Alpine blue-sow-thistle Cicerbita alpina

Status Amber - Vulnerable and Near-Threatened
Best Time to See July, August, September
Colour Blue, Purple
Habitat Upland

A handsome perennial plant with tall rough stems and heads of large blue dandelion-like flowers.


Alpine blue-sow-thistle is a very rare plant in the UK: it grows on only four rocky ledges sites in the Grampian Mountains of eastern Scotland. It was once part of a more widely distributed mountain flora that is today restricted by changing land management practices and increased levels of grazing.


It grows on moist mountain rock ledges inaccessible to grazing animals and is an Arctic-Alpine plant, a relic of the last Ice Age. Predominantly on north facing acidic rocks, often where there is late snow-lie.


Classified as Vulnerable and protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Key threats

It has very specific ecological requirements, and former sites are thought to have been lost by overgrazing or trampling. The present sites are inaccessible to deer and sheep, but other threats are cutting by humans and habitat change due to rock falls.

Did you know?

This plant is known as "bear-hay" in Finland because the Eurasian brown bear feeds on it, as do reindeer and elk. People also sometimes use it, eating it raw or cooked in reindeer milk. The shoots of this edible species have a bitter taste.