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Alpine Arnica

Arnica angustifolia

  • Name also: Narrowleaf Arnica
  • Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Asteroideae
    (formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock long. Forms stands.
  • Height: 10–40 cm (4–15 in.). Stem quite delicate, densely haired especially at top, also with glandular hairs.
  • Flower: Flowers 3.5–5 cm (1.4–2 in.) broad, single flower-like capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitulum flowers yellow, ray-florets tongue-like; disc-florets tubular, small. Stamens 5. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Involucral bracts in 2 rows, same length, lanceolate, base densely haired, with purple tips. Solitary capitulum terminating stem, often nodding, sometimes with additional 1–4 capitula in stem-leaf axils.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and on stem usually 1–2 pairs opposite, stalkless. Blade lanceolate–lanceolately ovate, long-tipped, with entire margins, almost parallel-veined, short-haired.
  • Fruit: Ridged achene, tip with white unbranched hairs.
  • Habitat: Fell tundra moors, Lappish rock faces, rocky shelves, river-bank rocky walls. Calcicole.
  • Flowering time: July-August.
  • Endangerment: Endangered, protected in all of Finland.

Alpine arnica grows mainly on fell tundra and in ravines, beyond unknown paths, far from highways. This difficulty in obtaining it has perhaps been partly responsible for its almost mythical reputation. There is undeniably something noble about the plant which doesn’t seem to fit with its barren habitat: most of the neighbouring vegetation sticks close to the surface but alpine arnica holds its large capitulum, which is up to 5 cm broad when open, high above the ground. Alpine arvica often seeks out inaccessible crags to grow in, where the vertical rocks gather heat and protect it from the wind. The soil should also be calciferous, which is rare in Finland.

It is easy to imagine alpine arnica growing after the end of the Ice Age on the cold steps beside carnations and sagebrush. As the forest spread over the steppe alpine arnica had to retreat to rocky outcrops and fell tundra, where trees could not grow. In Lapland alpine arnica grows on the large fells around Kilpisjärvi, the canyons of Kevo around Utsjoki, and Takkaselkä Fell near Salla. Most of these stands are on rocky crags in the forest belt, and it only grows above the tree-line in some places in the ‘arm’ of Finland and Salla. As a legacy of the ancient steppes it also grows on rocky shelves in northern and north-eastern canyons in Koillismaa, in much the same way as other fell plants that grow in the area as relics of the past. The fell tundra species seems to be testing its limits in this area, as can be seen from the trouble it has reproducing: although almost all its flowers produce an abundance of seeds, they germinate only rarely. Alpine arnica also propagates itself vegetatively through its rootstock, forming sparse stands.

Mountain Arnica

Arnica montana

NOT TRANSLATED YET. Kovasti tunturiarnikkia muistuttavaa etelänarnikkia voi eteläisessä Suomessa tavata puutahoissamme ja joskus myös aidan takaa lähikarkulaisena. Etelänarnikki on kookkaampi ja suurikukkaisempi ja sen 5-suoniset lehdet ovat hiukan leveämmät. Suomessa lajeja ei voi sekoittaa toisiinsa, sillä yhtenäisiä kasvupaikkoja lajeilla ei ole.

Other species from the same family

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