In winter, most alpine plants are sheltered underneath an insulating layer of snow, but with spring heading our way this protecting layer is melting away. To make matters worse, high alpine areas experience big fluctuations in temperature which are quite normal in spring. A beautiful warm day can be followed by freezing and snow the next. All in all, blooming in early spring is risky for an alpine plant and delicate flowers are vulnerable to the big fluctuations in temperature. So it is best not to bloom too early.
On the other hand, growing season in the mountains is extremely short due the long period of snow cover. Thus, when the snow starts melting alpine plants are in a hurry: they need to produce a flower, somehow get pollinated, make seeds, disperse them and the seeds need time to settle and prepare themselves before winter returns. That’s a lot of work to be done before the first snow starts settling on the ground again.
That’s why some species bloom as soon as the ground is – more or less – free from snow, despite the risk of losing their flowers in a cold snap.
A Short List of My Favourite Early Spring Bloomers
I truly LOVE spring flowers! Not only because their colourful petals and beauty are the first to brighten up our mountains after a long winter (after all, an alpine meadow full of spring flowers is one of the loveliest sights you can find while hiking in the Alps). My true appreciation for early bloomers derives from their ability to cope with early spring, a risky period for alpine plants.
Below, I’ve added a shortlist of my most favourite early spring bloomers to share with you pictures of their beauty and delicateness, and also the appreciation for their toughness:
- Spring gentian (Gentiana verna)
- Alpine snowbell (Soldanella alpina)
- Spring pasque flower (Pulsatilla vernalis)
- Spring crocus (Crocus vernus) – pictured in the featured image up top
- Common hepatica (Anemone hepatica)
- Common primrose (Primula vulgaris