Alpine Flowers of Switzerland
Swiss Alpine Flowers—The Jewels of the Alps
Swiss Alpine flowers in full bloom are one of the loveliest sights you can see in the Alps mountain range. The best time to see the Alpine flowers of Switzerland is in early and mid-summer, when bright blossoms will surround you in the meadows and high rocky ground of the Alps mountains.
A short ramble up any mountainside at this time of year will reveal many different Swiss mountain flowers, including all kinds of primroses, heathers, gentians, daisies, bellflowers and buttercups. As you go higher, passing through the treeline and up to rocky paths and glacier lakes, you have the chance to see rarer flower species that thrive away from populated areas.
I was once lucky enough to spend a whole summer in the Swiss Alps. A few years ago, I returned to Switzerland, staying in Zermatt—a little town high in the Alps close to Switzerland's border with Italy. I share with you here some of the Swiss alpine flowers that I encountered during that visit.
Caution: Endangered and Poisonous Flowers
Many Swiss alpine flowers are protected and several are endangered.
While it might be tempting to gather up a pretty bunch while out walking, please don't. In the delicate ecosystem of the Alps, every flower does count. If you want a souvenir—take a photo.
Besides, some of these flowers are also poisonous (a few highly poisonous).
Violet Flowers: Shades From Pale Lilac to Deep Purple
Violet coloured alpine flowers include the pretty aster, which I saw on my first nature walk in Zermatt. You might also see violet colored primroses (Sticky Primrose, Alpine Snowbell). The endangered German Gentian is also a striking violet shade, quite different from the vivid blue Spring Gentian pictured further below. Higher up in rocky areas, you may find Alpine Toadflax.
Some of the deep purple flowers are poisonous, including Common Monkshood and the Pasque Flower. I did not encounter these.
Yellow Flowers: Sunshine at Your Feet!
You can find yellow flowers from the daisy, rose, primrose, gentian and buttercup families in the Alps. I came across the sunny Chamois Ragwort (pictured above) and also encountered another member of the daisy family, the Golden Hawksbeard, on high rocky ground.
Arnica is quite a widespread and innocent looking flower that is in fact poisonous, as is the pretty Globeflower. Less attractive but even more poisonous is Wolfsbane—I didn't see these flowers during my own walks but it serves as another reminder not to pick Swiss alpine flowers, or indeed mountain flowers anywhere in the Alps of Europe.
Now you'll never be stumped about a flower, just look it over in this beautiful guide for a quick identification. How about growing these lovely alpines in your own garden? This is the book to find out how.
Blue Flowers: Gentians, Bellflowers, and Buttercups
Most blue flowers you will see in the Swiss Alps will belong to either the gentian or the bellflower family. Gentians, such as the Spring Gentian (pictured), are all protected. Although the Spring Gentian has separated petals, other gentians resemble trumpets and bells. I discovered Trumpet Gentians in the mountains around Zermatt.
All varieties of bellflower in the Alps live up to their name by resembling hanging bells. I saw the common but lovely Fairy's Thimble bellflower during my mountain walk.
One blue flower I didn't see was the protected Alpine Clematis, which belongs to the buttercup family.
Pale and Deep Pink Alpine Flowers
Many of the pink alpines belong to either the primrose or the heather family. The protected Alpine Rock Jasmine (upper picture) is a type of primrose. I found it at 3103 metres (1.9 miles) above sea level on rocky ground, where snow still lay at the height of summer. Purple Saxifrage (lower picture) is also pink, despite the name, and likewise was found on high rocky ground.
The famous Alpenrose which gives its names to countless hotels is a deep pink rhododendron. Other pink flowers you might see include Moss Campion, Mountain Thrift, Sowbread (a type of cyclamen), Mountain Houseleek, and Spring Heath. As with other colors, most pink alpine flowers are protected. A couple are poisonous.
Delicate White Blooms: From Edelweiss to Christmas Rose
Some of the prettiest flowers in the European Alps are white, including the famous Edelweiss, which is the national flower of Switzerland—though forever linked with Austria for viewers of The Sound of Music! The Christmas Rose is one of several white alpine buttercup varieties, whereas the Mountain Avens is a true rose.
There are two white varieties of saxifrage - Mossy Saxifrage is pictured and was found on high rocky ground. Swiss Rock Jasmine (seen earlier in pink) can also be pure white.
The curiously named Scheuchzer's Cotton Sedge is found beside water. That pictured was growing beside the Riffelsee alpine lake, high in the mountains above Zermatt.
Red Flowers in the Swiss Alps: An Unusual Sight
Unless you count the cheerful geraniums displayed on every chalet balcony, you might have to look long and hard to see a true red flower in the Swiss Alps.
I was lucky enough to spy the rarely-seen (and wonderfully named!) Black Vanilla Orchid in high grassland. Perfectly matching the black and red theme was a visiting Burnet Moth!
Another Book for Lovers of Switzerland's Natural Beauty
Switzerland is one of the country's most loved and admired countries. From sparkling glacier lakes to mountain meadows and snow-capped peaks, it's packed with natural beauty. Find out more about the natural wonders that Switzerland offers in Quest for the Sublime: Finding Nature's Secret in Switzerland.
Some Beautiful European Alps Flower Photography
© 2009 Indigo Janson