Included here is a zone that extends from Norway to the northern Urals. Its southern boundary includes all but the southern tips of Norway and Finland, while in Russia it falls just short of the River Volga. In the north it includes all of the Norwegian islands within the Arctic Circle and in Russia it runs just north of the Arctic Circle.

Northern European Taiga

Widely know as taiga, these are is the dark, coniferous forest of the Boreal Zone. Dominated by Picea abies (Norway spruce) and Pinus sylvestris (Scotts pine) it covers approximately one third of Europe. Common broad-leaved trees include Alnus incana, Betula pubesces, and Sorbus aucuparia although these tend to be confined to the damper areas. Typical shrub layer species include Rubus chamaemorus, Vaccinium myrtillus and V. vitis-idaea. Moss and field layers are often rich with typical vascular plants including Calamagrostis purpurea, Listera cordata, Maianthemum bifolium, Melampyrum sylvaticum, Moneses uniflora, Orthilia secunda and Trientalis europaea. The European endemic species Hepatica nobilis (Ranunculaceae) may also be present. Several interesting pteridophytes may also be present such as the horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum, the clubmoss Diphasiastrum complanatum and the fern Dryopteris assimilis.

Northern European Boreal Birch Forest

These are largely characterized by downy birch Betula pubescens. The shrub layer species vary but usually include Emperum nigrum and Vaccinium myrtillus in the more acidic areas, and Daphne mezereum, Ribes spicatum and a northern form of bird cherry Prunus padus in the less acidic areas. The field layer also varies with Melampyrum pratense, M sylvaticum, Potentilla erecta and Solidago virgaurea in acidic conditions and with increasing wetness species such as Cornus suecica, Geranium sylvaticum, Omalotheca norvegica, Trollius europaeus and Viola biflora become more conspicuous. Lush field layers are only found where conditions are calcareous. Here species such as Aconitum sepentrionale, Cicurbita alpine, Milium effusum, Polygonatum verticillatum and the European endemic Corydalis intermedia (Fumariaceae) may be encountered.

Northern European Boreal Alder Woodland

These woodlands or carrs are largely dominated by Alnus incana, but Alnus glutinosa may also be present. They fringe the Bothnian coastline and spread inland along river valleys into adjacent mountainous areas. Shrub layer species may include Ribes spicatum and there is often a rich field layer of herbaceous species such as Caltha palustris, Campanula latifolia, Cardamine amara, Gagea lutea, Paris quadrifolia, Peucedanum palustre, Ranunculus auricomus and the European endemic Glycera lithuanica (Poaceae). Among the more interesting pteridophytes are the horsetail Equisetum pratense and the fern Matteuccia struthiopteris.


Dahl, E. 1998. The Phytogeography of Northern Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Polunin, O. & Walters, M. 1985. A guide to the vegetation of Britain and Europe. Oxford University Press.

Ratcliffe, D. 2005. Lapland: A Natural History. T & A D Poyser.

Szafer, W. 1966. The Vegetation of Poland. Pergamon Press.