Answer: There is an island called Nova Zembla far up in the North Sea and the name sounds like a derivative of the Russian for "new land". This island became famous in the late 16th century when new trade routes were sought heading northeast along the Russian coast and an exploratory group was forced to camp there for the winter; the maps had until then only been drawn as far as Nova Zembla. Knowing that, I would surmise the name was chosen to reflect the relatively extreme or ground breaking cold hardiness of the plant. It also sounds lovely, doesn't it.
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