Mountain Thyme

Mountain Flowers Of The UK

There are many flowers that are only found in the mountains and on cliff edges. This is for many reasons' such as overgrazing, human influence and certain plant biology allowing species to grow where others cannot.

Whilst working through my qualifications I have spent many days learning about the mountain environment, including plant identification. Below is a list of plant life you many come across in the mountains, this is intended to help aspirant mountain leaders and instructors as well as for general interest.

You will find many of these flowers on one of the rock climbing courses.

All the flowers have been arranged alphabetically, scroll down to find the flower by name or just browse the photos. These flowers are common in the mountains but may also be found in other areas. This list will not cover the many different types of flowers found in lowland Britain.

The text gives a short description of the flowers and these are explained in layman’s terms. Some flowers look very similar to other species, in these cases I have explained the subtle differences.

Bell Heather

Common mountain plant found in many mountain areas in the UK. Pink flowers that are in a terminal bud. Bell is similar to cross leaved heath, except for the leaves. When viewed from underneath the leaves of Bell Heather look like a 3 pronged trident, whereas Heath leaves are cross shaped.



Bugles are similar to Heath Speedwells, in that they are both pyramid shaped. There are a number of differences in both leaves and flowers. The Speedwell has two anthers (bits pointing out of the flower) where as the Bugle does not. I also think that the flowers of a bugle look like a little purple man (one axis of symmetry) and the speedwell is a more typical round flower. The leaves of a Bugle start in a basal rosette but can be withered when flowers open. Oval leaves are also found running up the stem.

Bugles can be found in any lowland areas, grass lands and hedgerows. This photo is taken at Harrison's Rocks in the South East.

Bog Asphodel


This has a terminal spike of six to 20 bright yellow flowers witch can turn orange later in the year. They flower in July and September and often found in wet grass lands.

These can be seen on the approach to Cwm Idwal.



This shrub is another common plant found in mountain areas. It likes acidic soils so is found in Snowdonia. This has long brush like branches with yellow flowers and unlike Gorse it is not spiky.

This photo was taken at Bowles Rocks, South East.

Birds Foot Trefoil


These strange looking yellow flowers are found in grassy areas and are common. They have a distinctive trifoliate pattern.

This is a important plant as it provides a lot of nectar for many insects.

This photo was taken at the top of Swanage Rocks.

Cotton Grass

cotton grass

This common plant has distinctive 'cotton wool' buds on stalks. There are two types of cotton grass. Hare's Tail Cotton Grass which has one bud of cotton at the end and Common Cotton Grass has a couple of buds at the end.

Cotton Grass can be seen in many wet areas in the mountains.

Cross Leaved Heath


This can be very hard to identify as Bell Heather and Ling Heather also look similar. There are a couple of differences between Heath and Heather. Firstly, the leaves of Heath are in Whorls of 4 (look at them closely from underneath). The leaves also form a cross-like shape as they appear in opposite pairs on the stem. The flowers of Heath are also in terminal clusters, where as Ling has its flowers in groups all along the stems.

This photo was taken in Cwm Idwal whist abseiling back down, North Wales.

Dog Violet

Mountain flowers North wales

Common plant of mountain wet lands and damp rock crevices as well as woodlands and grasslands. They flower around April and June.

Violets were dipped in sugar and used as sweets during the Victorian Times

This photo was taken in Cwm Idwal whist abseiling back down, North Wales.

English Stonecrop


Widespread pinkish flowers form mats on rocky ground. Small leaves are on stems which have the flower on top.

This photo was taken on the approach to Tremadog.

Germander Speedwell


A grass and open woodland plant. Very common. Its distinctive flowers have a white center and two anthers. Its leaves are oval shaped, hairy and toothed.

This photo was taken near Tremadog, North Wales.

Golden Rod


This is a classic mountain flower but can be seen in many gardens too. Flowers are yellow in branched spikes with around 10 to 30 flowers. Leaves are obovate with a hairy underside. They flowers in July to September.

This photo was taken on the Walk in Tryfan Bach, North Wales, although I first saw this flower growing high in Cwm Idwal.

Globe Flower

glode flower

A long stalk with a yellow globe like flower. It has 3 to 5 lobed leaves.

This photo was taken whilst walking up towards the Devil's Kitchen in Cwm Idwal, North Wales.


Mountain flowers North wales

Yellow flowered, common shrub found in mountains and heath land. Spiky leaves make this easy to distinguish from Broom. The mountain plants tend to be shorter and in sheltered places. The flowers often have a strong smell of coconut.


Hawksbit is a common flower found all over the UK. There are many different types, such as Autumn Hawksbit and Rough Hawksbit. I find it very hard to tell the difference so called them all Hawksbit. They look a lot like Dandelions but the flower stems often branch and two flowers can come from one stem. The leaves are hairy, lobed and unlike Dandelions the leaves of the Hawksbit are in a basel rosette. They are found on calcareous soils, and in grassy areas.

Hard Fern

hard fern

Hard Fern is common throughout the mountains on rocks, streams and ledges. It can cope with acid soils so is very common in North Wales. It has two types of fronds, sterile are flat, long and lie on the ground. The fertile fronds are slim and stand upright.

Heath Speedwell


Flowers are around 8mm across and have two anthers. The flowers are arranged in a terminal spike. Leaves are in opposite pairs, slightly toothed and oval shaped. They are normally found in woodlands and dry heath areas. They flower from May to June

I first saw this flower when climbing up Y Garn, North Wales, GR 637 594.

Herb Robert

herb robert

A Hairy plant found in shady areas. Common in woodlands. It has pink flowers each with 5 petals. The leaves have deep lobes of 4 or 5.

This is once tried as a cure for Black Death - it did not work.

This photo was taken next the a wall near Milestone Buttress, North Wales

Maiden Hair Spleen Wort

Mountain flowers North wales

Common on rocks and walls. This has a distinctive black vein separating the small round leaves.

This photo was taken on a wall at Idwal Cottage

Ivy Leaved Toad Flax

toad flax

The flowers of this plant look like little men (see above) but the leaves, the way it grows and where it grows distinguishes it from other plants. Firstly it is found growing on walls and rocks, it has a creeping pattern of growth and has ivy like (5 to nine lobed leaves).

This photo was taken on a wall in Betws y Coed.

Lady's Mantle

ladys mantle

This has palmately lobed leaves and yellow/green flowers. Often found in mountain areas and gardens.

This photo was taken next to Idwal Slabs in Cwm Idwal, North Wales

Lemon Scented Mountain Fern

mountain fern

Common in mountains. Fronds are only 2 part pinnately divided. The underside of the fronds have no visible spore capsules. When rubbed they give a slight lemon smell.

This photo was taken at Tryfan Bach, North Wales.

Lady's Smock

ladys smock

This is one of the first flowers to show in the spring. It has white/cream flowers each with four petals. The leaves are pinnate and in a basal rosette.

This flower is edible and tastes like cress. It has 15 times more vitamin C than a lemon so has been used for a cure to scurvy.

This flower can be seen on grass lands and is very common.

Mountain Sorrel

mountain sorrel

Common in wet mountain areas and between rocks. It has distinctive heart shaped leaves (less round than Pennywort/Navelwort). Its flowers are on a tall stalk with clusters at the end. Again the flowers are similar to Navelwort but Navelworts flowers are more Bell shaped and found all away the stalk.

This photo was taken in Cwm Idwal, North Wales.

Moss Campion


This flower has bright pink flowers and the linear leaves form a large cushion or mat. It forms the cushion to help protect it from the mountain environment and help the plant retain its own metabolic heat.

This photo was taken by a path in Cwm Idwal, North Wales.

Milk Wort

Mountain flowers North wales

Common on grass lands and can cope with acidic soils (often found in Snowdonia). It is a small plant with narrow pointed leaves. There are two type, alternate and opposite leaved. The flowers are often blue but can be found in many other colors

This plant has been used to help cure asthma in the past.

This photo was taken in Llanberis Pass.

Spotted Orchid

spotted orchid

This is the most common of the Orchids. It has a pink spike of flowers and long grass like leaves with black spots

This photo was taken on a campsite in the Ogwen Valley.



This photo was taken in Cwm Idwal whist abseiling back down, North Wales.

Sheep's Bit

sheeps bit

Flowers are blue and globular. Leaves are linear and slightly hairy. Flowers May to July.

This photo was taken whilst climbing Rib and Slab (VD) at Craig Ddu, North Wales.

Parsley Fern

Mountain persley fern

Although not a flower this is a common fern that is very important to Snowdonia. Parsley Fern looks a little like Parsley and can be found growing on scree slopes and rocky outcrops. It is known as a pioneer species of scree slopes. This means it is one of the first plants to colonize scree. It manages this in a number of ways, the most specialized being its ability to cope with decapitation! As the fern grows over the scree it helps stabilize the rocks and allows other plants to grow.

This can be seen just about anywhere in North Wales

Red Campion

red campion

There are many flowers you might see that have a pink flower like this one. The two most commonly seen by climbers will be Red Campion and Herb Robert. The main difference between the two are the leaves. Red Campion has Oval shaped leaves and Herb Robert has toothed leaves.

This photo was taken at the top of Tremadog Rocks.

Rose Root

Mountain rose root

Typical plant of mountain ledges and sea cliffs. It has thick stems with clusters of oval leaves. It has terminal yellow flowers.

This photo was taken in Cwm Cneifon whist abseiling back down Cneifon arete, North Wales.

Saxifrage - Mossy

Mountain saxifrage

Pointed 3-lobed leaves gives this plant a mossy appearance. It has small white flowers with 5 petals. This plant forms mats on rocky ground.

This photo was taken next to a path in Cwm Idwal, North Wales.

Saxifrage - Purple

Purple Saxifrage - North Wales

This small flower is one of the first to flower. It can flower under the snow so it is ready for pollination as soon as the snow melts. It has small purple flowers 10 to 15mm across and has small tightly packed opposite paired leaves on stems. The flowers normally appear between March and April but can be seen as early as February.

This photo was taken near in Cwm Glas, North Wales, GR 617 556. I have also seen it growing in Cwm Idwal.

Saxifrage - Starry

Starry Saxifrage - North Wales

This flower is a classic mountain plant and the most common saxifrage in North Wales.. It is often found in rocky wet crevices and wet areas and can even cope with the acidic soils common in Snowdonia. Look for the basal rosette of oblong, toothed leaves and the long stalk with bright white flowers, pinkish centre, red anthers, 5 petals and with two yellow spots. It grows to around 12 cm high and flowers June and August (although I have seen it in May).

This photo was taken in June in Cwm Idwal, North Wales, GR 645 592 although it can be found almost anywhere.


Mountain flowers - tormentil

This is a common plant with a small yellow flower that is distinctive from the Buttercup as Tormentil has only 4 petals. It has many uses such as helping with sore feet and bruises.

Tormentil can be seen in grassy areas of the mountains.



Thrift is a seaside plant that can still be found in the Mountains. It forms a green cushion that helps protect it from the weather, as well as making a good seat to belay off.

Wild Thyme

wild thyme

This is a mat forming perennial with small oval/circle shaped leaves. The flowers are found in terminal spikes with small purple flowers. It can be confused with a plant called Selfheal but Selfheal has much larger leaves. It can be found in grasslands, heaths, rocks and even sand-dunes

This photo was taken in Tin Can Alley, Cwm Idwal, North Wales.


flowers with rock climbing in background

Often found on soils made of chalk or limestone, flowers in June and July giving a terminal head of light purple flowers.

This photo was taken in Portland near a limestone rock face called the Cuttings

Vipers Bugloss

flowers with rock climbing in background

Often found on soils made of chalk or limestone. A hairy plant with many bright blue flowers that form a cone.

This photo was taken in Portland near a limestone rock face


flowers with rock climbing in background

A common invasive shrub found all over the UK.

This photo was taken in Portland near a limestone rock face

Wood Rush

wood rush

This plant is often seen growing on rock ledges and belay stances where it can not be eaten by sheep. It seems to like being trodden on. This could be as stamping feet will kill its competitors but the Wood Rush can cope.

This photo was taken in whilst climbing on Gylder Fach.

Rosebay Willow Herb

A common plant found all over the UK. This large purple flower is often seen on road sides and shrubby banks. It flowers towards the end of the summer in July and August.

St Johns Wort

Often found near limestone cliffs and chalky areas such as the South Downs Way. Can be bought in Health food shops as an antidepressant.


Low growing plant that with many flower stems. The flowers are around 4 cm across and have deeply divided petals. The leaves are paired and linear-lanceolate with pointed tips.

Lady's Bedstraw

A low lying plant that does not grow much higher than grass. This plant was used to make mattresses before a better alternative was found.


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