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Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden

Part of the rock landscapes (photo: Arve Elvebakk).

Compared to most other botanic gardens, ours is small (c. 2 hectares), young (opened in 1994) and has a small staff (three permanent positions).

This is compensated for by focusing on a distinct profile. The Garden is therefore very different from other gardens, which probably explains evaluations like in the large BBC series from 2008 , or like in 2013:

‘a fantastic experience…., a wonderful experience’.
King Carl Gustaf of Sweden in an official speach after a visit on 19 June 2013

 ‘This is not only beautiful, but unreal and amazingly beautiful… 10-year old girl visiting with her class, on 17 June 2013

Both the Kings and Queens of Norway and Sweden (here jioned by the garden’s curator and the University rector) were fascinated by the Garden during an official visit in 2013. Maybe you too will find something of interest? Photo: Mari Karlstad

‘Large rocks and small plants’ is a valid motto for most parts of the Garden. Instead of park landscapes, the Garden is dominated by rocky hills simulating nature in the Arctic or in mountainous areas, including the plants. The boulders have a patina of lichens and mosses, making them look natural. Boulders also need to be large to serve construction purposes.

And, equally important: hills create warm, southern slopes – where we grow plants from Africa, Chile and Turkey. Contrasting cool, north-facing slopes are only 10 m away on the opposite side. That is where you can find snow bed species from Svalbard.

Not only the Garden, but the whole Tromsø area, might appear exotic to a visitor on a summer day and a bright summer night with midnight sun. In spite of the light, however, Tromsø is not within the Arctic. Mild ocean currents produce a climate supporting boreal birch forests up to altitudes of 400m.

On average, the city has a snow-cover duration of 7 months, which is perfect for Arctic and alpine plants. A cool and moist summer (mean July daily temperature is 11.9 oC) is also favourable. Actually, Tromsø is on the warmer side for most of the plant species in this garden!


Spring! The saxifrage Saxifraga lowndesii from Nepal is often the first plant to flower in the Garden (photo: A.E.)
Summer! The blue poppy Meconopsis ‘Lingholm’, a character species of the Garden, flowering from late part of June and onwards. (photo: Arve Elvebakk).


Autumn! A garden form of a gentian (Gentiana ‘Silken Skies’) on a frosty September day (photo: Martin Hjaman).
Late autumn! Giant cowslip (Primula florindae) in the spray zone of the garden’s water-fall after the first frosty night in October 2007 (photo: Martin Hajman).

Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden is open throughout the year. There are no fences nor gates, and entrance is free of charge.

The flowering season normally starts during the first days of May, while there is still quite a bit of snow in depressions of the Garden. At this time, the purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) and its relatives, as well as yellow cushion plants (whitlow grasses/Draba), pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla) and various bulbs dominate.

Flowering continues until snow arrives, normally some time into October. Some gentian species continue flowering even after a couple of weeks of October snow.  The autumn sees even beautiful colours, such as the pink or white berries of shrubby rowan (Sorbus) species contrasting their reddish foliage.

The new rock landscapes and surrounding evergreen shrubs are attractive even during the peak of winter. However, if the snow cover is deep, you will have to bring your skis. So did we on 8 April 2013, when the general snow cover was c. 1.5 m deep! See the video ‘Skiing in the Botanic Garden.


The Collections

The Garden includes 25 collections, including a recently initiated peonarium. Most of them have impressive selections of species, which you would have to do much searching for to find elsewhere.

Our Arctic collection forms a centre around the tallest hill. Himalaya and South America are also large ones. The Garden even has a separate African collection, including plants that survive a Tromsø winter without protection.

Some collections are defined systematically according to plant families, and those of saxifrages, primulas and gentians are particularly rich in species.

A large North Norwegian Tradition Garden is located above the red building including almost 700 plants brought in from old gardens of North Norway.

To read more about each collection



Ansvarlig for siden: Arve Elvebakk
Sist endret: 04.07.2013

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