Norway’s National Flower Explained

Most countries have an official national flower, and it’s usually a flower that represents or symbolizes the country. But what is Norway’s national flower like?

There’s actually not an official Norwegian national flower, but there are two unofficial national flowers. These are pyramidal saxifrage (Saxifraga cotyledon or bergfrue in Norwegian) and common heather (Calluna vulgaris or røsslyng in Norwegian).

Pyramidal saxifrage is Norway's National Flower.
Pyramidal saxifrage is Norway’s national flower. Photo by Randi Hausken / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Why Norway’s national flower is actually two different flowers

Norway has never designated a national flower, so there is no official national flower of Norway. However, there have been a few attempts to designate one, and the first attempt was back in 1935.

A botanical congress in Amsterdam agreed to make the pyramidal saxifrage (Saxifraga cotyledon) Norway’s national flower. This is a flower known to be able to grow in harsh conditions in the mountains, and the congress believed it to be symbolic of the Norwegian people.

Neither the Norwegian people or the Norwegian government had a saying in this congress, apart from a few Norwegian botanists who participated at the congress.

They all agreed to make the plant the national flower of Norway, but since the government didn’t acknowledged it, it has never been made official.

The Norwegian word for the pyramidal saxifrage is Bergfrue. This can be translated to something like “mountain lady” or “mistress of the mountains”.

Pyramidal saxifrage is Norway's national flower
Pyramidal saxifrage is Norway’s national flower. Photo by: Banangraut / CC BY-SA 3.0.

The pyramidal saxifrage is found in a few countries around the world such as Iceland and Sweden, but the main distribution of it is in Norway.

The pyramidal saxifrage never really stuck as the national flower, and didn’t get anchored by the general population.

Also read: Norway’s national bird explained.

How to find the pyramidal saxifrage in Norway

You need to head up in the mountains to find the pyramidal saxifrage here in Norway. It grows on the side of mountain cliffs, and particularly likes to grow up from small cracks in the rock.

The plant prefers to have overhanging, dripping water, but it can also be found without this.

Any mountain area with some mineral rich mountains will do, and a good place to find it is at Hardangervidda or Jotunheimen. You will usually have to get above the tree limit to find it, and you might need to do a bit of climbing or hiking to get to it.

You can see the pyramidal saxifrages confirmed distribution at this interactive map.

Gravdalen in Jotunheimen
Gravdalen in Jotunheimen. Photo published with permission.

How the common heather (Calluna vulgaris) became the other national flower

Since no one considered the pyramidal saxifrage to be Norway’s national flower, the national Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation known as NRK decided to let the public decide which plant should be Norway’s national flower.

They hold a huge radio show for the event in 1976, and urged everyone to send suggestions. The radio hosts would then read over all suggestions, tally the votes, and announce the winner.

Even though NRK is owned by the Norwegian government, the results are still considered unofficial, but at least it’s what the public perceive to be the national flower.

Anyway, the winner of the vote was the common heather (Calluna vulgaris), called røsslyng in Norwegian. This is a plant that’s common in many parts of Europe, but it’s clearly a fan favorite in Norway.

You will see common heather all over Norway, from along the coast to far up in the mountains. It’s a very common sight, and maybe that’s why everyone believed that it should represent Norway?

It’s very difficult to go on a Sunday hike (known locally as a søndagstur) without coming across a patch of common heather anywhere in Norway in the fall.

Common heather is Norway's national flower
Common heather is Norway’s national flower as well. Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz / CC BY-SA 4.0.

How to find the common heather in Norway

Just go outside to find the common heather! Jokes asides, it is found in a big range of different habitats, both in the forest and in the mountains.

If you want to go looking for it, head into the forest pretty much anywhere and look for clearings where it’s sunny.

The common heather blooms in the fall, so you might not notice it as easily in spring or early summer. But it’s very easy to spot in the fall when the purple flower covers the entire forest floor or even the entire mountainside.

Common heather
Common heather in late autumn. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway Guide.

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