The majority of the national park lies above the timberline, but lush birch forests can be found in the mountain valleys. The timberline stretches all the way up to 1200 masl in the eastern parts of the national park.
Jotunheimen holds altitude records for many of Norway’s alpine plants. A total of 36 different species of vascular plants have been found over 2000 masl. The calcareous bedrock provides growing conditions for many demanding plant species.
The glacier buttercup, Ranunculus glacialis, is Norway’s highest growing flower. Just below the summit of Glittertinden mountain, the flower has been found at an altitude of 2370 meters above sea level.
This tough little flower’s strategy is to capture heat from the sun, and then to distribute its development from germination to seeding over several years.
The mountain aven, Dryas octopetala, is an evergreen dwarf bush, and its leathery leaves look similar to small oak leaves.
The plant spreads itself into large mats and grows in chalky ground on wind-blown ridges at altitudes of up to 2300 meters above sea level. Mountain avens grow slowly but can reach an age of at least 100 years old.
Spring pasqueflowers are among the earliest spring flowers. Together with purple mountain saxifrage, this beautiful flower can appear as early as April – as soon as the snowdrifts start to melt. Locally, this flower is called Buckflower (in Lom) or Goatflower (in Vågå).
Purple mountain saxifrage
Purple mountain saxifrage, Saxifraga oppositifolia , grows in varying mountain environments, on rocky crags, in scree fields and in areas that are covered with snow for long periods of the year.
Raudsildra blomstrar svært tidleg i bratte sørhellingar der snøen smePurple mountain saxifrage starts to flower very early in the year, on steep south-facing slopes where the first snow starts to melt. Flowering takes place later in places where the snow lies for a long time. As a result, it is possible to find newly flowered purple mountain saxifrage throughout the whole summer in Jotunheimen.
Purple mountain saxifrage has been found on Galdhøpiggen at an altitude of 2350 meters above sea level.
The pyramidal saxifrage towers like a beautiful ‘queen’ dressed in white on the dark mountainsides along Gjende lake and on mineral-rich bedrock.This flower was chosen as Norway’s national flower at an international botanical congress in Amsterdam in 1935. However, heather is currently considered the national flower as it is widespread throughout the whole country.
Pyramidal saxifrage is the municipal flower of Vågå, and the flower has received the mysterious name of Vianvang in the Vågå dialect.
The world’s smallest tree
The dwarf willow (Salix herbacea) is an important pastoral plant for both livestock and reindeer, and is also called the snowbed willow or least willow. The dwarf willow grows in areas that are covered with snow for long periods of the year. Throughout the whole summer, these little trees produce new leaves that resemble the ears of mice.
This tiny member of the willow family is the smallest tree in the world, and most of the plant is well protected under the surface of the earth.
Roseroot, Rhodiola rosea grows at altitudes of up to 2300 meters above sea level. The plant has a long tradition of being used in herbal medicine. Both the Sámi people and Inuits have used roseroot in their diets, as the fresh leaves contain a lot of vitamin C. Roseroot, common sorrel, cloudberries, angelica and pine shoots were the most important dietary supplements to prevent scurvy, especially when there was very little dietary variation.
Angelica grows in damp places, and often in the vicinity of streams. Historically, angelica has always been an important food and medicinal plant, especially for Arctic populations such as the Sámi people and Inuits. However, angelica was also an important plant in the mountainous areas of Southern Norway, and it was partly cultivated and fenced in by our ancestors.
In medical books from the 15 and 1600s, angelica was described as a medicine that could treat many diseases and ailments; from the plague, dysentery and cholera, to colic and fever.
Today, angelica is mostly used to flavor liqueurs and spirits, but also as a herbal medicine and tea.