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Identifying the Colours of Alpine Flora

The vibrant alpine flora that carpets the Swiss Alps every summer provides a profusion of colour unmatched anywhere else in the world.

The vibrant alpine flora that carpets the low lying meadows and high altitudes of the Swiss Alps every summer provides a profusion of colour unmatched anywhere else in the world. Spread over a landscape of changing altitudes, variations in sun exposure and wildly different vegetation, the many species of alpine flora come in a magnificent array of yellow, blue, purple, pink and white blossoms.

Yellow Blooms

There are many species of alpine flora across a number of families that feature cheerful yellow-hued blooms, including buttercup, gentian, primrose, daisy and rose. Some of the more common ones that may be encountered are the Chamois Ragwort (Senecio doronicum) and the Golden Hawksbeard (Crepis jaquinii).

While it is a colour generally associated with positivity, some yellow alpine flora is actually dangerous to humans, including Wolfsbane (Aconitum), Globeflower (Trollius) and Arnica (Arnica montana).†

Blue Blooms

The blue flowers of the Alps generally fall into the bellflower, gentian or (less commonly) buttercup families. The blue gentians found in the Swiss Alps are all protected species and include Koch's, Trumpet and Spring Gentian.

There are more than 50 species of bellflower in the Alps but one of the most common is the Fairy's Thimble (Campanula cochleariifolia), which is a delightful delicate shade of blue. The protected high altitude Alpine Clematis (Clematis alpina) is a bell-shaped blue flower that belongs to the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family.

Pink Blooms

Ranging from deep fuchsia to pale baby pink, most pink-hued alpine flora belongs to the rhododendron, heather or primrose families. The common but very beautiful Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum) belongs to the rhododendron family, while the Alpine Rock Jasmine (Androsace alpina)†is one of the primroses.

Other common pink alpine flowers found in the Swiss Alps are (contrary to its name) Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia), Spring Heath (Erica carnea), Mountain Houseleek (Sempervivum), Sowbread (Cyclamen hederifolium), Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) and Mountain Thrift (Armeria maritima).

Purple Blooms

These hues cover the gamut from vibrant violet to pale lilac and deep purple. They come from the primrose and gentian families and include species like the Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella alpina), German Gentian, Spring Gentian, Alpine Toadflax (Linaria alpina) and Sticky Primrose (Primula†vulgaris).

The Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla) and Common Monkshood (Aconitum) are both beautiful shades of purple, but caution is needed as they are poisonous to humans.

White Blooms

The lovely white Edelweiss is not just the Swiss national flower, it's possibly the best-known of all the alpine flora thanks to The Sound of Music. Other white blossoms include those from the buttercup family and also some roses like the Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala).†

Scheuchzer's Cotton Sedge (Eriophorum scheuchzeri) has a unique flower that resembles a fluffy white cotton ball, while Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga bryoides) and Swiss Rock Jasmine (Androsace helvetica) can also both be snowy white.

For botany enthusiastsHealth Fitness Articles, encountering the huge array and colour spectrum of alpine flora species in their full glory is an experience beyond compare.

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Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in alpine flora. As a passionate lover of botany, Marissa chooses the expert-led flower tours organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable encounters with a wide range of plant species in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.

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