Alpine Flowers

Many species of plants and flowers specific to the Alpine habitat cover the mountains, prairies and forests of Savoie during the growing season. This page, which will grow over the course of time, aims to present some of the most beautiful wildflowers of the region. Some of these are endangered or threatened species, and should never be picked. In any case, like most wildflowers, they wilt rapidly and it is a waste to pick them. Entertain yourself therefore by finding them in their habitat, and use the form below to start a "life list" of the the species you have learned to recognize. 

Mountain Flowers

These flowers grow at higher altitudes, above 1000m (3300ft). One can find them at different elevations through the months of spring and summer, as the spring and summer arrive later the higher you go. If, for example, you can find spring gentians around 1500m in June, you will find them above 2000m in July, and higher still in early August.

Mountain flowers are generally very short in order better to resist the strong winds and snows which would break taller plants.

Some hikers pick these flowers, explaining that by being careful not to take the root, they are not killing the plant. This may be true, that the plant does not die right away, but by depriving the plant of its means of reproduction, each picked flower brings the species closer to utter extinction. Therefore, do as the Sierra Club suggests, take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints!  But be careful not to leave the designated trails, and leave the blooms for all to enjoy!

 Arnica. This pretty flower, found in yellowish or orange colors, somewhat resembles the common dandelion's. Its bloom however has fewer petals, and the arnica never grows tall, unlike some dandelions which can be 50cm tall. One finds the arnica in mountain meadows as well as above timberline.


The  purple gentian is the signature flower of the French Alps. Often depicted on coats of arms and decorations, it usually grows in bunches of some dozens of small plants, usually on limestone or chalky ground. There are two closely related species which look almost the same: Koch's gentian and the acaule gentian  are not easily distinguished by the average hiker.  These are protected species! Do not pick!


The spring gentian, which, as its name indicates, is one of the first flowers to bloom after the snow melt, is one of the bluest flowers in the world. Its intense color is surprising, and you may be fortunate enough to find a whole bunch blooming together. Smaller than the bell-shaped purple gentian, it has five petals and grows on limestone and chalk mountains.  This is a protected species! Do not pick!


The familiar daisy has its alpine variety; shorter than the garden flower, it is found in meadows as high up as the timberline; it does not grow above timberline where the weather conditions are too rigorous. One generally finds that, the higher the altitude, the shorter the flowers grow. It is their way of coping with high winds.


The Lady's Slipper (sabot de Vénus), is one of the very rare orchids found in our mountains. It grows in the damp underbrush, in forest clearings, at the foot of the mountains. Some hikers like to pick these flowers, and in so doing kill the plant. They believe, in error, that picking the flower but leaving the rest of the plant, will allow it to grow again the following year. Unfortunately, this is not the case: the plant needs its flower to reproduce and survive. This is a protected species! Do not pick!



Forest and Meadow Flowers

The wild rose is a relatively common plant; it is a bush which grows near the forest's edge, and is claimed to be the ancestor of the garden rose. Its bloom, white or light pink in color, has a delicate fragrance; like the rose, it too has thorns.



Print the form below and take it with you on a hike.
Note which flowers you have seen.

my alpine flowers
Name of the flower Place observed Altitude Date


Page and images© 1999 by Robert F. Jeantet
latest update 24 March 1999
end of flowers page