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Pincushion Plant

Diapensia lapponica

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Diapensiaceae (Diapensia)
Evergreen shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
5 centimetres tall
Bogs, gardens, mountains, rocky places.

White, 5 petals
The creamy white flowers are solitary and stalked. The flower stalks are up to 3cm long. They measure between 1 and 2cm across. Pink flowers are rare. 5 stamens.
The fruit is an ovoid capsule, up to 4mm long.
An evergreen alpine perennial dwarf shrub which is extremely slow growing. The narrow, oval leaves are shiny, leathery and untoothed. The tips of the leaves are round.
Other Names:
Arctic Bell, Diapensia.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Diapensia lapponica, commonly known as Diapensia or Arctic bell, is a species of evergreen perennial plant in the Diapensiaceae family. It is native to Arctic and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America, and can be found in habitats such as rocky alpine tundra and bogs. The plant has small, glossy, dark green leaves and small, white or pink bell-shaped flowers that grow in clusters. It is known for its attractive flowers and is sometimes used in rock gardens and alpine gardens. It's not known to have any medicinal use, it's not recommended for any use.


The Pincushion Plant, scientifically known as Diapensia lapponica, is a small and attractive flowering plant that is native to the Arctic and Alpine regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. This plant is known for its beautiful appearance and unique adaptation to its harsh habitat. In this blog, we will explore some of the interesting facts and features of the Pincushion Plant.

Appearance and Habitat

The Pincushion Plant is a low-growing plant, which forms a compact cushion-like growth habit. The plant grows up to 5 cm in height and 10-30 cm in diameter. The leaves of this plant are evergreen, small, and leathery, which help to retain water and prevent the plant from drying out. The flowers of the Pincushion Plant are small, white, and star-shaped, and they bloom from late spring to early summer. The plant thrives in alpine tundra and subarctic regions, where the temperatures are cold, and the soil is poor and rocky.

Adaptation to Harsh Environment

The Pincushion Plant has developed several adaptations to its harsh habitat. Firstly, the plant has a low-growing habit, which helps it to avoid being damaged by strong winds that often occur in the Arctic and Alpine regions. Secondly, the plant has a shallow root system that allows it to absorb nutrients and water from the top layer of soil, which is often poor in nutrients. Thirdly, the leaves of the plant are covered with small hairs, which help to trap moisture and prevent water loss due to evaporation. Lastly, the plant produces a large number of flowers, which helps to increase the chances of pollination in its remote and sparsely populated habitat.

Ecological Importance

The Pincushion Plant is an important species in its ecosystem as it serves as a food source for several herbivores such as reindeer, arctic hares, and lemmings. The plant also helps to stabilize the soil in the harsh and rocky environment and provides shelter for small animals such as insects and spiders. The flowers of the Pincushion Plant attract several pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths, which are crucial for maintaining biodiversity in the region.

Conservation Status

The Pincushion Plant is classified as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its widespread distribution and relatively stable population. However, the plant is threatened by climate change, which is causing the melting of permafrost and changes in precipitation patterns in the Arctic and Alpine regions. These changes can alter the habitat of the plant, leading to a decline in its population.

In conclusion, the Pincushion Plant is a unique and fascinating species that has adapted to its harsh environment through several evolutionary mechanisms. This plant plays a crucial role in its ecosystem by providing food, shelter, and habitat to several organisms. Therefore, it is important to protect and conserve this plant species and its habitat for future generations.

Some Facts

Here are some additional facts and information about the Pincushion Plant:

  1. Taxonomy: The Pincushion Plant belongs to the family Diapensiaceae and the genus Diapensia. There are only five known species in the genus Diapensia, and they are all found in the Arctic and Alpine regions.

  2. Distribution: The Pincushion Plant is found in the high latitudes and altitudes of the Arctic and Alpine regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is found in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada, and the United States.

  3. Medicinal Properties: The Pincushion Plant has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as colds, coughs, and asthma. The plant contains several bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, triterpenoids, and alkaloids, which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties.

  4. Cultivation: The Pincushion Plant is a popular ornamental plant that is grown in rock gardens and alpine gardens. The plant requires well-draining soil and full sun to thrive.

  5. Threats: Apart from climate change, the Pincushion Plant is also threatened by habitat loss due to mining, oil and gas exploration, and recreational activities such as hiking and skiing in the Arctic and Alpine regions.

  6. Cultural Significance: The Pincushion Plant is considered a symbol of the Arctic and Alpine regions and is featured in the traditional folklore and art of the indigenous people of these regions. The plant is also used as a decorative motif in traditional clothing and crafts.

In summary, the Pincushion Plant is a remarkable species that has adapted to survive in the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Arctic and Alpine regions. This plant plays an important ecological, cultural, and medicinal role and must be conserved for future generations.

Some Additional Thoughts on the Pincushion Plant

Here are some additional thoughts and observations about the Pincushion Plant:

  1. Beauty in Small Things: The Pincushion Plant may be small and unassuming, but its delicate and intricate appearance is truly captivating. Its tiny, star-shaped flowers and compact growth habit make it a unique and attractive addition to any garden or landscape.

  2. Inspiration for Resilience: The Pincushion Plant's ability to thrive in harsh and challenging environments is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of nature. It serves as an inspiration for people to persevere through difficult times and find ways to overcome obstacles.

  3. Importance of Biodiversity: The Pincushion Plant is just one of many plant species that play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity in the Arctic and Alpine regions. By preserving and protecting these ecosystems, we can ensure that they continue to provide important ecological services and resources to humans and wildlife.

  4. Need for Conservation Efforts: While the Pincushion Plant may not be considered endangered, it is still important to take steps to conserve and protect its habitat. Climate change and human activities are putting pressure on these fragile ecosystems, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are preserved for future generations.

  5. Symbolism of Endurance: The Pincushion Plant's ability to survive in harsh conditions also makes it a powerful symbol of endurance and strength. It reminds us that even in the most challenging of circumstances, there is still hope and the potential for growth and renewal.

In conclusion, the Pincushion Plant is not just a fascinating species with unique adaptations and ecological importance, but also a source of inspiration, beauty, and symbolism. It serves as a reminder of the resilience of nature and the need for us to protect and conserve our natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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