Eryngium alpinum, commonly called alpine sea holly, is a somewhat coarse, stiffly-branched, taprooted, rosette-forming herbaceous perennial that typically grows on upright stems to 25-32” tall with a spread to 18” wide. It is native to subalpine rocky areas and moist pastures up to 6500’ in elevation in central and southeastern Europe.
Strong, solitary, upright stems are topped from mid-summer into fall (July-early October) with single, cone-shaped, thistle-like, blue flower heads (to 2” long) densely packed with tiny blue flowers. Each flower head is subtended by a collar of 12-18 ornamentally attractive, bristly, finely-divided, somewhat soft-to-the-touch blue bracts which extend outward and upward from the base of the flower head. Plants feature ovate, spiny-toothed, heart-shaped basal leaves (to 3-6” long) and palmately-divided 3-lobed upper stem leaves. Foliage is green near the base of the plant, but upper leaves, upper stems, flowers and flower bracts are bluish.