A historic photograph showing the construction of the expedition house used by the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition.

How It Works – Test Your Skills as an Arctic Botanist

Click on the Options button and select Play! The game will present you with photographs of herbarium specimens taken from Ellesmere Island that are deposited at the University of Calgary Herbarium (UAC). Your job is to place them into five groups based on certain morphological characteristics.

  1. Look at the examples of the five groups. Click on the arrow key to the right to move between groups.

  2. Note their flower shapes, their leaf shapes, and their fruit shapes. It will be difficult to see all of these features in every specimen, but you should be able to see generally how the plants are similar or different from one another.

  3. Use your observations of these similarities and differences to drag and drop each example into its appropriate group (move the specimen around the group name until a white dotted box appears). If you can’t place them, go back and look at the description for each group, or drag the magnifying glass over top of the specimen for a closer look.

If you place the plant in the right folder, you will receive a "Perfect" checkmark.

If you get it wrong, take some more observations, and then try placing the specimen into another group.

You can always return to the description to study the important features of the group. The table below gives you clues of what characters are useful to group our Ellesmere Island plants.

Taxon description

TaxonCharacter descriptions SpeciesHint
Asteraceae (Aster Family) Many flowers clustered in a head. Two types of flowers: ray flowers (look like petals, at the edge of the cluster) and tube flowers (small without rays, found towards the center of the cluster). Arnica alpine Erigeron compositus Erigeron eriocephalus (point out narrow ray flowers) Look for ray and tube flowers.
Poaceae (Grass Family) Small flowers (either single or several) enclosed by scale-like bracts. The flowers lack petals. These florets may be clustered together as a spike or open and spreading as a panicle. The leaves are long and narrow with parallel veins.   Agropyron violaceum Arctogrostis latifolia Deschampsia brevifolia Poa alpine Poa arctica Look for long narrow leaves.
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family) Regular shaped flowers 4 petals; 6 stamens (4 tall and 2 short). The fruit are either elongate or round shaped capsules.   Cardamine bellidifolia Cardamine pratensis Draba alpine Draba fladnizansis Lesquerella arctica Look for linear or rounded fruit.
Genus Pedicularis Irregularly shaped flower. Top petal curves and looks like a hood. Leaves dissected twice, looks like a feather.   Pedicularis arctica Pedicularis capitata Pedicularis hirsute Pedicularis lanata Pedicularis lapponica (CM) Look for hooded flower and feathered leaf.