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Snow Saxifrage

Micranthes nivalis

  • Name also: Alpine Saxifrage
  • Latin synonym: Saxifraga nivalis
  • Family: Saxifrage Family – Saxifragaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 5–20 cm (2–8 in.). Stem a leafless scape, hairy and also with glandular hairs.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), greenish white, eventually reddish, 5–8 mm (0.2–0.32 in.) wide; petals 5, same length as calyx. Sepals 5, erect, glabrous. Stamens 10. Styles 2, fused at base. Inflorescence a dense raceme terminating scape and branches, subtending bracts narrow, flowers almost stalkless.
  • Leaves: A basal rosette, long-stalked, close to ground. Blade an ovate–roundish oblique diamond, blunt-toothed, leathery, greyish green, often reddish especially underneath, sparsely haired.
  • Fruit: 2-parted capsule, lobes turned inwards–erect–slightly turned outwards.
  • Habitat: Rock walls on fells, Lappish rock faces, rocky outcrops, crags, edges, rocky precipices in the coniferous forest zone.
  • Flowering time: July–August.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened, protected south of the province of Oulu.

Snow saxifrage is most typical on the rocks of fell Lapland. It produces seeds but, like several other fell species, it also propagates asexually by means of rosette-like shoot fragments that detach from the parent plant. The majority of Finland’s fell plants spread after the Ice Age, following the retreating ice to reach their current Lapland homes. Now and again some stands would remain to bear witness to their journey north. This is true of snow saxifrage, which has separate stands as far south as Häme and Savo. High up in the fells the species thrives in wet snow-bed sites and dry, sun-baked rocks alike, but in the south it looks for shady, north-facing slopes where the sun rarely beats down directly.

Arctic Saxifrage

Micranthes tenuis (Saxifraga tenuis)

Arctic saxifrage (ottertail pass saxifrage) also grows in northern Lapland, but it is smaller and rarer than snow saxifrage. It is calciphile and grows in exceptionally wet areas: wet rock surfaces, damp gravels and snow-bed sites. It grows higher up on the fells than snow saxifrage, but it is not found in the coniferous forest belt. To differentiate the plants, Arctic saxifrage’s flowers are long-stalked, the tips of its petals are clearly reddish and the flowering scape is glabrous. Hybrids between these two arctic species are rare but possible. Classified as near threatened.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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