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Alpine Saw-wort

Saussurea alpina

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
40 centimetres tall
Bogs, cliffs, fens, meadows, mountains, riversides, rocky places, swamps, woodland.

Purple, many petals
Flowers are similar to those of knapweed. They appear either solitary or in a compact terminal cluster. 5 stamens per flower.
A smooth, cylindrical achene with unbranched hairs at the tip.
A hairy white perennial. Broadly lance-shaped leaves, sometimes sharply toothed. The leaves are downy white beneath.
Flowers are vanilla-scented.
Other Names:
Common Saw-wort, Dwarf Saw-wort, Large-leaved Saw-wort, Snow Lotus.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Saussurea alpina, also known as Alpine saw-wort, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. It is native to the alpine and subalpine regions of Europe and Asia. It is a herbaceous perennial plant with a rosette of basal leaves and a tall stem. The stem bears large clusters of small, white to pink flowers. This plant prefers cold and wet habitats, such as alpine meadows, tundra, and rocky outcrops. It is considered to be a cold-tolerant and drought-resistant species. The plant also has medicinal properties, and it has been traditionally used for medicinal purposes, such as wound healing and respiratory ailments.


Alpine Saw-wort, also known as Saussurea alpina, is a high altitude flowering plant that grows in the Alpine and Arctic regions of the world. This species belongs to the Asteraceae family, which is the largest family of flowering plants.

Alpine Saw-wort is a perennial plant that grows up to 10-40 cm in height. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped, and grow in a basal rosette. The stem is leafless, and bears a single flower head that is about 3-4 cm in diameter. The flowers are white, pink or purple, and appear in mid-summer to early fall. They are surrounded by a ring of bracts that are pointed and spiky, giving the plant its common name "Saw-wort".

Alpine Saw-wort is found in a range of habitats, including rocky and gravelly alpine slopes, rocky ridges, and arctic tundra. It is often found in areas with high exposure to wind and intense sunlight. It is a hardy plant that is able to tolerate extreme cold temperatures and harsh growing conditions.

The plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine by indigenous peoples. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, fevers, and stomach ailments. The plant contains a variety of biologically active compounds, including sesquiterpene lactones, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Alpine Saw-wort is also an important food source for a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and marmots. It is also an important plant for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, which feed on its nectar and pollen.

Despite its importance, Alpine Saw-wort is threatened by habitat loss due to climate change and human activities such as mining and tourism. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this important species, including the creation of protected areas and monitoring of populations.

Alpine Saw-wort is a hardy, high altitude flowering plant with a long history of traditional use and ecological importance. Efforts to protect this species and its habitat are critical to preserving the diversity and ecological health of alpine and arctic ecosystems.

Alpine Saw-wort has also been the subject of scientific research for its potential medicinal properties. Studies have found that the plant contains compounds with potential anti-cancer properties, and has shown promise in the treatment of lung cancer and melanoma.

In addition to its medicinal and ecological importance, Alpine Saw-wort also has cultural significance in many indigenous communities. It has been used in traditional ceremonies and is considered to have spiritual significance. In some cultures, the plant is also used as a natural dye for textiles.

Alpine Saw-wort is a fascinating and important plant that thrives in some of the most extreme environments on earth. Its resilience and ability to adapt to harsh conditions makes it a symbol of endurance and perseverance. As we continue to face the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, the study and preservation of plants like Alpine Saw-wort can offer valuable insights and inspiration for the conservation of our natural world.

One of the most interesting features of Alpine Saw-wort is its ability to survive in high altitude and arctic environments. It has developed a number of adaptations that allow it to thrive in these extreme conditions. For example, the plant has a shallow root system that allows it to access nutrients and water in the rocky and often nutrient-poor soil. Its leaves are also covered in fine hairs that help to protect the plant from the intense sunlight and wind that are common in high altitude environments.

Another fascinating aspect of Alpine Saw-wort is its pollination strategy. The plant produces a strong, sweet scent that is attractive to a wide range of insects, including bees and butterflies. However, because the plant grows in such harsh conditions, it does not produce nectar rewards for its pollinators. Instead, the insects are attracted to the flowers for their scent and collect pollen as a byproduct of their visit. This is an example of a deceptive pollination strategy, where a plant appears to offer a reward to its pollinators but in fact does not.

Finally, Alpine Saw-wort is an excellent example of the interconnectedness of ecosystems. As a keystone species in alpine and arctic environments, it plays an important role in supporting a wide range of other species, including insects, mammals, and birds. By protecting this important plant, we can help to preserve the diversity and ecological health of these fragile ecosystems.

Alpine Saw-wort is a remarkable plant that has adapted to survive in some of the most challenging environments on earth. Its medicinal, ecological, and cultural significance make it an important species to study and protect. By working to preserve this remarkable plant and its habitat, we can help to ensure a healthy and vibrant natural world for future generations.

Alpine Saw-wort is also an important indicator species for climate change. As temperatures warm, the plant is likely to move further up the mountain slopes or northwards into the arctic tundra. By monitoring changes in the distribution and abundance of Alpine Saw-wort, scientists can gain insights into the impacts of climate change on high altitude and arctic ecosystems.

In addition to climate change, Alpine Saw-wort is also threatened by human activities such as mining, recreational activities, and infrastructure development. Mining can lead to the destruction of habitat and disturbance of soil, while recreational activities such as hiking and skiing can cause trampling and erosion. Infrastructure development, such as roads and ski resorts, can also fragment habitat and increase human disturbance.

Conservation efforts to protect Alpine Saw-wort and its habitat are therefore essential. These efforts can include the creation of protected areas, habitat restoration, and sustainable tourism practices. Public education and awareness can also play an important role in promoting the conservation of this remarkable plant and its fragile ecosystem.

In conclusion, Alpine Saw-wort is a unique and fascinating plant that has adapted to survive in some of the most extreme environments on earth. Its ecological, cultural, and medicinal significance make it an important species to study and protect. By working to preserve this remarkable plant and its habitat, we can help to ensure a healthy and vibrant natural world for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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