Scientist finds flower growing above 4,500m

Saxifraga oppositifolia has been found growing above 4,500 metres altitude Kim Hansen

A Swiss botanist has discovered the highest elevation flowering plant ever recorded in Europe at an altitude of 4,505 metres.

This content was published on May 24, 2011 and agencies

Cushions of Saxifraga oppositifolia were found close to the Don summit in the central Swiss Alps, with one large individual flower, estimated to be more than 30 years old, in full bloom in August 2009.

University of Basel botanist Christian Körner discovered the plant growing above Saas Fee in canton Valais, on the Mischabel mountain range where it snows ten months of the year. Details of the find are published in the journal Alpine Botany.

According to Körner, all plant parts, including roots, experience temperatures below zero degrees Celsius every night, even during the warmest part of the year.

It is the first time a plant has been found growing at such a high altitude in Europe, and thought to be only plant in the world able to do so.

“In comparison with climate data for other extreme plant habitats in the Alps, Himalayas, in the Arctic and Antarctic, these data illustrate the life conditions at what is possibly the coldest place for angiosperm plant life on earth,” Körner wrote.   

The saxifrage flower is resistant to extremely low temperatures. It needs just 600 hours of temperatures above three degrees per year to survive.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.