Cerastium alpinum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCaryophyllaceaeCerastiumCerastium alpinum


A mat-forming montane perennial herb which grows in similar habitats to C. arcticum, but on more strongly basic rocks. It is particularly abundant on soft mica-schists but also occurs on limestone and, rarely, serpentine. It often occurs in species-rich dwarf-herb communities. From 300 m on Seana Bhraigh (E. Ross) to 1210 m on Ben Lawers (Mid Perth).



World Distribution

European Arctic-montane element; also in N. America.

© Pete Stroh

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 9

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 6

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 0.4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 11.4

Annual Precipitation (mm): 2003

Height (cm): 12

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Shortly creeping and rooting at nodes

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 77

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.84

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Cerastium alpinum L.

Alpine mouse-ear

Status: scarce



C. alpinum is a montane plant which is usually found on the softer mica schists and limestones but can occur on more acid rocks if there is some basic flushing. It is basicolous rather than calcicolous, as it occurs on serpentine where magnesium tends to be the major basic ion and calcium can be at quite low levels. The plant grows on ledges, scree and in base-rich montane grassland and in the species-rich mountains of Breadalbane and Caenlochan can accompany many of the conspicuous montane rarities. It is similar to C. arcticum in many respects but grows in more base-rich places. C. alpinum has a wide altitudinal range within the montane zone, ranging from 300 metres on Seana Braigh to 1210 metres on Ben Lawers.

C. alpinum is a mat-forming perennial and reproduction is both sexual and vegetative.

Its distribution is fairly stable and any major alteration to its British status is most likely to be brought about by climate change. This plant is likely to be over- rather than under-recorded as most mistakes are made when C. arcticum is misidentified as C. alpinum. There are also other awkward taxa including large-flowered upland forms of C. fontanum and putative hybrids between C. fontanum and C. alpinum which cause problems in recording.

C. alpinum is a circumboreal arctic-alpine with a wide distribution outside Britain in northern Europe, Asia and North America. In Europe it is widespread in the north, extending south on mountain ranges to the Pyrenees and the Balkans (Jalas & Suominen 1983). This distribution covers the species as a whole and includes several subspecies. British material is generally referred to subsp. lanatum. For a detailed discussion, see Hulten (1956).



P. S. Lusby

Atlas text references

Atlas (67d)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jalas & Suominen (1983)
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.