Forming compact cushions of dark green, needle-like leaves, it likes nothing better than hanging onto clifftops and boulders overlooking the sea. It can also be found in salt marshes and in mountain areas, where it tolerates the poor soil and harsh weather.
Flower stalks carrying heads of tightly-packed pink flowers appear throughout the spring and summer, from April onwards; they tend to fade in colour as they mature. There are also white varieties, which are uncommon. The flowers are fragrant, and they’re often alive with insects in search of nectar and pollen.
The Welsh name for thrift is ‘clustog Fair’ (‘Mary’s pillow’), while in Gaelic it is called ‘tonna chladaich’, which means ‘beach wave’. It’s the county flower of Pembrokeshire, Bute and the Isles of Scilly.
These photos were taken on Iona; copyright © Colin Woolf