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Highland Cudweed

Omalotheca norvegica

  • Name also: Norwegian Arctic Cudweed (USA)
  • Latin synonym: Gnaphalium norvegicum
  • Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Asteroideae
    (formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 15–30 cm (6–12 in.). Stem branchless, densely white-haired, base usually 1 flowerless rosette.
  • Flower: Single flower-like approx. 5 mm (0.2 in.) capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitula’s ray-florets lacking; disc florets brown, tubular, small. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels. Involucral bracts overlapping, shiny, membranous, dark or blackish brown tips, inner bracts shorter than ray-florets. Capitula quite compact, spike-like, often under 1/4 length of stem.
  • Leaves: Alternate, erect, biggest in middle of stem, stalked–stalkless. Basal leaf blades narrowli obovate, stem leaf blades lanceolate(–ovate), with entire margins, 3-veined, hairy on top, underside densely haired.
  • Fruit: Hairy, yellowish brown achene, tip with white unbranched hairs.
  • Habitat: Fell tundra stream and river banks, shores, broad-leaved forests, swamps, seepage surfaces, meadows, snow-bed sites, forest belt.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Highland cudweed’s surface is covered in grey down, giving it an elegant shiny silver colour. This covering protects it from evaporation and the cold, and presumably to a certain extent also from aphids and other pests. Like many Arctic plants its inflorescence is dark, which is due to anthocyanines that the shoot excretes to protect it from the powerful northern sun. Highland cudweed is slightly reminiscent of its southern Finnish relative heath cudweed (Omalotheca sylvatica), but the former’s leaves are broader, larger and three-veined, the inflorescence is shorter and the capitula’s subtending bracts are longer.

Heath cudweed likes dry meadows and banks while highland cudweed favours clearly damper habitats like snow-bed sites, damp meadows, willow forest, swamps and broad-leaved forests. It is most common on fell tundra and sometimes below the tree-line in the birch belt. In the coniferous forest belt it is a rare stream-side plant as far as Kainuu, and its southernmost habitats are north of Lake Oulujärvi. Heath cudweed has on the other hand spread with people across the whole coniferous forest area and single plants can be found in northern Lapland. Both species can grow together in the north in land that has been affected by people as there is not much evaporation in the coolish Lapland summer, so the difference between damp and dry places is not as sharp as it is in the south.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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