Thrift or Sea or Pink, Take Your Pick


Armeria maritima
several common names combining the words “thrift”, “pink”, and “sea”, eg sea thrift, sea pink,
and thrift seapink (really!)
Icelandic: geldingahnappur

Worldwide there are about 17 species of Armeria, more if you count subspecies. Most are native to the Mediterranean, but this one can be found in coastal areas around Europe (above 50 degrees latitude) and North America. In Iceland it can be found just about everywhere. I saw it on Mt. Esja, in Akureyri, growing out of a stone wall in the town of Borgarnes, growing on gravel at Húsafell, and even perched on a cliff on the Snæfellsnes peninsula:

It’s a low-growing evergreen, but otherwise unremarkable as a plant, looking rather like a clump of grass. In bloom the flowers are clustered atop stems that rise well above the foliage.


Annoyingly the common name “thrift” is applied to several similar looking plants that are quite different species – in different families, even. Wondering why a plant would be called “thrift”, I spent some time researching, but came up with nothing, other than the English word comes from the Old Norse “thrīfask”, meaning “to thrive”. Gardeners use the word “thrifty” to describe a plant that’s growing the way it’s supposed to. Is this plant always thrifty? Or maybe this plant thrives wherever it grows? If you know the answer, please post a comment!

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