- Name also: Velvet Bells, Alpine Bells
- Family: Broomrape Family – Orobanchaceae
(formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Hemiparasite.
- Height: 10–30 cm (4–12 in.). Stem branchless, dark purple, hairy.
- Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, 15–20 mm (0.6–0.8 in.) long, dark purple (occasionally pale yellow), fused, bilabiate, with long tube. Calyx 4-lobed. Stamens 4. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Flowers solitary in the axils of subtending bracts.
- Leaves: Opposite, stalkless. Blade ovately elliptic, with rounded teeth (crenate), dark green, upper subtending bracts dark purple, occasionally green.
- Fruit: Elliptic, dark brown, 10 mm (0.4 in.) long, 2-valved capsule.
- Habitat: Moist fellside meadows, stream banks, shoreside bogs, near rapids, fens, rich swamps.
- Flowering time: June–July.
Alpine bartsia is named after the Prussian botanist J. Bartsch. He took Linné’s advice and set out for what is now the Republic of Surimame in South America as a doctor, and perished on the journey south. The great botanist wanted to honour his friend who had died so young by naming the gloomy plant after him. Alpine bartsia’s melancholy colouring is however for a good reason: its red pigmentation repels excessive, harmful UV radiation. It is very hard to find any shades of green in this purple species, which thrives in open, light-filled places.
In the Finnish context, alpine bartsia is found mainly in Lapland. It is a native plant in the north, where its purple colouring inspired the Saame names gádderuosta, ’shore-rust’ and jaegge áhput, ’scale-plant’. It often grows in damp places, but it can also be found on fell moors, and it has spread along river banks deep into the forest belt. In Kuusamo the species is found on sloping fens and rich swamps in areas that have a thin covering of peat and that are highly calciferous.