Despite its low average temperatures, the tundra biome is home to a handful of producers, including grasses, sedges, liverworts and low-growing shrubs. In total, botanists recognize over 1,700 vascular plant species living in the tundra. Additionally, many species of algae, moss and lichen live in the tundra.
Scientists recognize two different types of tundra: alpine and arctic. Alpine tundras are located at high elevations in mountains around the world, while arctic tundras blanket the northern tip of North America and Asia, as well as some parts of Europe. Characterized by low year-round temperatures and relatively little precipitation, tundras are bleak habitats for much of the year. However, in the brief spring and summer, meadows and fields harbor a carpet of lush vegetation and small flowers. Because tundras are cold for most of the year, the ground is frozen all year long – only the upper most levels of soil thaw in the spring and summer. This temporarily creates numerous bogs and small ponds across the landscape.
To survive these inhospitable conditions, native tundra plants have evolved a number of common adaptations. For example, most tundra plants have shallow root systems, as the permafrost limits the depths to which they can penetrate. To compensate with the low light levels, tundra plants have developed the ability to use very little light when photosynthesizing food. Tundra plants usually feature very simple designs, and they must be very efficient to secure resources from these relatively unproductive habitats.