© 2016-2019 Erika Alin

Common Butterwort

Pinguicula vulgaris

By mid-June, butterworts begin to appear in damp cracks, mosses, and grasses on the coastal rock. Like many arctic plants forced to survive severe winters, common butterworts emerge from buds formed the previous fall at the center of their leaf rosettes. Once the snows melt, each bud grows a bright rosette of leathery yellow-green leaves, a hairy red stalk, and a nodding lavender blossom with a fuzzy white throat.

Butterworts are especially partial to cold, damp, and nutrient-poor soils around rock pools. For added nutrients, they trap tiny insects with sticky glands on their leaves. All summer, a butterwort absorbs the nutrients it needs to form a new bud in fall. Come winter, as I wander lakeside ledges, newly formed butterwort buds rest snug under the snow.