The goal of this web site

is to present a complete flora with excellent photo documentation of the plant species in the Archipelago of Svalbard. Unlike the printed format, the web interface is dynamic, and allows a gradual publishing of information as the work with the flora continues. At this stage, the work is far from complete. The work started in spring 2007, and shortly after that, pages for all the species with an updated nomenclature and a record map were ready. Photos have been published steadily since then, and numerous photos will be added, until all species are thoroughly illustrated. The work with text descriptions of the species will continue into 2015.

A lot of information regarding Svalbard plants is already available in books. The first flora was published by the legendary botanist and environmental protector Hanna Resvoll Holmsen in 1927 (Svalbards flora: med endel om dens plantevekst i nutid og fortid – The flora of Svalbard: and some of its vegetation in the present and the past ). The most important contributions from more recent times are “Svalbards flora (The flora of Svalbard)” written by Olaf I. Rønning in 1979, and the sixth and seventh edition of “Norsk Flora (The Norwegian Flora)” by Reidar Elven. The latter was published in 1994 and 2005 respectively and is a large book covering the entire flora of Norway, including Svalbard and Jan Mayen. The seventh edition also presents new systematic information, and an updated Latin nomenclature is included.

As Svalbard is an isolated archipelago in the Northern Arctic, and has as many as 165 species of vascular plants, it deserves its own printed flora. The last edition of Rønning’s book came in 1996, but with very few changes from the first edition. The nomenclature is outdated, and new species and locations for rare species have been discovered. Hence, there is a need for a new printed flora reflecting the results from modern taxonomic research and discoveries of new species and distribution patterns. When this web flora is complete, there is therefore an ambition to make it available as an illustrated book.

Tourists, as well as researchers within many fields are visiting Svalbard as never before, and the activity seems to be still increasing. There are obviously not only scientists interested in Svalbard plants, but also other people with a wide range of backgrounds. The flora is, therefore, attempting to address the interests of professional botanists as well as people having a more “hobby-based” approach to plants. On request from Norwegian educational institutions, the texts have also been translated the flora into Norwegian. 

  1. Photos

Colour photos have been chosen as the main illustration form. In other professional floras, the illustrations are usually high quality drawings. The technological development of cameras and photo editing tools has, however, made it possible to use photos as illustrations even for micro characters, and with a rather limited budget. The web site has at least three pictures of each species; a close up, the whole specimen, and the appearance of the species in a natural habitat. If necessary for identification, there has also been made an effort to illustrate micro characters or other typical features by including a number of high quality macro photos.

  1. Species distribution

The flora of the main island, Spitsbergen, is quite well known. Especially the interior parts around Isfjorden and the valleys north of Van Mijen fjorden are well documented. The areas surrounding Ny-Ålesund on the west coast are also systematically mapped. However, from the vast areas on the west, north and especially the east coast of Spitsbergen, there are only scattered observations. The big islands of Edgeøya and Barentsøya east of Spitsbergen are poorly mapped. This is also the case for the northernmost one of the big islands, Nordaustlandet, although there are quite good records from some fiords on the northwest coast of this island. Hence, our knowledge of the distribution of species in the total archipelago is not complete. New species have been discovered as late as in 2002, and new populations of rare species are regularly encountered.

The web site contains record maps of the vascular plants native in Svalbard and also maps for some introduced species that seem to have established populations. It must be pointed out that this is not the same as the true distribution of the species.

The distribution data are compiled from various sources. Most important are the herbaria of the University Museums in Oslo, Tromsø, Trondheim and Bergen. Other data sources are field notes recorded during several surveys carried out in Spitsbergen and Prins Karls Forland. It is evident that more data are available. We hope this web-page will encourage to submission of data.  

Data sources for species records:


  • Museum of Natural History (Oslo)
  • Tromsø University Museum
  • Museum of Natural History and Archaeology (Trondheim)
  • Bergen Museum


Fieldnotes and other data compilations:

  • Arve Elvebakk 1989 - Termophilous species in Svalbard - Unpublished dissertation for the Dr. scient degree. This dissertation contains a rather complete dataset of the most thermophilous species in Svalbard. The data are gathered from the Norwegian University Museums but also older publications and Museums abroad. We have extracted the data not covered by other primary sources included in this project.
  • Arve Elvebakk and Ingvar Brattbakk 1988 - Mapping around Kongsfjorden and Brøggerhalvøya at the west coast of Spitsbergen. The data are georeferenced to MGRS square kilometer grids.
  • Arve Elvebakk and Eli Robertsen 1994 - Mapping of the northermost part of Prins Karls Forland. The data are georeferenced to MGRS square kilometer grids.
  • Arve Elvebakk, Jarle Werner Bjerke, Ellen Elverland, Lennart Nilsen, Daniel Joly 2001 and 2002 - Mapping of the flora around Inner Wijdefjorden.
  • Arve Elvebakk 1988 - Mapping of Agardhdalen on the east coast of Spitsbergen. The data are georeferenced to MGRS square kilometer grids.
  • Torstein Engelskjøn 1983 - Mapping of Bear Island
  • Torstein Engelskjøn 1985 - Mapping of Gipsdalen in the interior part of Isfjorden
  • Torstein Engelskjøn 1985-1986 - Mapping of Reindalen north of Van Mijenfjorden.
  • Torstein Engelskjøn 1986 - Mapping of middle and upper Adventdalen in the interior part of Isfjorden.
  • Torstein Engelskjøn 1986 - Mapping of Berzeliusdalen north of Van Mijenfjorden.
  • Torstein Engelskjøn 1987 - Mapping of Eskerdalen in the interior of Spitsbergen Island.
  • The Botanical society of Northern Norway 2002 - Mapping of the eastern side of Colesdalen, south of Isfjorden.


Plant names

The Latin names used in this flora are according to the PanArctic-Flora (PAF) project. PAF represents the most recent and comprehensive taxonomic revision of the arctic flora, and is carried out by experts from all arctic nations. Hence, Latin names in this flora often deviate from the names used in previous floras and check lists of vascular plants in Svalbard. Synonyms are provided in order to help readers comparing with older floras. Norwegian names are also given for each species as well as English and German names.  

Would you like to contribute to “The flora of Svalbard”?

During the work with this flora, three kinds of data are collected. It is literature regarding the flora of Svalbard, observation records, and photos. If you possess unique data, which you would like to share on this web site, you are welcome to send us an e-mail. Pictures must be of high quality to be published on our web site. Unfortunately, no reward will be paid, as this is a low-budget project. We especially need good photos of grasses and sedges, as these species are rarely photographed, and there is a poor material to choose from. A close-up photo of the flower/fruit stand, a full portrait and a habitat photo are usually a complete set for illustrating one species. In difficult groups, such as Draba, Potentilla, Carex, and the grass family (Poaceae) additional high quality macro photos of the species characters are usually required.