More Icelandic Pinks

In addition to the Silene species I posted about two days ago, I found three other members of the Caryophyllaceae… I think. There are two Cerastium species in Iceland that are difficult to distinguish from each other, and my photos don’t show quite enough detail. I’m fairly certain that what I found are not any of the other Icelandic Cerastiums.


Cerastium alpinum
alpine mouse-ear
Icelandic: músareyra
(literally translated: mouse ear)

seen at Húsafell


Cerastium nigrescens or C. arcticum…maybe
arctic mouse-ear
Icelandic: fjallafræhyma

seen at Sólheimajökull


With this species I’m in a taxonomic rabbit hole. If it’s fjallafræhyma and not another músareyra, then what is the correct binomial name? It’s either the one above, or C. nigrescens var. laxum, or C. arcticum. The Integrated Taxonomic Information System does not accept C. nigrescens var. laxum, yet that name shows up in a lot of sources. Other sources seem to conflate C. nigrescens and C. arcticum. The Flora of Svalbard website has a good discussion about the names and ID of Cerastium species.

Whatever it’s called, It looks like this species is found in sub-arctic Europe and North America. C. alpinum has a similar range.

field chickweed 2


For comparison, here’s a Cerastium species found in the Maryland Piedmont, C. arvense (field chickweed). —>





Arenaria norvegica
arctic sandwort
Icelandic: skeggsandi

seen at Sólheimajökull


Closely related to the mouse-ears are the sandworts. There are 60 some species worldwide, about 20 of which (but not this one) occur in North America. There is only one Arenaria species found in Maryland, and it’s an alien. This species appears to be restricted to Fennoscandia and Iceland. I love how this single plant was growing out of the rocks just beyond the end of the snout of a glacier.

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