Solar Collectors: Turn Up The Heat!

Many tundra plants have the special ability to warm themselves up using solar energy. Imagine the benefit of being substantially warmer than the air around you! Warmer temperatures allow tundra plants to grow faster and gives them a better chance of successfully producing seeds during the short growing season.

When you are up on the tundra see how much warmer you feel if you sit facing the sun compared to sitting in the shade!

Do you recognize the white, cold stuff these flowers are growing out of? It's snow! These Snow Buttercups melt their way through the thin edge of snowfields to get a head start on their competitors. Once open, their blossoms face the sun to heat up as much as 10°F warmer than the air around them. This creates an inviting place for pollinating insects to visit.

 

Remember the fuzzy Old Man of the Mountain? The flowers face east to warm up in the morning sunlight after each chilly night.

 

The alpine Avens is one of the most common flowers of Colorado's alpine tundra. One of the reasons for its success is a special chemical in its leaves that helps to keep them from freezing and soaks up extra solar energy to warm the plant up.

Next: Seek Shelter!