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.
Many of those who visit the Alps in late summer or in autumn miss the great wealth of flowers which form such a feature in the landscape earlier in the season. Many visitors arrive too late to see even the lingering blossoms of Rhododendron, the Alpen Rose or Rose des Alpes, of which the Swiss are so justly proud; while the small deep blue Gentians are in August found only on the higher mountains, and never in the splendid luxuriance of June. Their place is taken in autumn by the pretty Fringed Gentian (G. ciliata), a biennial species with long hairs on the margin of the corolla-lobes - which loves shaly limestone slopes, both in the Alps and foot-hills, and by Gentiana germanica with its purple-red flowers which continue in bloom in the sub-Alps until mid-October. The handsome ultramarine spikes of the Willow Gentian (Gentiana asclepiadea) may also be seen adorning mountain thickets and shady slopes until the end of September, but the plant is rare in Western Switzerland and the Jura. The beautiful Marsh Gentian (Gentiana Pneumonanthe), which brightens some of the damp, sandy heaths in Dorset, Hants, and Yorkshire is another autumn flower which is perhaps as beautiful as any when its large blue bells streaked with green open to the sunlight, and stand erect sometimes singly on a stalk and sometimes in threes and fours on leafy stems a foot or eighteen inches high.
The Marsh Gentian is more scattered in Switzerland than in England, but perhaps less abundant locally.
In late summer and in autumn, long after the meadows and the lower pastures have been mown a second time, and when the characteristic forest flora has also mostly disappeared, the numerous red and ' black' berries are continually attracting the eye of even the most casual of visitors to the mountains. Long before the end of such a hot and dry season as that of 1911, when many plants were withered up prematurely, berries and fruits of various kinds and many colours were particularly noticeable, and often they formed the chief means of table decoration in Swiss hotels, in addition to sounding the loudest note of colour in the woods and on the mountain-side.
But, exceptional as was the weather last summer, in any season towards the end of July, when the crowds are at their height, the Alpine berries begin to show themselves, and we realise that' spring,' even in the Alpine sense, has gone. At best the Alpine summer is not a long one, and in the short space of about three months much has to be gone through - the face of Nature is continually and rapidly changing, and many plants have to develop, blossom, and ripen their seeds in quite a brief period of time.
It was thought that a short chapter on some of the Alpine berries and fruits might be of interest to some of the vast multitudes of late visitors to Switzerland, who may be attracted by the abundance of the crop, but who are not, perhaps, in every case familiar with earlier stages of the plants; or in other cases they may know the flowering stage well enough but fail to recognise the fruit which follows it.