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Flora of Switzerland

So much to see, so little time!

The World Wildlife Fund notes that the Alps are second only to the Mediterranean in Europe for plant diversity. About 360 are endemic, found only in the Alps and nowhere else in the world.

While we cannot cover the 13,000 plant species you may see, below are examples of species based on survival strategies they use to allow them to thrive in the harsh alpine conditions.


CUSHIONS AND MATS

Some plants above tree line are small and grow in the form of flat cushions, rosettes, or carpets to protect themselves from wind and resist the pressure of deep snow.

Swiss androsace (rock jasmine) anchors itself in rock crevices by using a long taproot that helps it draw in nutrients and water.

Moss campion grows in tight, moss-like cushions both in grassland and on scree.

Glacier crowfoot only grows in acidic soils and holds the high-altitude record for flowering plants.


THICK, WAXY LEAVES

Other plants rely on waxy leaves and stems which helps them deal with dry soil in summer and harsh, drying winds.

Alpine toadflax is a robust, waxy plant that grows on limestone or dolomite scree up to 9842 feet.

The pygmy buttercup opens its little yellow flowers in July or August. Its waxy green leaves and growth close to the ground protect it from the elements.

The cowberry has shiny, “leathery” leaves, with white flowers and red berries.


FUZZY, CURLED LEAVES

Fuzzy, curled leaves help plants gather moisture out of the air and keep it near the surface when the air dries out. Hairs on the underside of leaves can help prevent the loss of moisture during essential gas exchange and high winds. The curled shape helps further retain moisture.

Edelweiss was almost picked to extermination but still thrives at high altitude. The flowers are surrounded by large woolly, white bracts.

Haller’s ragwort has yellow flowers with soft, curled, fuzzy leaves that help it retain moisture in its rocky environs.


EVERGREEN FOLIAGE

Evergreen leaves help alpine plants grow rapidly during the growing season because they can photosynthesize as soon as temperatures rise above freezing.

Cembra pine, also known as the Swiss stone pine or arolla pine, is a five-needled pine and favors shady locations. Each tree only produces seeds every 6-10 years.

Norway spruce grow straight and fast and require very little light for germination and growth.

Larch pine, unlike other pines you will see, actually change colors throughout the seasons!
Hike Through Alpine Meadows on These Trips
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