More Faroese Wildflowers

Here are a few of the showier, prettier, and more interesting wildflowers I saw in the Faroe Islands. Many of these have a worldwide distribution pattern known as arctic-alpine, which means exactly what you would expect: they are found at high latitudes, and at high elevation at lower latitudes.

Armeria maritima (sea thrift, Plumbaginaceae)
a circumpolar species that likes poor, salty soils; thrives on rocky coasts




Dactylorhiza maculata (heath spotted orchid, Orchidaceae)
common in mountainous areas in Europe; can vary greatly in color from dark pink-purple to almost white



Dactylorhiza purpurella (northern marsh orchid; Orchidaceae)
these two Dactylorhiza species are difficult to distinguish and it’s quite possible that I’ve mis-identified them; also Dactylorhiza is one of those “problem” genera; found in the UK and Scandanavia

Geranium sylvaticum (wood cranesbill; Geraniaceae)
found in temperate regions throughout Europe; introduced in Quebec and Greenland



Pinguicula vulgaris (butterwort; Lentibulariaceae)
found in boggy areas in the upper Mid-West, New England, Canada, and northern Europe; the plant’s leaves produce both a sticky substance and enzymes which together trap and digest insects


Polygala serpyllifolia (heath milkwort; Polygalaceae)
I can’t find much on where this species is found, other than the British Isles (and of course the Faroes)



Polygala vulgaris (common milkwort; Polygalaceae) this species has a widespread distribution in Europe and Asia; it’s introduced in Michigan and Oregon



Salix herbacea (dwarf willow, snowbed willow; Salicaceae)
a subshrub growing to only 2 inches tall, with arctic-alpine distribution in North America and Europe



Micranthes stellaris (formerly Saxifraga stellaris; starry saxifrage; Saxifragaceae)
this little charmer is found in arctic-alpine areas of Europe, and in Quebec, Labrador and Greenland in North America


Silene acaulis (moss campion; Caryophyllaceae)
arctic-alpine distribution, including the Rocky Mountains in the United States

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!