Earth Matters

January Puzzler Answer: Ellesmere Island’s Oobloyah Valley

January 17th, 2014 by Adam Voiland


Congratulations to Dillion and Eric J.F. Kelijssen for solving the January Puzzler the fastest.  The answer is Oobloyah Valley on Canada’s Ellesmere Island. The image features four glaciersNukapingwa, Arklio, Perkeo, and Midgetflowing into the valley from the Krieger mountains to the north. At the end of each glacier, all of which are retreating, there are heaps of rock, gravel, and sand known as terminal moraines. As we explained in our Image of the Day on January 18, 2014, the moraines are of interest to ecologists because they offer an ideal natural laboratory for studying how plant species colonize recently exposed terrain.

One team of researchers led by Yokohama National University’s Akira S. Mori focused their search for Arctic plants on the moraine created by Arklio Glacier, the second to the left in the image above. (The Advanced Land Imager acquired this image of the glacier on June 19, 2012.) The moraine, which formed during the Little Ice Age, appears as a lobe-shaped bulge around the end of glacier. The light brown feature south of the moraine is a stream bed. The scientists found two dominant pioneer species living on the rocky, virtually soil-free moraine. The first is Epilobium latifolium, a flowering plant in the evening primrose family known as Dwarf fireweed. The second is Salix arctic, a type of creeping willow.

See Arklio’s terminal moraine and Epilobium latifolium (right) and Salix arctic (left) in the photographs below.


The snout of Arklio Glacier with its terminal moraine visible at the center of the image.  An earlier study of the area’s vegetation occurred at Moraine D. Image courtesy of Akiro Mori, Yokohama National University.


The dominant vascular pioneer plants that grow on Arklio Glacier’s moraine: Epilobium latifolium (right) and Salix arctica (left). Image courtesy of Akiro Mori, Yokohama National University.

6 Responses to “January Puzzler Answer: Ellesmere Island’s Oobloyah Valley”

  1. Carol Cullar says:

    Thought you might want to know that in the caption under the tandem picture of the plants above someone left the “l” out of epilobium. Enjoyed the article, though.

  2. John D says:

    Also in the caption, its Epilobium on the left, Salix on the right.

  3. Bob Taylor says:

    Referencing the photos of Epilobium and Salix, is there a possibility that the captions are reversed?? The right-hand pic looks more like Salix to me but I am not familiar with Arctic botany. Just asking…..

    Bob Taylor

  4. Susan Rogers says:

    The original labeling is correct. The fuzzy catkins in the right hand photo are indicative of Salix. Too bad the left hand photo does not show the fireweed in flower; it would be obvious not a willow. We have these species in Alaska also.

  5. ace says:

    reverse it round the other again