Maps are presented showing the recorded distribution and species density of terrestrial plants in the Vestfold Hills. The distribution, biomass and species diversity of terrestrial lithic algae, mosses and lichens is influenced positively by availability of meltwater from drift snow and by additional nutrient supply (probably N and P) near bird nest sites. The terrestrial plants are affected negatively by exposure (including sand blast) and salinity. These four factors are probably the most important environmental characteristics exercising local control over plant distribution and abundance within the limits set by temperature. Large changes in salinity, degree of exposure, water supply and nutrient supply occur across the Vestfold Hills, with the most favourable conditions generally occurring in the eastern half fairly close to the ice sheet. Plant distribution and abundance are also discussed in relation to the length of time that particular areas have been exposed as a result of ice retreat. With increasing time of exposure, plant diversity and abundance rise but subsequently fall sharply as conditions become more arid, saline, or both. This temporal sequence can be explained by considering changes in the important factors that control plant growth.