When you picture the state of Alaska, you likely imagine freezing snowscapes and barren tundra. However, you might be surprised to find that there are more than a few plant species in Alaska, and a number of animal species. The vegetation in Alaska varies drastically, from towering evergreen trees to dainty forget-me-nots. Animal species in Alaska are equally varied, on land and in the ocean!
Plant Species in Alaska
Alaska has a wide variety of vegetation. The massive state is home to a number of different species of trees, flowers, shrubs and more. You can even find a very unique type of "plant" in Alaska, known as a lichen.
- Trees: Trees make up one of the most striking plant species in Alaska for their sheer size and visibility. The tallest tree species in Alaska, the Sitka spruce, towers over other tree species at a maximum height of 225 feet tall. White spruce and black spruce also commonly grow in Alaskan forests. Other types of trees include hemlock, aspen, birch and pine.
- Flowers: Flowering plants thrive during the short summer season in Alaska, and a number of different flowers and berries provide food for animals. Flower species include the aforementioned forget-me-not, as well as monkey flower, pond lily, thimbleberry, beach pea, Nootka lupine and more. Berry plant species in Alaska include the bright red salmonberry, nagoonberry (a relative of the raspberry), Alaska blueberry, red currant, highbush cranberry and more. However, flowers and berries aren't the only plants that native wildlife rely on for their survival.
- Lichens: You can't discuss plants and animals in Alaska without mentioning the lichen - although, technically, lichens are not plants! In fact, lichens aren't even a single organism. Instead, these unique plant-like lifeforms consist of two symbiotic organisms existing together, usually fungi and algae. Many different species of lichen grow in Alaska, including the gray reindeer lichen. This species is so named because it's one of the most important food sources for Alaskan reindeer during the desolate winter months.
Animal Species in Alaska
It might be common knowledge that Alaska is home to bears, wolves and reindeer, but did you know that many more animals call Alaska home? That includes small mammals, marine mammals, birds and a few reptiles and amphibians as well!
- Land mammals: Tackle the classic megafauna first - the bears, wolves and other large mammals that you know and love. Three different bear species live in Alaska: the polar bear, black bear and brown bear. The wolf, coyote and wolverine are other large predators that call Alaska home. In addition to large predatory species, a number of hoofed mammals live throughout Alaska, including bison, moose, elk, reindeer, caribou and deer. You can also find mountain goats and Dall sheep as well. A number of smaller mammals live in Alaska and tend to get less notoriety than the larger species above, such as beavers, ermines, bats, lemmings, hares, otters, minks, pikas and porcupines.
- Marine mammals: Though not what you think of when you picture Alaskan wildlife, a number of marine mammals live in the nutrient-rich waters surrounding Alaska. Seals, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, walrus and many species of whales all live in Alaskan waters. A whopping 14 different species of whales can be found off the coast of Alaska!
- Birds, reptiles and amphibians: Many different types and species of birds live or migrate to Alaska throughout the year. You can find swans, cranes, sparrows, ravens, crows, ptarmigans, plovers, owls, eagles, grouse, albatross, goose and many other birds in Alaska at various times of the year. Very few reptiles make their home in Alaska. You cannot find any terrestrial, or land-dwelling, reptiles in the state. Instead, four different species of sea turtle can be found off the coasts of Alaska. Despite the lack of terrestrial reptiles, several amphibians live in the state, including salamanders, newts, frogs and toads.
About the Author
Marina Somma is a freelance writer and animal trainer. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology & Policy from Monmouth University. Marina has worked with a number of publications involving animal science, behavior and training, including animals.net, SmallDogsAcademy and more.
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