This attractive hardy perennial with the extraordinary family name (sometimes referred to as the Leadwort family) grows on coastal rocks, pastures and salt marshes all round the Scottish coastline, and can sometimes be found on exposed cliff tops and windy mountainsides. There is a very old belief that Thrift and other Leadworts can cure lead poisoning, which is reflected in the family name (Plumbo means lead).
The leafy part of the plant is very short, with narrow leaves forming dense cushions, while the flower stalks are leafless, towering above the leaves. In the grassy hillocks of a pasture or mountain the only indication of the plant’s presence will be a hemispherical pink flower head peeking between the other grasses. In meadows that are allowed to grow wild they can fail to thrive and actually benefit from the habitual grazing and cutting of agriculture.
Flower heads are 15-25mm, upright and unbranched, and the flowers themselves are tiny, 7-10mm, and pink, grouped into a rounded cluster. Each flower has 5 petals and 5 stamens. Sepals are rather tubular and form a papery bract around the fruit to protect it while it ripens. The fruit itself is an oblong capsule containing 1 – 2 seeds.
With its long flowering season it has become popular as a garden flower.