What Kind of Plants Live on Mountains?

The Haleakala Silversword grows only near the summit of Maui's largest volcanic leak.
The Haleakala Silversword grows only near the summit of Maui's largest volcanic leak. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

There are species of plants that exist in just about every climate across the globe, even in harsh conditions where few living things thrive. Mountains are one example of a plant ecosystem that flourishes during parts of the year despite low oxygen levels and temperatures. In certain mountain ranges, there are species of plants, sometimes rare, that manage to survive from season to season for many years.

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Haleakala Silversword

The Haleakala Silversword is a rare plant found only near the peak and crater of the Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui in Hawaii. This plant has some close relatives that grow on the neighboring Big Island, but this particular type of silversword exists only here.

This tough plant manages to survive wild temperature swings caused by blazing tropical sun on one end of the spectrum and high winds and snowstorms on the other. The plant’s silver hairs that grow on the leaves reflect sunlight and help it to retain moisture so it can survive.

This endangered plant can live up to 50 years and produces its flowers only once during an entire lifetime. When it does, the silversword reaches high into the air and produces a bushy green tree-like shape with red flowers.

Alpine Fleabane

Alpine Fleabane is one version of the fleabane or Erigeron plant family that grows in the Scottish Highlands in the Ben Lawlers mountain range. These mountains are among the most scenic in all of Scotland with peaks that reach just over 4,000 feet.

The Alpine Fleabane is a flowering plant that produces a short stem and a daisy-like flower with a yellow center and many petals protruding from the center. These petals are generally lavender in color. The plant is somewhat rare, but it can usually be found easily by those willing to climb onto the rock ledges of the Ben Lawlers Corrie for a look.

Fairy Primrose

Atop the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico and high above the timberline where few large plants grow, there is a plant that paints the landscape with bright colors in July and August. The Fairy Primrose is a short flowering plant that hides all winter and then springs to life on the first truly warm and sunny day of the summer season. These five-petal flowers have a deep, bright yellow center and pink to purple petals that contrast with the dark green leaves at the base of the plant. They grow close to the ground throughout the alpine and sub-alpine areas of the Rockies.

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