Moss Campion (Silene acaulis)
These classic cushion shaped plants dot the open, gravelly, mountain tops of the Pacific Northwest. The mounded shape is an adaptation to alpine conditions, maximizing exposure to sunlight, while minimizing the effects of cold, dry winds. Taylor & Douglas (Mountain Plants of the Pacific Northwest 1995) note a second curious adaptation; each cushion can be either have flowers of a single sex or both sexes, providing genetic and reproductive strength under harsh conditions.
Plain of Six Glaciers Trail, Lake Louise, Banff N.P., Alberta, Canada, 7/2011.
Acaulis is found in sunny alpine spots among larger rocks (above), and along talus slopes (below). In the photo below, it forms a rock garden with spreading phlox (with which it is often confused), western buttercup, and jacob’s ladder.