This section is from the book "Sub-Alpine Plants Or Flowers Of The Swiss Woods And Meadows", by H. Stuart Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Sub-Alpine Plants: Or, Flowers of the Swiss Woods and Meadows.
The Crowberry (Empetrum Nigrum) is a low, wiry shrub, with heath-like leaves and small blue-black fruit, smaller than those of the Bilberry, which often ascends to a high altitude and sometimes covers enormous areas of moorland where little else will grow but lichen. It grows not only in the mountains of Europe, and in the British Isles, but penetrates the Arctic regions of Iceland, Greenland, Siberia and Labrador. It gives its name to the extremely small family of Empetracece, which comprises only four species in the whole world.
Among other low bushes bearing berries in the mountains is the Stone Bramble (Rubus saxatilis), which is frequent in Scotland and the north of England, as well as in some of the hills in South Wales and the West of England. In the Alps it is found in open woods and bushy places, and it is scattered over the mountain regions of Europe, Central Asia, and Siberia. The Stone Bramble is a very dwarf and distinct species, whose rootstock sends out a few creeping runners rooting at the nodes and ascending stems often only six or eight inches high, with a few small prickles, though sometimes quite unarmed. There are usually three pale green leaflets, rather thin in texture and resembling those of the Dewberry; and the petals are a dirty white or greenish colour and very narrow. The berries or drupes are a rich red, few in number, but large and tempting to the eye in their luscious transparency. However, they are disappointing when eaten, for they are strongly acid and each drupe consists chiefly of a large pip or seed.
The Cloudberry (Rubus Chamaemorus), so well known in Norway, where its orange-red fruit is stewed and served at table under the name of Multebcer, does not appear to grow in the Alps, but its large, solitary, white blossoms, on stems only a few inches high, are often seen in turfy swamps and wet heaths in Northern Europe, Asia, and America. This species of Rubus is one of the few British plants not found at all in Switzerland or France. The berries are first red, and they turn yellow on ripening. Of the ordinary kinds of Blackberry, or Rubus, many of which grow in the Swiss lowlands, very few appear to reach the mountain forests. Perhaps Rubus tomentosus is the most distinct of any which flourish in such places. It is a pretty Bramble, and easily known by the greyish tomentum or felt which covers its leaves and calyx, and by its small yellowish white flowers. It is abundant in the Eastern Pyrenees, and extends right across Central Europe and as far east as Persia. Probably in that very mountainous country it reaches a higher altitude than in Europe.
Among Roses there are several in addition to the beautiful Rosa alpina found in Alpine or sub-alpine regions. The true Alpine Rose, or Eglantine, whose deep rose blossoms adorn the open woods and broken, rocky pastures up to nearly 8000 feet in June and July, usually has long, narrow hips of the richest red. The hips of Rosa pomifera, which is widely spread throughout the Swiss Alps, though very rare in the Jura, are very large and round and generally, though not always, covered with bristly glands. In early autumn their rich orange colour, deepening to a beautiful crimson, makes them an attractive feature in the landscape. The pretty little Burnet or Scotch Rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia) is very rare in Switzerland, except on the borders of the Jura. Though this very prickly little rose grows close to the sandy seashore in parts of England and Wales, we once found its delicate cream-coloured blossoms at 7000 feet in the south of Savoy. To find even a few plants of this Rose on the stony southern slope of a mountain at that height intermingled with some truly Alpine species, was one of the surprises of an eventful season devoted to the exploration of the Western Alps and their supremely rich flora.
The fruit of the Burnet Rose is nearly globular, and blackish red at maturity.
The poisonous scarlet berries of the Mezereon (Daphne Mezereum) are often seen in the woods of the plains and on stony pastures and slopes of debris up to about 7000 feet; but, as in England, this bush is more often seen singly or in pairs than in groups. The pink, scented flowers appear in March, before the leaves, or a month later in the higher elevations.
There are two or three Alpine species of Honeysuckle, or Lonicera, in Europe; the Blue-fruited Honeysuckle (L. coerulea) is a shrub three to six feet high and of stiff habit. The yellowish white flowers are scentless and in pairs, but their ovaries coalesce into one globular and bluish-black berry. It is spread over the Coniferous forest zone; on moors it descends lower, and occasionally, as at Saas Fee, it ascends the rocky slopes to a height of 8000 feet.