths, and butterflies, its characteristic bell-shaped flowers bloom from May to September, born in stalks no taller than 60 cm (2 ft). All parts of the plant are considered toxic because of andrometoxin.
Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium)
Fireweed belongs to the family of evening primrose (Onagraceae) that shoots up numerous amethyst flowers from June to September in warmer climates. After pollination, the rose-purple flowers give rise to extended capsules with 300-500 seeds, an excellent strategy to quickly re-establish a fire-barren habitat.
Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium acaule)
Unlike their tropical relatives, the magenta flowers of the Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid are a bit smaller but still a show-stopper. Named after the shoe-shaped petal (labellum), the wildflower typically peeks out of the boreal forests between May and July after the snowmelt that leaves the ground boggy.
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)
The taiga hosts wild strawberries related to the most widely cultivated pink fruit we know today. In spring, the North American and Scandinavian taiga is filled with white-petalled flowers, which turn into hairy, pea-sized berries when they mature. They taste like the usual pink fruit, but the flavor is more concentrated, aromatic, and slightly acidic.
Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)
The nitrogen-deficient soils of the boreal forests have pushed plants like a purple pitcher to become carnivorous, trapping unsuspecting insects, spiders, and mites, with its wide-open modified leaves. Its purplish-red bowing flowers are as magnificent as its pitcher, which rises from its long stalk.
These hardy blooms may have to contend with freezing temperatures and harsh winds, but they still manage to bring a touch of beauty to this otherwise desolate landscape.
When taiga biome plants have no jam-packed growth of pines and other trees, some shrubs often fill the small gaps in between. Because of their agricultural importance, some of them might even be familiar to you:
Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata)
Native to Northeastern Europe, Northern Asia, and North America, Leatherleaf is a small but mound-forming shrub reaching a maximum height of 1.5 m (5ft). The dark green, leathery ovoid leaves gradually turn purplish in winter. The bell-shaped white flowers are born simultaneously with their leaves, which can be seen in April or May.
Cranberry (Vaccinium subg. Oxycoccus)
Related to blueberries and lingonberries, cranberry is a dwarf shrub that can spread about 2 m (7 ft) on the ground. In artificial cultivation, they should be planted in wet soils with proper spacing of at least 1 meter (3 ft) and regular pruning to reap a good harvest. The fruits ripen typically from August to October but may persist through the winter.
Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
Along the rivers and streams of boreal forests, you might find a lush patch, approximately 1-2 m (3-7 ft) tall, bearing bright red raspberries. Luckily, they are commonly cultivated and can be available year-round to enjoy the ruby fruits packed with vitamins, iron, and antioxidants.
Lingonberrry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
Also known in various names like cowberry, partridgeberry, foxberry, or rock cranberry, lingonberry is a creeping plant spreading about 18 inches (46cm) both horizontally and vertically. The red fruit is nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants, earning its spot as one of the superfoods consumed fresh, preserved, or in pastries.
Labrador Tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum)
Labrador tea is an evergreen flowering shrub that measures roughly 1 m (3 ft) tall. It inhabits primarily swampy, boggy forests, and taiga of Canada and the northern part of the United States. Aside from making beverages, it is also a food source for many animals like bumblebees, deer, and moss.
From providing vital habitat and food sources for wildlife, to playing a crucial role in regulating the earth's climate, these unassuming plants are true unsung heroes of the forest.
Plants that live in the taiga have complex life history traits and are worth mentioning. Below are some of the exceptional species of the boreal forest:
Pinesnap (Monotropa hypopitys)
Also called the dutchman's pipe, pinesnap found its niche in the taiga of North America by stealing nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi. It has no chlorophyll; hence it cannot thrive on its own and spends its life growing next to cone-bearing trees like pines.
Pinedrop (Pterospora andromedea)
Like the pinesnap, pinedrop also thrives by extracting nutrition from the roots and its partner fungus. The leafless plant gives rise to whitish-pink vase-shaped flowers from mid to late summer, typically next to pine trees.
Stag's-horn Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum)
Creeping close to a boggy surface, you will find a faux-pine, the stag's-horn clubmoss or running ground pine, with spore-bearing structures that resemble closely with pine cones. This low evergreen herb was used by native Americans as traditional medicine in treating digestive disorders.
Sphagnum Moss (Sphagnum spp.)
The plants in the taiga include the superficial masses of moss, Sphagnum, a genus with at least 320 species. They can resist freezing temperatures, prolonged drought, and waterlogged environments. Also they are the primary component of peat soils, which adds acidity to the earth as it grows and prevents other plants from thriving.
Sundew (Drosera spp.)
With over 152 species, the sundew grows in tropical and temperate parts. In the boreal forests of Europe and Canada, they are common in bogs with acidic soil, which happens to sprout during the warm season. They ambush tiny insects in their sticky appendages as a supplement from the nitrogen-poor soil.
Plants in the taiga are vital to this ecosystem — they feed, shelter, and oxygenate many species of wildlife. From tall spruce trees to delicate wildflowers, every plant is important to keep the taiga's balance in check.
Why Is the Taiga Called the Boreal Forest?
Taiga is also called boreal forest, likely because it describes the biome's characteristics. Taiga translates to "land of little sticks," while the "boreal" refers to Boreas, the Greek goddess of the north wind, which may refer to the biome's location.
What Is the Vegetation of the Taiga Forest?
The vegetation of taiga is primarily composed of tall cone-bearing trees like pines, fir, and spruce adapted to grow on the permafrost soil layer, although small shrubs can also be found under the conical canopy of these trees.
What Are Producers in the Boreal Forest?
Pines, firs, and spruce are the primary food source for mammals in boreal forests. During the short summer, smaller plants that produce berries can nourish many herbivores in preparation for the winter.
Taiga is an incredible biome with an abundance of diverse plant life, from towering evergreens to delicate wildflowers. It's a truly special place that's bursting with greenery and natural wonder.