The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum welcomes summer this year with a beautiful new exhibit “Blossoming Tundra: The Photography of Rutherford Platt,” on view in the foyer of Hubbard Hall from June 12 through October 1, 2018.
You may think of the Arctic as a barren wasteland, but plant life abounds. As soon as the snow melts flowers begin to bloom, taking advantage of round-the-clock sunlight to compensate for the brief summer season. Northern plants are small, often only a few inches high, but what they lack in size they make up for in beauty.
In 1947 botanist and photographer Rutherford Platt sailed on the Schooner Bowdoin to photograph northern plant life from Labrador to northern Greenland. On board the ship he had an elaborate macrophotography setup to capture stunning close-up images of tiny flowers, which he used to illustrate some of the amazing adaptations plants have made to the extreme northern environment. His images appeared in an article in Scientific American and in some of his many books on plants.
Maine hikers and gardeners may recognize some of the plants Platt photographed. A few Arctic species, such as pincushion plant, can be found at high altitudes in New England, while others are closely related to familiar garden plants. Lapland rosebay, for example, is a tiny relative of the large rhododendrons that are a familiar sight in Maine gardens. Others are less familiar, but equally beautiful.