Sunday, July 22, 2018

Visiting Switzerland--Enjoying Mountain Wildflowers

This was a visit into the mountains of Switzerland simply to enjoy being there, which meant mountain scenes, cheese and chocolate, and especially, the flowers.

The flora of Northern Europe has many similarities to that of eastern North America and high elevation plants in the Alps have close relatives in the Rocky Mountains, so I knew many of the plants. Sort of. Because, apart from widespread weeds, North America's plants are only related to Europe's, not identical.

Where I actually knew the plants, they were European natives that are now weeds in North America.

Of course the dandelion, Taraxacum officinale (sunflower family, Asteraceae) - a source of food and medicine across the Europe in the 17th century, so it brought to North America intentionally, then we stopped using it and it got away.
dandelions, Taraxacum officiale
dandelions in Switzerland

St. John's wort, Hypericum perforatum, an effective medicine against depression, was also intentionally introduced to North America and got away. Under the name Klamath weed it was a totally out of control weed in Oregon and Washington fifty years ago, until insects that were its natural enemies in Europe were introduced (link). Here it was in its native range. The common name St. John's wort refers to the fact that it comes into bloom at approximately the summer solstice. In the calendar of old Europe, St. John's Day, honoring John the Baptist, is June 24. Wort is an old English word meaning plant.

St. John's wort, Klamath weed, Hypericum perforatum
St. John's wort, Klamath weed, Hypericum perforatum
There were other plants I knew from their American relatives

I'd been wanting to see European columbines (genus Aquilegia, buttercup family, Ranunculaceae), for example

a European columbine
Lovely plants.

creeping juniper, European style: Juniperus communis var. nana
The juniper looks like Juniperus horizontalis of the Rockies, but is Juniperus communis var. nana of the Alps.

I know several American violets. These are European mountain violets, Viola bicolor (yellow with brown lines, violet family, Violaceae). The flowers are sometimes as big as dime but these were less than half that. I liked the miniature look.

Viola bicolor
Viola bicolor, high in the Swiss alps
But not all the plants were familiar

Tussilago farfara coltsfoot (sunflower family, Asteraceae). I knew it only by reputation. It is Eurasian and a weed in parts of the United States but not familiar to me. Seeing it in Switzerland was really neat: they were flowering in the meltwater of the snow, just inches from the last of the snow.

coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara
coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara
habitat of coltsfoot, Tussilago
Coltsfoot and the snow
And primroses (Primula vulgaris, primrose family Primulaceae). I have them growing in my yard (after several failures) but had not seen growing wild

primroses, Primula vulgaris
common primrose, Primula vulgaris
I can easily show you photos of plants I just don't know...

Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps

When I get some time, I'll look them up. For now, they are unknown Alpine wildflowers.

Whether I was saying "hi" to a plant I knew or "good to meet you" to one I didn't recognize,
the fields of summer flowers in central Switzerland, vicinity of Wengen, were a delight.

Swiss Alps

Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist

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