The tundra habitat that occupies the entire summit of Pink Mountain is a harsh and difficult place for plants to survive. A short growing season, freezing temperatures at any time during the growing season, a fast draining gravel substrate that makes lack of moisture a problem, a constant wind that abrades and desiccates plant tissue and few and ineffective pollinators all combine to frustrate plant growth – yet plants thrive. To do this tundra plants have evolved numerous adaptations that allow them to cope with the harsh conditions.
Yet there are plants on the Pink Mountain summit that do not have such adaptations. These are plants that are normally found in more benign habitats at lower elevations. They shouldn’t be on the summit - but they are. Why? Pink Mountain somehow provides such a wide range of environmental conditions that both true alpines and also subalpine plants can survive there.
Pink Mountain is a very special place
The One Leaved Rein Orchid (above) and the following species are described as growing in wetland habitats. There are no wetlands on Pink Mountain yet these two Orchids find niches that allow them to survive. This may be a clue to the extreme biodiversity of Pink Mountain - the wide variety of microhabitats that it provides.
In British Columbia Orchids are not known to grow in a tundra habitat. Frog Orchid is not only infrequent in BC but on Pink Mountain it is growing in a previously unknown habitat.
Corallorhiza trifida - Pale Coralroot.
This Orchid is widespread in BC but is not recorded as growing on tundra.
Epilobium latifolium - Alpine Fireweed
Alpine Fireweed normally grows in the Mountains not on the mountains. Its usual habitat is along rivers in wet valley bottoms not on fast drying tundra.
Zigadenus elegans - Elegant Death Camas
This Lily is found in the rich, moist soil of the subalpine zone. To find it growing on tundra is unusual.
Veratrum vitide - False Helellebore
This plant is normaly found in the protected subalpine zone. On PM it grows on the exposed tundra.A july 2013 hailstorm wiped out the entire population on the summit of Pink Mountain. This is an example of the tenuous existance of plants that are not adapted to the harsh conditions of the tundra. In 2015 a few plants were strugggling back and will eventually re-establish the summit population.