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Thrift

Armeria maritima

  • Name also: Sea Thrift, Sea Pink
  • Family: Thrift Family – Plumbaginaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short. Tufted.
  • Height: (15–)20–40 cm ((6–)8–16 in.). With many stems. Stem a leafless scape.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), pink (occasionally white), 5–8 mm (0.2–0.32 in.) broad, fused, long-tubed, 5-lobed, remains long after withering. Calyx usually clearly shorter than corolla, 5-lobed, lower part greenish, upper part membranous, dry, varyingly hairy. Stamens 5. Gynoecium composed of 5 fused carpels. Inflorescence a dense, spherical cyme terminating scape. Flower mildly fragrant.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette (often also side rosettes), stalkless. Blade linear, blunt-tipped, slightly fleshy, 1-veined, with entire or ciliate margins. In bloom upper leaves membranous, brownish and with ragged tip, lowest surrounding stem like a sheath.
  • Fruit: 1-seeded capsule, opening via ring-shaped gap at base.
  • Habitat: Sandy seaside meadows, waterside meadows and rocky embankments.
  • Flowering time: June-August.

Ssp. intermedia and ssp. elongata are critically endangered. Ssp. sibirica is an endangared species. All the thrift subspecias are protected in Finland.

Thrift grows in Finland in five different areas: Uusikaupunki, Mietoinen, Hanko, Vehkalahti and Enontekiö. It mutates easily and three different subspecies grow in Finland: ssp. elongata, ssp. intermedia and ssp. sibirica. Ssp. elongata is the most common of the three, growing up to 40 cm (16 in.) high and its outer subtending bracts are long with tapered tips. Ssp. intermedia only grows in Finland around Hamina and Vehkalahti – its scapes are only 15–20 cm (6–8 in.) high and its subtending bracts are quite blunt, often with a bristled tip. Ssp. sibirica plants that grow in the ‘arm’ of Finland in Lapland close to the Norwegian border are shorter than their southern relatives, only 20 cm (8 in.) high, and the corolla is only slightly larger than the calyx. Thrift’s type species ssp. maritima also grows casually in Finland. It is not easy to tell the subspecies apart, and thrift can also be confused with chives (Allium schoenoprasum), although the latter’s cylindrical leaves taste and smell of onion.

Based on discoveries of pollen, thrift has grown in Finland on dry and sandy waterside meadows for millennia. In recent times, however, the species has become rarer for different reasons. The overgrowth of meadows as a consequence of the end of grazing and mowing is the biggest single threat to thrift, which cannot compete with larger plants. The preservation of a sufficiently large and varied population is vital for the plant’s survival. It has developed a mechanism that prevents the seed subject from being fertilized with its own pollen. The population has two types of plant with regards to the pollen and the surface of the stigma, and only different plants can fertilise one another. If it was to go badly, all the plants in the small population have the same kind of pollen and stigma structure and are therefore unable to pollinate one another. The seeds would not develop and no new plants would be produced.

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