Gros Morne National Park of Canada
A Green Inheritance
Gros Morne National Park has quite a diversity of plant life, with over 700 species of flowering plants and 400 species of bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts), plus an estimated 400 species of lichens. This remarkable diversity is due to the wide range of habitats provided by bedrock types, soil development, exposure, altitude range, and proximity to the ocean.
On the hills, conditions are cooler, windier, and moister than on the lowlands. Hiking from the seashore up onto the Long Range Mountains is a bit like travelling into the past, to a time when Newfoundland was covered with Arctic plants and animals. From seashore to highland tundra there are many unusual niches in the park for you to explore!
Rare plants are usually found in rare habitats, and Gros Morne National Park, like the rest of the Great Northern Peninsula, has no shortage of either. Check out the information on rare plants found at Port au Choix and L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic sites! You can also read about the research project on the mountain fern on the Long Range Highlands of Gros Morne National Park.
Please help us ensure that our nature and our past will always have a future by resisting the temptation to pick flowers. Rare plants become rarer if they are unable to produce seeds! Demonstrate respectable behavior by staying on established trails and stairways so as not to trample and kill our plants; recovery can take decades!
Shoreline: Wind, Waves, and Spray
Salt spray, wave erosion, and drying winds assault plants living along the seashore. Coastal plants protect themselves with waxy coatings, fleshy leaves, flexible stems, and compact growth. Sand dunes have developed at Shallow Bay and Western Brook beach.
Coastal Tuckamore at Berry Head, GMNP
© Parks Canada / Michael Burzynski / 1617-021, L-104, 1991
Buffeted by storms and onshore winds, coastal white spruce and balsam fir trees develop into a contorted tuckamore forest. Salt spray and desiccation kill exposed buds. Growth occurs only on the protected side of these trees, so they seem to lean away from the sea as they grow.
Krummholz und Kampf
Krummholz are trees dwarfed by climatic conditions. Treeline marks the highest point at which normal tree growth can occur. In Gros Morne, treeline is at about 500 metres above sea level. This is sometimes called the kampf or struggle zone.
Lowland bog near Green Point, GMNP
© Parks Canada / Michael Burzynski / 1617-037, W-247(s), 1989
Sphagnum moss builds bogs. The moss grows on wet soils, and pumps out acid to obtain nutrients. As the moss blanket spreads, the low oxygen content of the soil slows decay. Thick peat mats slowly accumulate.
The richest and deepest soils accumulate along streams. Spring floods deposit sand, silt, and organic matter on terraces and in beaver ponds. These become gardens of wildflowers. Thickets of speckled alder cling to river banks, and waist-high grasses sway in wet meadows.
Larch scrub on Tablelands, GMNP
© Parks Canada / Rob Hingston / 1172-095, G2-533
This is an open forest of twisted larch trees rooted in mucky soil. Beneath the larch grow shrubby dwarf birch and sweet gale.
Balsam Fir Forest - Wave Forest
In places, a wave-like pattern of dead and living balsam fir trees stand out. This wave forest is probably created by wind damage and subsequent fungal attack of roots. Over the years, waves of dead trees and regrowth progress slowly uphill.
Balsam Fir Forest- Lowlands
Balsam fir with white spruce and white birch, as mature stands and successional scrub after logging.
Forest of alpine Balsam Fir in Long Range Mountains, GMNP
© Parks Canada / Michael Burzynski / 1172-002, F4-114, 1992
Balsam Fir - Highland Forest
This is a mountain valley forest of well-spaced, old balsam fir trees. Their tops are wind pruned, and their lower branches are bowed downward by the weight of snow.
Dense tangles of shrubs such as sheep laurel, blueberry, Labrador tea, and rhodora blanket the lowlands. In Newfoundland, the term "barrens" is used to denote any land not covered in forest.
Sedge meadows (Fens) on the Tablelands, GMNP
© Parks Canada / James Steeves / 1172-098, G2-401, 1989
Sedges dominate these wet meadows. The soil is waterlogged peat, and the turfy expanses are punctuated with pools called flashets. Sometimes flashets form step-wise down a hillside, like terraced rice paddies.
Wiry ankle-high shrubs are interspersed with mounds of diapensia and mats of creeping crowberry, bearberry, moss and lichens. A thin layer of black peaty soil overlies a veneer of sand on top of bedrock. Wind erosion is strong, causing soil blowouts.
A field of frost shattered rock on Big Level, GMNP
© Parks Canada / Michael Burzynski / 1584-045, R5-151
These fields of frost-shattered rock are sorted into patterns by cycles of freezing and thawing. Colourful lichens encrust the rocks, and tiny shrubs grow in the sandy soil at the centre of the stone rings.
Shag Cliff from Norris Point, Bonne Bay, GMNP
© Parks Canada / Michael Burzynski / 1584-067, G6-81(s)
Many rare mosses grow on cool, north-facing cliffs in the Long Range. Small trees, shrubs, and other plants also struggle to live in the meagre soil of crevices.
Rock barrens of peridotite rock with sparse dwarf trees and shrubs, cushion plants and unusual arctic-alpine plants of the Tablelands.
Black Spruce Forest and Scrub
Black spruce and balsam fir forest, mainly on boggy ground of sphagnum mosses with a shrub layer of sheep laurel.
Intertidal Salt Marsh
Salt tolerant herbaceous plants of intertidal mud flats. Samphire dominates the lower marshes and salt marsh sedges dominate the upper marshes.