Twinflower – Linnaea borealis

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Alaska Wildflowers | Pink

Twinflower in Denali National Park


Linnaea borealis L.

Alt. Names:
American twinflower
Northern twinflower

Linnaea borealis ssp. americana
Linnaea borealis ssp. borealis
Linnaea borealis ssp. longiflora
(All 3 subspecies are native to Alaska)

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Genus: Linnaea L. (twinflower)
Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle)
Order: Dipsacales

Duration: Perennial

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Uses: Following information on uses not from primary sources. May have been used as food or as a medicine for tonic for pregnancy or painful menstruation and cramps by Native Americans [1]. No details on preparation. I just wouldn’t recommend using for food or medicine.

Twinflower Identification and Information

Twinflower is a creeping subshrub with elliptic, cauline evergreen leaves. Leaves are leathery with 1-3 pairs of rounded teeth. The flower only blooms for a short duration (about 7 days) in June or July (in Alaska). The stem is slender and tall compared to the shrub, typically 5-10 cm (2-4 inches), rarely exceeding 15 cm (6 inches), and slightly hairy. The flowers are very fragrant, white to pink, nodding bells, and about 1 cm in diameter. The common name “twinflower” is due to the flowers most often forming in pairs on the Y-shaped stems.

Linnaea borealis was named after Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who was the “father of modern taxonomy”. His classification for naming organisms has been modified but is still in use today. It was Linnaeus that developed the standard Latin binomial species name, and he went on to name over 8000 species of plants and animals. Linnaea borealis was Linnaeus’ favorite plant. In his publication Systema Naturae, he classified over 4000 animal and 9000 plant species.

Distribution and Habitat

Linnaea borealis is widely distributed across North America. It is Native to Alaska, all of Canada, northern and most western lower 48 (especially at higher elevations), and Greenland (USDA distribution map). It is also found in Europe and Asia. Its habitat is widely varied, but is frequently found in needle-leaved forests, mossy rocks or decaying trees or trunks in cooler, dark forests.

References and More Reading

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 19
Twinflower Linnaea borealis L., Montana Plant Life (
Linnaea borealis  L. Taxonomic Serial No.: 35314, ITIS Database
Linnaea borealis L. twinflower, USDA Database
Diagram: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 276.
Twinflower (Linnaea borealis): Plant of the Week, USDA and U.S. Forest Service
Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778),
The Linnaean Plant Name Typification Project, Natural History Museum, London
1. Linnaea borealis Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 631. 1753., Flora of China –

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