This Summer in the Pyrenees the star of the floral show was almost certainly Sempervivum montanum, in Spanish Siempreviva de montaña and rather quaintly known as Mountain Houseleek in English. I have to say that i much prefer the French name, Joubarbe des montagnes. This plant belongs to a family known as Crassulaceae, a type of succulent. The base plant formed by tight rosettes of ‘succulent’ light green leaves is attractive in itself, but when it flowers the spectacular pink-red-purple structure of the bloom is a delight to behold. It grows to a height of 10-15cm and can be found up to 2500m. We came across it several times this past month of July.
On the subject of prevalent plants, few have more to say – or to show – than the Rhododendron, Rhododendron ferrugineum, called Alpenrose in English, Rododendro or Azalea de montaña in Spanish. Very widely present in the Pyrenees, usually appearing at or just above treeline in extensive bushlike shrubs with clusters of flowers.
Moving up above the trees into the alpine realm, among the rocks and even close to the summits, we find isolated cushions of green with tiny red-pink flowers. Silene acaulis is a high mountain plant known in English as Moss Campion or Cushion Pink, evidently due to its similarity to the cushions of moss found in the forests at lower altitudes. Musgo Florido in Spanish. Far from being a moss however, this is a plant that survives in extreme alpine and arctic environments.
Back down in the valleys, another common flower is the beautiful Dactylorhiza maculata, an orchid type known as Satirión Manchado in Spanish and Heath (or Moorland) Spotted Orchid in English. Sometimes debatable whether it’s more of a white flower than a red one – or an in-between pink – the examples we came across this year were generally closer to red (..pinkish red?) though the flower below is definitely on the paler (or ‘purpler’?) side..