Observing Flora Near a Famous Norwegian Glacier

On a temperate afternoon last July, I arrived at a Norwegian National Park visitor center called the Breheimsenteret. Located in western Norway, the visitor center is often used as a meeting place for glacier walks, white water rafting, and glacial lake kayaking. Some visitors say that the exterior of the building resembles a giant Viking helmet, making it easy to spot. 

The Breheimsenteret is close in proximity to Jostedalsbreen, which is continental Europe’s largest glacier. Covering a total of 188 square miles, Jostedalsbreen is roughly 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. 

As I looked into the distance to the right of the visitor center, I noticed a steep mountain landscape featuring a magnificent, snaking portion of ice down its center. This piece of ice, or best-known as Nigardsbreen, is one of Jostedalsbreen’s most famous glacial arms. 

Nigardsbreen is easily accessible by car or on foot. There’s a narrow road, which begins near the visitor center and continues all the way near the glacier’s edge. 

On this sunny day, the stark contrast between the light-colored ice against the dark, grey-colored mountains and the green vegetation below was mesmerizing. At this moment, I decided I needed a closer view. I grabbed my camera and started walking.

The Road to Nigardsbreen 

Map lichen on a marble rock (Source: Maria Dombrov)

While walking along the road, I captured some images of the local flora. Because of my undergraduate degree in biology, I often take interest in understanding local ecosystems and species’ interactions. 

This particular mountain ecosystem has a lot to offer. To the left of the road, there’s lake Nigardsbrevatnet, and to the right, there’s a flourishing forest. As I walked along, I found a break in the trees and a short path that had full visibility of the glacier’s tongue. The tongue is the portion of the glacier that extends downward into the valley. 

A close up of Melancholy thistle (Source: Maria Dombrov)

During my short exploration of the mountain ecosystem, I came across an abundance of green-colored lichen growing on top of the rocks. Despite their simplistic appearance, lichen is the mutually beneficial relationship of a fungus and algae or cyanobacteria. 

While on the path, I stepped onto a small hill to get a few close-ups of Nigardsbreen. Cold winds were blowing from the glacier, making this vantage point particularly chilly.

I snapped a few photos, and then, I just stared at it for a bit. I was so used to seeing towering skyscrapers all around me in New York, but in this instance, I was fascinated by the change of scenery. 

Wild crowberries scattered in the landscape (Source: Maria Dombrov)

I also came across some wild crowberries growing along the rocks, which are edible berries. Crowberry shrubs can live up to 20 years and have the ability to grow in nutrient-poor locations. 

Additionally, I found colorful, flowering plants all over the place. Both melancholy thistle and goldenrod are native to Scandinavia. 

Sadly the closer I walked, the more I noticed how dirty the glacier appeared, which is often an indication of melting. 

Goldenrod along the road (Source: Maria Dombrov)

Now, it was time to rejoin society. I reached the car park at the end of the road.

Looking back on this experience, I’m thankful that I was able to see Nigardsbreen while it’s still easily visible from the road. And after this trip, I understand the added value in experiencing firsthand what I read and study. 

This post is the final in a series of posts about firsthand experiences visiting Norwegian glaciers, famous fjords, and well-known hiking destinations. Thanks for reading. 


Additional Reading on GlacierHub:

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Warming Rivers Are Causing Die-Offs Among Alaska Salmon