Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Armeria maritima - European thrift

Family: Plumbaginaceae (Leadwort) [E-flora]

"Armeria maritima is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Two subspecies are recognized in BC:

Habitat / Range
Moist to mesic beaches and coastal bluffs in the lowland zone; infrequent along the coast, absent from the Queen Charlotte Islands; ssp. sibirica - N to AK and S to WA, ssp. californica - from Vancouver Island to CA." [IFBC-E-flora]

"The sea-pink or thrift (Armeria maritima) (Plumbaginaceae), an abundant coastal plant of western Europe, also grows in mountainous regions far from a salty environment." [PDEv]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


"Though Armeria maritima is a common plant round most of the coasts of the British Isles, the only records of its use in folk medicine seem to be confined to the Orkney Islands and to South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. In the former, the thick, tuberous roots were sliced and boiled in sweet milk to produce a drink known as ‘Arby’, highly prized up to c. 1700 as a remedy for tuberculosis.207 John Aubrey was also told by a medical correspondent that a cure for the ague in Orkney included drinking an infusion in which this plant was one of several herbal ingredients.208 In South Uist, a sailor’s remedy for a hangover was to boil a bunch of these plants complete with their roots and drink the liquid slowly when cooled.209 The roots at least evidently contain a compound which induces heavy sweating." [MPFT]


"Armeria maritima ssp halleri also occurs in coastal salt marshes (ssp. maritima) and has a closely related species (Armeria maritima ssp. alpina) that grows in the Alps. It possesses specific glands (modified stomata) that serve to excrete toxic heavy metals taken up accidentally. Armeria maritima ssp. halleri contains 20-fold and 88-fold greater concentrations, respectively, of Pb and Cu in its roots than in its leaves, indicating that the metals are immobilized in its roots. On the other hand, high levels of Zn, Cd, Pb, and Cu in brown leaves suggest a leaf fall detoxification mechanism (Dahmani-Muller et al. 2000)." [SoilBio-19]

"The thrifts or sea pinks (Armeria maritima) of the Plumbaginaceae form a somewhat difficult plant complex. The subspecies A. maritima ssp. halleri (Fig. 2.1f) grows only on heavy metal heaps in European plains, and can be differentiated morphologically only with difficulty from the subspecies maritima of the coastal salt marshes or the alpine ssp. alpina. The genus Armeria does not appear to be finally resolved taxonomically which is also true for its occurrence in different plant associations (Becker and Dierschke 2008)." [SoilBio-30]

"Heavy metal content in mmol x kg -1 in leaves of plants living on the Zn-polluted soil at Breinigerberg close to Aachen, Germany; Armeria maritima ssp. calaminaria - Zn 112.8, Pb 11.60, Cd 1.10" [SoilBio-30]

"Most common on lead polluted sites is Armeria maritima, a plant commonly cultivated in gardens but this pioneer plant is successfully surviving on postindustrial sites (Dahmani-Muller et al. 2000)" [SoilBio-30]

"A comprehensive study was performed on Armeria maritima plants growing on the copper-rich soil, which accumulated from 2,000 (leaves) to 4,000 (roots) higher amounts of Cu as compared with its standard concentrations in plants (Neumann et al. 1995)." [SoilBio-30]

"The only species restricted to soils rich in heavy metals is Armeria maritima subsp. halleri (Szafer, 1959). It is a mycorrhizal species, although the level of colonization is rather low (Pawlowska et al., 1996). Also Biscutella laevigata, Silene vulgaris, Gypsophila fastigiata, Cerastium arvense (Grodzinska et al., 2001) can be found there." [Twardowska SWPMPR]


Cultivation & Propagation

"Succeeds in most soils including clay and poor sands[200]. Prefers a well-drained sandy soil with added leaf mould and a sunny position[1, 111, 134]. Requires an acid soil according to one report[24] whilst others say that it dislikes acid soils. Plants are very wind-tolerant and succeed in maritime gardens[233]. Established plants are drought tolerant[190]. Succeeds when grown at the top of a retaining wall or a cavity wall[219]. The plant tolerates light treading[200]. It forms a slowly expanding clump and makes a good edging plant[111]. A good butterfly plant[24, 30]. The flower is a symbol of sympathy, used at funerals[66]." [PFAF]

"Seed - pre-soak for 8 hours in warm water and then sow in pots of sandy soil in a cold frame. Germination usually takes place in 2 - 3 weeks at 15°c[134]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in late spring or early summer. Division in spring or after flowering[111]. Fairly easy, large divisions can be planted out straight into their permanent positions whilst it is probably best to pot up smaller divisions and to grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are rooting well." [PFAF]


Armeria Sp. - Thrift

"Habit: Perennial herb, rhizomed. Leaf: many, sessile, linear [to lanceolate], entire; veins 1--7, parallel. Inflorescence: head-like, on unbranched, scapose peduncle; involucre sheathing, recurved; bracts subtending individual flowers. Flower: calyx 10-ribbed; styles fused at base, hairy.
Species In Genus: +- 50 species: North America, Europe, Mediterranean, southern South America. Etymology: (Latin, from Old French: name for a dianthus with spheric heads)" [Jepson]

Local Species


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