Icegrass

Date:
collected in 2004
Record:
V192155
Scientific Name:
Phippsia algida (Sol.) R.Br.

The diminutive Icegrass, Phippsia algida (Sol.) R.Br., grows in moist tundra habitats at high latitudes in the northern hemisphere. Its discovery in BC in 2004 exemplifies how natural history collections such as herbaria document the history of our knowledge of the biodiversity in our province and are key to unraveling larger stories about the history of the landscape.

This specimen was collected in the Level Mountain Range on August 2, 2004 by RBCM botany curators Ken Marr and Richard Hebda, and provincial forest research ecologist Will MacKenzie.

Until this collection was made, Icegrass had not been documented in British Columbia. Northward it has a continuous distribution into Alaska and northern Canada. However, to the south there are large gaps in its distribution despite suitable habitat. It occurs in northern Wyoming and Colorado, but nowhere in between. Such a ‘disjunct’ distribution suggests that Icegrass was more widespread in the past when the climate was colder, with tundra habitat at lower elevations. Under these conditions plants adapted to the tundra environment, were able to spread great distances across a landscape that is now mostly inhospitable for such species.

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This object selected by Dr Ken Marr and Dr Erica Wheeler.