Soldanella alpina (NL: Alpenkwastjesbloem / EN: Alpine snowbell / DE: Alpen-Soldanelle, Alpentroddelblume, Gewöhnliches Alpenglöckchen, Großes Alpenglöckchen / FR: Soldanelle des Alpes) is a member of the Primulaceae native to the Alps and Pyrenees. Plants grow from 5 to 15 cm. in hight. Flowers are 10 to 15 mm long.
Can Any Plant Grow Under Ice? This is very often done by this interesting little Alpine plant. During the summer the flat leaves are exposed to the sun and the plant stores up fuel in the leaves until these become quite fat. Then, as time passes, they flatten to the ground, and when the snow falls the hard, leathery covering of the leaves protects them from damage. The plant sleeps through the winter, but in early spring the water trickling through cracks in the frozen snow above gets round the root and causes the plant to germinate. A little bud begins to open and, using the fuel stored up in the leaves, melts a place for itself in the frozen snow or ice. As it grows up toward the light it continues to melt the snow, until at last it emerges into the fresh air, but down below the snow again freezes together round the stem. The flowers open, and when the snow disappears the little soldanella is practically a full-grown plant with its blossoms open inviting the bees to enter and fertilize them. The bees accept the invitation, and fruits form, yielding seeds. The plant then flattens again to the ground and stores up fuel for the following year.
If the soldanella were to wait for the snow to disappear before it began to grow it would have little chance of surviving, for there are crowds of other plants all round that would overtop it, shut out the sunshine, and prevent its blossoms from opening properly. By melting its way through the ice and blossoming before the other plants have grown, the soldanella preserves its life and produces seeds which grow and carry on the race.
Image: Pontresina (CH) – 11/07/2012
© Johan Dierckx
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