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Alp Action

Preserve the richness of the Alpine regions

His mother was from the Savoy region in the France Alps. This might have lead Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to create Alp Action in 1990, a privately-financed venture to help protect the Alpine environment. In 1993, Clarins partnered with this organization whose goal is to preserve the richness of the natural, cultural and historical patrimony of the Alpine regions.
Together, they put in place 5 programs to help maintain the balance of the ecological chain at the heart of Europe: the protection of the Antagnes butterflies in Switzerland (1993), species of orchids in Judenberg in Baveria (1996) and very rare plants in the Italian Alps (2001); the reintroduction of the bearded vulture in the Bargy mountain region in the Haute-Savoie department in France (2002), the restoration of wet grasslands in the Annecy region in France (1999).

Clarins partnership with Alp Action* has made it possible to save several threatened plant species. Every year, the botanists who look out for these plants count, photograph and keep track of each one.

Plants protected by Clarins

• Columbine of the Alps - Aquilegia Alpina

With its large intense blue flowers that reach 8 cm wide, the Alpine Columbine is one of the most remarkable species of Alpine flora. This flower, which symbolizes sadness and melancholy, gets its name from its cone-shaped petals that can capture and retain rainwater.
It looks for limestone and likes cool, shady areas between 1500 and 2500 meters in altitude. It often grows in inaccessible zones like rocky grass areas but also along hiking trails to the great pleasure of botanists and photographers.

• Lady’s-slipper orchid - Cypripedim calceolus

Lady’s- slipper orchid is decidedly the prettiest and the most imposing of our indigenous orchids. The single flower which tops the stem can reach a height of 10 cm.
It has long, brownish-purple petals that encircle the flower in the form of a yellow gold slipper. Lady’s-slipper orchid can be found blooming in the mountains from May to June in open woodland on moist calcareous soils up to 2000m in altitude. It is rare and for a botanist, its discovery is always a source of wonder.

• Saxifraga hirculus

Contrary to most of the species in the saxifrage family which live in craggy rocks and which gave the plants their name – ‘saxum’ means rock and ‘frangere’, to break- the saxifragra hirculus is exclusive to mountain swamps and peat beds between 800 and 1100 meters in altitude.
This species has yellow flowers and is a relic of the ice age. Its Nordic origin explains its need for cold in order to produce flowers that bloom in July and August. Saxifraga hirculus is extremely rare and is almost extinct in France.

• Spiranthes aestiralis

Spiranthes aestiralis is an orchid that grows in low altitude alkaline marshes. Its modest size, its thin leaves and small white velum flowers in a spiraled inflorescence makes it discreet and difficult to see.
Its rareness today is due to the destruction of its biotopes, draining of swamplands or their abandonment. In France, it has already disappeared from several departments.

• European waterclover (4-leaf clover) - Marsilea quadrifoli

It would be very easy to mistake European waterclover for a 4-leaf clover! In fact, this small species is a fern that does not produce any flowers. It is found on the surface of watery areas like pools, ponds and ditches.
Its stem takes root in mud and produces stems with a 4-segmented leaf that floats on the water’s surface. In France, it has become rare due to its ecological requirements and the disappearance of its habitat.

• Loesel’s Twayblade - Liparis loeselii

Loesel’s Twayblade is a small orchid whose discreet and simple green flowers do not really attract attention. However, botanists love it for its ecology and scarcity. It is found primarily in damp, alkaline environments.
One of its particularities is that it comes from a pseudobulb like the majority of tropical orchids. In France, its habitat is often destroyed, drained or abandoned and that has led to its quasi disappearance. This is why it now appears on the list of protected species.

• Small cattail - Typhaminima funck

Belonging to the ‘cattail’ family, it is a cousin to the very common large leaf cattail found in most ponds, lakes or swamps in France. However, this plant is characterized by its small size, its thin leaves, its 2 separated ears of male and female flowers and its habitat (wet and sandy banks of rivers in Europe and Asia).
In France, it is found only in certain departments in the eastern part of the country. The clearing of riverbanks represents a real and on-going threat. It has been protected nationally since 1995.

• Dracocephalum austriacum

This plant has large violet coloured flowers and looks like a ‘dragon head’ which explains its Latin name. It can reach a height of 30 cm and has leaves that are deeply divided into thin straps. It loves very dry, warm and well exposed rocky grass areas. It can be found in mountain regions usually in limestone between 1000 and 2000 meters in altitude.
It is mainly found in central Europe and east to the Caucasian mountains, the Alps represent its extreme western border. In France, it is considered to be a protected species.

• Alpine Sea Holly - Eryngium alpinum

Despite its thorny aspect, Alpine Sea Holly belongs to the large umbellifer family. It is a plant that grows 30-70 cm high like many species in this group and takes on an intense blue colour in its upper area.
Also called ‘Queen of the Alps’ for its majestic beauty among the tall grasses between 1300 and 2400 meters, Alpine Sea Holly is often a victim of being picked and is now nationally protected.