Spherical, pink flowers on a stem

Armeria maritima

Thrift

Family: Plumbaginaceae
Other common names: Trávnička přímořská (Czech), engelskgræs (Danish), sea thrift (English), rusolaukkaneilikka (Finnish), gazon d'Espagne (French), strand-grasnelke (German), strandnellik (Norwegian), zawciąg pospolity (Polish), aрмерия приморская (Russian), clavelina de mar (Spanish), trift (Swedish)
IUCN Red List status: Not Evaluated
i
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive source of information on the global conservation status of species. In the IUCN Red List this species is placed in the category: Not Evaluated – has not yet been evaluated against the IUCN Red List Criteria.

Thrifts are a gardener’s favourite and familiar sight on the coastal cliffs of Britain and Ireland.

Come spring and summer, they host a spectacular floral show — wands of pink, globe-shaped blooms dance above cushions of fine leaves.

Thrift is an evergreen herb with compact cushions of needle-like leaves and long stems bearing spherical, pink flowers. Its flowers can be purple, white or red.

Read the scientific profile on thrift

Cultural

Thrift is a popular garden and cut flower. It flourishes in rock gardens and landscapes designed to conserve water in dry regions (xeriscapes).

Health

In the Orkney islands and Outer Hebrides, thrift was used in traditional medicines. It was boiled with milk and used as a remedy for tuberculosis. It was also drunk as a cure for hangovers.

  • Thrift is known as tonna chladaich in Gaelic which means beach wave. In Welsh, it is called clustog fair, meaning Mary's pillow.

  • Thrift was used as an emblem on the old 12-sided threepenny coin as a reminder of the importance of spending money wisely during the wars.

Native: Baltic States, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Faroe Islands, Germany, Great Britain, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Northwest European Russia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden
Introduced: Czech Republic, Oregon, Slovakia, Turkey-in-Europe
Habitat:

In coastal areas on maritime cliffs, salt marshes and coastal pastures, thriving in dry, sandy, and saline conditions.

Kew Gardens

A botanic garden in southwest London with the world’s most diverse living plant collection.

Location

Rock Garden

View map of Kew Gardens
Best time to see
Flowers: May, Jun, Jul

Thrift is a common species in the UK, but the subspecies, tall thrift (Armeria maritima subsp. elongata), is critically endangered due to agricultural activities such as ploughing and re-seeding.

Support us

Help us tackle critical global challenges from climate change to food security and protect the future of our plants. 

Donate

Four collections of thrift are conserved in our Millennium Seed Bank from the east and west coasts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

Our seed bank also houses seed collections from the last two populations in Britain of the tall thrift so that they are conserved and available for potential reintroductions in the future.

Other plants

More from Kew

The geographical areas mentioned on this page follow the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) developed by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).