Green is a rare colour in Antarctica as moss can only grow where there is fresh water and soil. But one kind of vegetation survives on bare rock alone. Lichens can dissolve rock and extract nutrients from it. But that takes a very long time, especially at low temperature. A tiny lichen forest may have taken centuries to reach that size. In the whole of Antarctica, only two species of flowering plant have been found in the far south of the continent. Further south than that, only tiny lichens exist. Some of the lichens grow within 200 miles of the pole. The commonest organism in Antarctica is not a lichen but a plant - an alga. It lives in the snow and turns great areas of the snow bright pink. In summer the melting snow releases the algae into the sea.
Available since: Thu 6 Oct 2011