Norway is a country in the northern part of Europe. This mountainous, coastal country represents half of the Scandinavian peninsula, which it shares with Sweden and Finland. The country of Norway also includes approximately 50,000 islands off its jagged coastline shaped by glacial fjords. In total, Norway’s land mass is 148,728 square miles. This makes the country close to the size of California. This northern European country is defined by its coastal cities, farming amid climate extremes, challenging soil conditions, and fishing. Its landscape is covered with forest and barren mountain regions. Norway’s endemic plant species grow in forests, wetland plains, and bogs. Among these species is the national flower of Norway: the pyramidal saxifrage.
In Norway, there are about 2,000 species of plants, but very few are actually endemic to the country. The landscape is dominated by trees growing in thick forests. However, most of the endemic plants in Norway are mountain-growing plants. Among the plants that make Norway’s mountains their home is the pyramidal saxifrage. This article will explore this unique plant, covering its appearance and where it grows. Let’s dive in to learn more about the national flower of Norway!
What is the National Flower of Norway?
The history of the pyramidal saxifrage as the national flower of Norway dates back to the year 1935. At this time, an international botanical congress gathered in Amsterdam. This group chose pyramidal saxifrage as a symbol of the Norwegian people due to its ability to thrive in harsh mountain environments. However, this was not a government decision. The government has never officially chosen a national flower.
In fact, the pyramidal saxifrage is not even one of the most popular flowers in the country. Instead, the Norwegian people favor the common heather (Calluna vulgaris) as top choice for Norway’s national flower. However, common heather was never formally selected by the government of Norway either. A popular radio show in 1976 held its own vote for the national flower. This public vote revealed that common heather was the top choice for the country’s national flower.
Though the common heather has its own distinctive qualities, the pyramidal saxifrage is a truly unusual plant. Additionally, it mainly grows only in Scandinavia. As a favorite among botanists, it has a special place among Norway’s native fauna.
What is the Pyramidal Saxifrage?
The pyramidal saxifrage is also known by its scientific name, Saxifraga cotyledon. This plant is a member of the Saxifraga genus and Saxifragaceae family. Saxifragaceae is a family of flowering herbs, including approximately 400 other species in the genus Saxifraga. The herbaceous perennials typically grow in the Northern Hemisphere. This certainly is the case for Saxifraga cotyledom, or the pyramidal saxifrage. This plant is an evergreen perennial that grows in rocky mountain areas in northern European countries. In addition to growing in Scandinavia, pyramidal saxifrage blooms in Iceland and the mountain regions of nearby mainland European countries.
The pyramidal saxifrage is evergreen and produces large, flat, green leaves with toothed edges. These can grow to be up to 3 inches long. Throughout its growing season, in the spring and summer, it grows a tall stem up to 24 inches in height. These stems blossom into panicles, large clusters, of numerous white, cup-shaped flowers with blood-red markings on the inside. Beginning in early summer, these blooms form in large flower heads. They also emit a strong, pleasant fragrance.
Where Does the National Flower of Norway Grow?
In Norway, pyramidal saxifrage flowers blossom in rocky, mountainous areas. These plants appear in crevices between rocks and on rock walls in Norway’s mountains. They enjoy the partial shade and the cooler climate. It is possible to grow pyramidal saxifrage in a rock or container garden. The plant needs normal to sandy soil and grows in a range of conditions, from neutral to alkaline or acidic. The plants grow fairly low to the ground, reaching only about 2 feet tall. But they can thrive on rock walls or other rocky formations. In the wild, you may find it on rock outcroppings or in moist areas, like rocky cliffs near a waterfall.
What is the Cultural Significance of the Pyramidal Saxifrage?
The pyramidal saxifrage was not selected by the Norwegian people as the national flower, nor was it chosen by the government. Rather, it became known as Norway’s national flower due to the influence of vocal botanists. With that in mind, it makes sense that the pyramidal saxifrage is not especially well-known or recognized.
The botanists advocating for pyramidal saxifrage argue that this mountain flower represents the Norwegian people. After all, it thrives in harsh conditions. In Norway, the pyramidal saxifrage plant is called “bergfrue.” This translates into English as “mountain lady” or “mistress of the mountains,” as it only grows in the mountains. However, this inaccessibility may be part of the reason why the pyramidal saxifrage never gained popularity. Even those who venture into the mountains may not notice this plant hiding in crevices. In contrast, the common heather grows throughout the country’s vast forests.
However, the botanists’ choice of pyramidal saxifrage reflects a truth about the country. Just like this flower grows in harsh conditions, so too have the Norwegian people. Resilience, independence, respect, and equality are significant values for residents of Norway.
What Are the Other National Symbols of Norway?
Aside from the pyramidal saxifrage and common heather, there are several official symbols of the country. Here are some of the national symbols of Norway:
- The national coat of arms shows a red shield featuring a lion holding an axe, topped by a gold crown with a cross. This is one of the oldest coats of arms in Europe and originally represented the country’s royal family.
- The flag of Norway is red with a white cross.
- The national anthem was written in 1864 and composed by Rikard Nordraak, with words by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. The title is “Ja, vi elsker dette landet,” which translates to “Yes, we love this country.”
- The moose is the national animal of Norway, though the lion represents the royal family.
These are just some of the icons and symbols that represent Norway, the country’s landscape, and its people. If you visit Norway, look for the common heather, as well as the pyramidal saxifrage. You will find that pyramidal saxifrage is harder to spot, since it requires a special trek to the mountains. However, it is worth finding this unique, interesting species that can thrive in the harsh Arctic-alpine environment!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Peter Turner Photography/Shutterstock.com
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